Wednesday, July 16, 2008

THE THINGS THEY CARRIED #7






















After several weeks without DSL, I've got a connection again. Since RTN died on April 20, my posting has been erratic, and then losing my DSL connection compounded my distress but at the same time gave me a break from email and the internet, which has been good for me. I've not been able to respond to comments or leave many comments at other blogs as I did in the past. Thanks to all who have continued to visit. Your presence has helped me as I make my way through this time of change.

Above is the last of the series of images I received from RTN from Vietnam in 1970. As with the others, he made his drawing on the front of the envelope and put my address on the back of the envelope. Californians may recognize that the image is of the old Russian Church at Fort Ross in Sonoma County. I believe that RTN copied the image from a popular postcard.

Sometime in the winter and spring months of 1971 after RTN returned from Vietnam, we spent a couple of days driving up the coast from our cottage in San Mateo County to the town of Mendocino. During that trip, RTN told me that he remembered that his family had traveled north in the same way and had been met with a dense and seemingly endless fog. His story was that his father had turned off the road on the ocean side after dark and parked the car for the night, unsure of where they were. In the morning when the family woke up, the sun was shining, and they found that they had parked alongside that church at Fort Ross.

We, too, spent the night in the car, but we parked in a turnout on a bluff just south of the Russian River. We were barely able to sleep because it was uncomfortably cold, and the sound of the wind and the ocean kept us awake. Besides, any two adults would find it difficult to sleep comfortably in a VW bug. I remember how angry RTN was and how sad I was, thinking I was the reason for his anger. That morning we drove as far north as the town of Mendocino and walked on the beach. Before RTN had gone to Vietnam, we had always loved walking at the ocean together. That day, though, as I stepped away from him to look at something along the tideline, he startled me by saying sharply, "Why aren't you walking with me? Are you ashamed to be seen with me or something?" He had been using amphetamines before and after going to Vietnam and had begun to more frequently exhibit the same paranoia that I had witnessed while growing up with my mother who took prescription amphetamines for narcolepsy. It's hard to remember the sequence of events during those first months after RTN returned from Vietnam, but it seems now that that trip was a turning point which led to our eventual separation. Although we never lived together again, I kept in touch with him, always hoping for the day that he would "return from Vietnam."

The doctors, nurses and staff at the VA Hospital told his sister that in the last seven months of his life after his brain stem stroke, they had observed him to be in the midst of an intense internal struggle. They said that after I spent time with him for four days in the ICU, he appeared to find a level of peace. He died a week after I returned to Northwest Washington.

I remember visiting him, around 1976, after being out of touch with him since 1973. Both of us had married. I told him that I had not been sure if I should contact him. He said, "You should always contact me."

I took this photo this morning at 8 a.m. Still working on linking the past with the present, with an emphasis on living in the present:

5 comments:

Dale said...

"hoping for the day he'd return from Vietnam."

Yes. Oh, hell. I wish the powers that be would think what they're doing.

tarakuanyin said...

Yes, I found the line Dale picked out especially poignant too. Thank you for sharing the pictures and the story.

The Solitary Walker said...

That is most moving, am.

robin andrea said...

Your remembrances have truly been poignant and touching, am.

R.L. Bourges said...

beautiful sunshine. deep shadows. may you find what you need in both.

best