It was time to take Dad to the VA Hospital for another checkup, and he wasn’t happy about it. Even though he was mobile, doing anything out of the ordinary made him nervous.
I showed up an hour earlier than needed, as I had a feeling it was going to take a lot of coaxing to get him into the car. Actually it took more effort just to get his shoes on. He wasn’t talking, was less cooperative than usual and had a scowl on his face I hadn’t seen since my teenage years.
We finally made it to the car, and with little baby steps I got him maneuvered so all he had to do was sit on the seat of the car. We had a standoff right there in the parking lot of the nursing home. Trying to bear hug him onto the seat of the car he’d push me backward with all his might.
It was one of many moments my “dementia” dad, as I lovingly referred to him when his anger brought everything to a standstill, would try my patience while trying to get him to his appointments. As hard as those times were, I truly miss it – and him.
Once we were on our way, he’d seem interested in the scenery but still wouldn’t be a happy camper. I’d talk to him all the way there, but he’d have no response, just an occasional evil eye like I was taking him away from his home and he had no idea who I was.
I can’t say enough about the good things that happen at the VA Hospital. Years ago, the facility had developed a less than favorable reputation, but the clean, friendly environment is a place for many to find comfort and healing.
Since Dad typically wouldn’t be speaking to me, I had plenty of time to watch people coming in for their appointments. There weren’t many veterans of Dad's age, from World War II, as they were younger – much younger, as for more than a decade the War in Iraq took its toll, as we go about our busy lives.
Seeing these “kids” with the wounds of war was a wake-up call. It’s not over for many of our military, whether they are in harm’s way or dealing with life after serving their country, it’s difficult to heal what pains them, as the memories never go away.
Memorial Day brings a three-day weekend with hopes of gathering with friends and family, but what does it mean to our veterans and active military?
While the world focuses on fighting a war with a germ, there are still those fighting for our freedom. For those of us who have never experienced war, aside from the comfort of our living room, we can’t even begin to know what it feels like to have fought for our country.
All we can do is pray for those who are in harm’s way and say thanks to those who have served – and not just on Memorial Day.
Sandy Turner lives in Independence. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.