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Monday, November 14, 2011

If blood will flow, when flesh and steel are one, Drying in the colour of the evening sun...Tomorrow's rain, will wash the stains away...But something in our minds will always stay - Sting

I'm just going to thank my great uncle for his honest letter to my Grandmother in 1918. It's still timely.

 Peace, the most desired thing in the world for over four years has been declared and I understand I am to be one of thousands to see that is is carried out.
     The Germans who were in our immediate front saved themselves from a big drive that we were planning to pull off when they signed up. We were at the front lines, that is, were in the morning when it was called off and we returned to what we supposed to be a rest camp. We stopped in a woods just outside of the ruined village of Vieville, the first night. We returned so quickly that no one had time to make up his pack of blankets and shelter half so we were without these the first night. I managed to crawl into a dugout with some other fellows and slept on a wooden bench all night. It wasn't so bad as we had a fire in a stove and it was warm. The next day I got into a nice cozy bunk in a dugout just big enough for three of us. As we were only about a mile and a half from where we left our blankets, I with three others went back to get them. As we were then only about two and a half miles from (scratched out) where the Salvation Army had a canteen one of the boys and I hiked there to buy what we could. We got back too late to have dinner at our kitchens so bummed a meal at an artillery kitchen getting back after dark. It certainly looked good to see lights all over the hillsides where only the night before every bit of light was carefully covered up so as not to be exposed to the German view. When we got back to the woods we found all the companies camped out in the open with dozens of camp fires burning and the boys hollering and singing like they were mad. Every one went around with a smile of satisfaction on his face and a pleasent word in spite of the mud and wetness. The boys, both Yanks and Germans kept the sky lit all night by shooting rockets and flares each seeming to try and outdo the other. It was a firework exhibition that was mighty good to see. It seems mighty funny too, not to hear the roar of the cannon and hear the whistle of the shells. When I woke up yesterday morning and got dressed I found that the whole battalion had moved out leaving this other fellow and me practically alone. There were kitchens left but the cooks didn't know where they went so we decided to wait for them to receive orders to move, then follow them. We waited until one thirty then started off by ourselves back to a place between the support and front line trenches of our original positions which was only about five kilometers from the woods. Had we watied for the kitchens we surely would have been out of luck for they did not show up until near nine 9 o'clock. We are quartered in some of our old friend Hindenburg's dugouts on the hillside. We were pretty hungry before the kitchens arrived so we had our reserve rations consisiting of hard tack, corn willie, salmon and a sort of prepared coffee.
     Night before last I was told to get my stuff together and make my pack and eat supper in a half an hour that my name had been put in for a seven day leave of absence to go to some big town in France. I got ready although I nearly lost my crowd and when I hiked to headquarters where I waited for some time found out that another fellow and I had been left off the list and no passes were to be had. I really wasn't sorry either as I didn't draw a new uniform and the one I had on was shabby. Yesterday morning the crowd I was supposed to go with came back. They had got lost in the woods going to meet the truck and had wandered around all night with their packs on and didn't know where they were until they came to the top of a hill overlooking our little village. So you see in place of being unfortunate I was fortunate. But I lost my bunk as two others had squeezed in my place when I left. I had to look around and find a new bunk but was fortunate there as I found a place that had German bunks in it which were more comfortable.
     You know while we were in support and front line we only had two meals a day which really was better than three for us. The other day we started on the old schedule of three meals and it was too much for me as it made me sick. I am alright now and eating just as much as ever. I discarded my rifle and ammunition belt and bayonet and now only carry an automatic pistol and belt.
     I am enclosing a sheet of German propaganda dropped from their airplanes some time ago which I found near some trenches.
     What I want most of all right now and which I would give most anything for, is a kodak with a bunch of films.
     I haven't been able to spend money for a month and as a consequence have a pocket full of Francs, worth twenty cents each. We do not draw pay any more at any certain time but have a book like a bankbook showing how much money is due us. If we are away from the company we can draw it from any quartermaster headquarters we happen to be near.
     I received the Register and Leader of the twenty fifth of August on the twenty eighth of October. This is the first I have received and just a short time ago I as down by the orderly room and found two more papers. I haven't opened them yet and so don't know what date they are.
     It seems good to be able to wash the sag paste off. That is the preparation we put on to prevent the mustard gas from burning, but we won't need that anymore.
     I am willing to stay right where I am now until the time of mustering out, which can't be too soon to suit me as I am anxious to be in the best little home on earth as soon as possible.
     Now don't worry about my not getting enough to eat. Remember I am on the front and the theory is that there is nothing to good for the boys here. the boys in my billet get together and we cook hotcakes every night. They go mighty good too.
Well I must say good night for this time.

Written by Private Clyde F. Wilbur, 55th Infantry, Company "F", 7th Division.
to his sister, Miss Madeline Wilbur.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Alzheimer's is the most insidious of diseases. Cancer is a close second if not a contender. My Dad has both. Neither are curable, for him. I've set up hospice, we've both signed the "Do not resuscitate" orders, and his doctors have ordered "Comfort measures only". I'm writing this for those that have been in the same situation, and for those that will be facing this in the future.
I'm prepared as well as I can be. When my Mother died suddenly, unexpectedly, it was heartbreaking, but ultimately braced me for what is to come.
This week has been very hard to bear. My Dad is another person that I don't know, and it's his disease. He has given up. He has no appetite, and he is 6 feet tall, down to around 140 pounds. It's the cancer. He is so weak, and it's very hard for me to watch him wasting away. He is fiercely independent, always has been, and it still comes through. He needs help showering now, and he hates it. Calls the nurses bitches. This from my Dad, who was the most easygoing guy. I'll go ahead and film reference here, he is George Bailey the majority of the time, Atticus Finch when he occasionally needs to kick ass, and Gary Cooper talking through his teeth when he is really pissed off. Once, it seems like ages ago, a kid in the neighborhood threw a rock at me, nicked my nose, close to my eye. Dad asked me to point him out when I saw him next, kid rode his bike past the yard one day, and my Dad strode out into the street like it was High Noon. He grabbed the handle bars of the bike, and leaned down, and told that kid if he ever did that again, he'd be very, very sorry.
I've been through the hard reality of Death before, but nothing hit me so hard as the sudden death of my Mom. She went in for bypass surgery. It's supposed to be routine. I didn't go home for it. That morning, Dad called me, told me that it took much longer than expected. Somehow I knew that something was very wrong, my heart sank. He told me to call him later. I waited all morning, and I needed necessities, cat food, TP. So I went out. When I got back there was a frantic message from a nurse. "You're Mother is very ill, call us immediately." I did, and she told me to get home, and then put Dad on the phone. He was incoherent. My parents at that point were married for 53 years, Dad was hit hard.
I booked a flight. The thing I didn't know is that that airline abandons the check in desk a half an hour before check in. I missed it by 5 minutes. The lady at the next desk told me I should knock on the door to see if they would help me. It's a wonder that security wasn't called... I kicked the shit out of that door, and I already have one TSA report on my record. Just a caveat, don't ever forget that you have a multi-tool with a large knife in the bottom of your purse...
I rebooked, got home early in the am, and am forever grateful for that empathetic woman.
We are now a litigious society. Because there are opportunistic, and well, to be blunt, still some Burke and Hare types out in the world, there is a rule that you HAVE to identify the body before cremation, which is the wish of both of my parents. Duty called. Argument at the funeral home ensues. "I'll do it, NO, I'll do it, Okay we'll both do it...we held and hands and did it. Bad, very bad. Mom had just come from the hospital, was...well, not done up. Plywood box, still in her hospital gown, no make-up, and her hair was greasy, my first thought? She would be soooo pissed off. She was always so stylish, immaculate. She'd have hated that.
Dad broke down. Screaming, crying, and this is a six foot guy leaning on 5'4" me. He grabbed my hand and pulled me out of there. And then my 79 year old Dad at that point shoved me in the car, slammed it into reverse and peeled out of the parking lot.
Grief does these things to you. I know that I have gut punches and maybe even roundhouse kicks to the head coming, when I least expect it.
I'm sure that many of you have heard the phrase "Dig Deep"? Well, I'm digging for all I'm worth, and there ain't nothing in the well some days.
I'm alone in this situation, which is both good and bad. I'm an only child, adopted later in life. My parents took me everywhere. Vegas, Hawaii, the island of Cozumel that existed 35 years ago. They are and were the coolest of the cool. They told me I was adopted as far back as I can remember, and I readily admitted that. I was taunted. Even on the playground I was a smart ass. "Yeah, well, at least my parents planned me..." I get that fierce independence from both of them I think, and for that I am grateful.
Mom you wonderful, petite, sometimes scary woman, when you needed to be, I love you, and I miss you. You are responsible for my love of film and literature, and that is an admirable thing. Dad, thank you for teaching me the tomboy stuff, which you understood. Fishing, properly throwing a baseball, how to be a big time gear head, thanks for the life lessons. You both are in my heart, deeply.