Posts Tagged ‘illness’

A friend and I were recently discussing a guy who grew up in our neighborhood.

When Kyle left to serve his country in Vietnam I would have been about five years old. He was eighteen or nineteen. Same age as my youngest daughter who is now in her first year of university.

Kyle was not the only young boy from the neighborhood who went to Southeast Asia during that time.

Of course, I don’t remember when they left. I was too young.

I do have memories of when the American boys came back. Watched the grainy news footage on television with my family. Of planes on the runway depositing our men. No longer youthful.

I remember the POW bracelets that people bought and promised to wear until the service people captured or missing came home. I heard all of the scary stories. I remember that it was a time of protest. I remember who served in Vietnam.

War is horrific and I cannot wrap my head around it. But some wars are worse than others. The Vietnam War would be one of those filed under “worse than others.”

The “lucky” ones came back.

My next door neighbor, Dick, came back home. With a terribly scarred face and a black eye patch covering the socket.

Pretty frightening to see when you are a kid.

Wait, he was only a kid when his life was in such peril. So how freaking frightened was he?

Kyle also made it back home.

But some scars are visible and some are not.

Kyle was a cousin of our friends and he lived across the street on the corner. I would see him around but actually only met him in my teen years. The age difference and all. I didn’t know him well but he seemed like a nice guy. Good humored. Cute in a long, shaggy hair, five o’clock shadow way. Remember a bunch of us at a party and having some good laughs. He was in college and studying theater then. A group of us attended a Shakespeare performance of his at Rhode Island College.

Kyle died, one year ago, at the age of sixty-six. The cause of his death was the Vietnam War. He was exposed to deadly chemicals during his time there. Everyone has heard of Agent Orange. For Kyle, chronic illness and an early death were the results of his exposure to it. I’d say he died from friendly fire.

Just like using a jug of Round-Up. Spray and kill. These chemical weapons (that is what they were) would be dumped on vast areas from planes and defoliation took place. Benefits were two fold. 1) No bad guys can hide in the jungles or forests without the cover of green canopy. 2) Kill all the crops so the bad guys will starve and die.

Obviously, Agent Orange was just one piece of the huge horror show called Vietnam. But its harm continues to reverberate to this day.

The spraying didn’t help. It only hurt. The destroyed crops led to widespread famine and innocent civilians starved to death. The environment was damaged. Our boys came home and began to get sick. Every spray inflicted harm. Illness, genetic damage and death were all a part of its ripple effect. The U.S., Vietnam and other countries who were exposed during the war all suffer the effects.

This could be viewed as old news. But it’s not. It’s continuing news. Because people are still dying. Kyle did.

We sent our fresh faced boys into a jungle war that they had no chance of winning. No one came out of it unscathed. Those who did make it home were changed and scarred, one way or another, for the rest of their lives.

That is our history and our responsibility.

I suppose, in a way, this is a posthumous thank you to Kyle for his sacrifices. Tinged with sorrow for his suffering. It shouldn’t have ended like that. Terribly unfair.

A thank you to all the young boys who left our neighborhoods. Those who made it back home and those who didn’t. Bless them all.














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When I lived in Southern California I attended Mass in my community. It was always led by Fr. Fred.

Loved his sermons. I would, more often than not, leave with a message that would cause me to reflect for the week.

Fred would also write a little blurb in the weekly bulletin.

I just moved to India and was unpacking some things in our new home. A purple piece of paper fluttered in the drawer. It was one of Fr. Fred’s reflections that I had cut out of the church bulletin about seven years ago.

It is as relevant today as it was then. Nature wreaking havoc (always) and the “blamers” coming out of the woodwork (always) to tag these disasters as God’s dissatisfaction with us.

“God is punishing us because…..!”

“God is punishing them because…..!

Ummm, no.


It sort of struck me as interesting that I should find this-with the U.S. coming off the heels of Harvey and Irma and some folks wanting to place the blame on the sins of the people.

What Fred’s saying is that natural disasters are just that. We sometimes happen to be in the path because of where we live. It’s not a judgement or punishment. It is what it is.

Many folks are faced with personal disasters that have nothing to do with Mother Nature’s force and it’s hard to understand. It might be illness, an accident, death of a loved one, job loss, etc.

We are not being punished although it can feel like we are. It might not be anyone’s fault but still we are rendered feeling helpless. I suppose the only choice, in these instances, is how we try and move forward.

Other times we can get trapped in our very own disasters which are caused by the choices we make. Not anyone else.

This is when we need to be looking within and not blaming outside sources. And really ask ourselves if we are owning our choices.

We are not being punished.

It’s all about choices.



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Yesterday I was picking up my daughter’s winter coat at the dry cleaners.

I had been in earlier, around two o’clock, since it was supposed to be ready in the afternoon. They said it wasn’t finished yet but I could pick it up at 4:00pm. I had much to do but I tamped down my impatience and said that I would be back.

When I returned a Portuguese woman, of a certain age, was standing in front of the cash register. I know she’s Portuguese because I grew up in this town.

There are clues. Even before I hear an accent.

First of all. She looked Portuguese.

Not a lot of jewelry but the prerequisite gold wedding ring and earrings.

The color of the gold is usually clue number two.

A simple hairstyle. Short and not fussy.

I could go on but you get the picture. I know my home town folks.

I asked, “Do they know you’re here?”

She replied, “Yes.”

A young gal appears from the back room and tells the woman, “I can’t find the others. I have only the one piece. When did you drop the others off?”

I’m thinking, “Oh, great. I thought I’d be in and out. Now we will be here forever while she searches for the lost clothing articles.”

My jet lagged daughter and I are just back from the Doctor’s office, armed with antibiotics to hopefully clear up our sinus problems. We’re not exactly on the top of our game. I left my daughter waiting in the car with the engine running.

The woman says, “I think they were dropped off about three weeks ago. One is black and one is beige.”

She continued and said, “I couldn’t pick them up because I was at the hospital with two blocked veins to my heart.”

The gal, in her quest to find the missing clothes, did not hear this but I did.

Of course, I had to say something.

My growing impatience immediately flew out the window.

“Are you doing okay now?”

She said, “So far so good.”

Then she says, “But my husband is sick.”

I said, “Oh, no.”

She shared, “He has cancer. They gave him three weeks. Colon cancer.”

“It’s no holiday. The stress is no good for my heart.”

Talked with her a bit longer. When she was leaving I wasn’t quite sure what to say.

Merry Christmas? Happy holidays? Good luck? Hang in there?

I just said, “Do the best you can.”

There are a lot of folks who are doing the best they can during the holidays. It’s difficult. Problems, illnesses, and feelings of sadness don’t miraculously up and disappear on December 25th. Or on the days leading up to Christmas morning.

All is not merry and bright for many people.

This brief encounter was a reminder of that. Made me sad, grateful, patient and aware.

Hoping you all are doing the very best you can. This Christmas and always.





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