Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hot Springs Reunion, 2009

Just a nice photograph to get things rollin'

I left last Wednesday and took a great drive in our new car. It was the first road trip of any length for Goldie. Goldie is the name we came up with for our gold colored Ford Focus. I know, not real creative, but easy to remember. There aren’t many of these gold colored cars out there. I have had quite a few people comment on the unique color. One guy, as we were exiting a restaurant in town, mentioned to us that he liked the color. I immediately had to ask him, “You know what we call this car?” When he said, “No, what?” I told him. He snickered, then probably got into his car and told his companion what an asshole I was. That’s another subject for another post, someday.

Goldie. Our 2009 Ford Focus.

Goldie settled in with around 38 miles per gallon. That is good I think. I took the two lane road through northern Nebraska. US Hwy 20 from Sioux City, IA to Chadron, NE, then North on 385 into Hot Springs, SD.

The photo just doesn't do justice to what I was seeing in the clouds on my way West

Hot Springs South Dakota is where I was to meet up with a couple of old friends. These are a couple of guys I met in Hot Springs in the Winter of 2005. We were in a group together, enrolled in a program at the Black Hills Regional Health Care facility at Hot Springs, in other words, the VA hospital. It was treatment program, designed to help Veterans get through and understand better the hard times caused by PTSD. Both my friends, both named Larry, and I, became good friends when we met and that friendship has lasted.

A beautiful stretch of US Hwy 20 Westbound in Nebraska

Larry G. Came there with his wife and one year old child. They were continuing on to Denver to visit his parents after stopping in Hot Springs. Larry C. Lives about 80 miles away from Hot Springs and still attends a group meeting here weekly. I came from my home in River Falls, WI just for the occasion of an annual reunion event put on by the staff of the PTSD program there.

After we left the program, Larry G. Had a hard time and fell back into his old habit of drug addiction. He got caught up in it and ended up doing some time in jail. A couple of years worth. Larry C. And I paid him the occasional visit and supported him until he was released. We were there when he got out of jail. We drove him home and helped him get stable at his uncle’s place in Duluth. After that, we didn’t hear much from him and efforts to contact him were futile. We thought the worst. We thought he fell back into the life of drug abuse and might have even got arrested again and was doing more time.

Low and behold, Larry G. surfaced and all was okay. He had met a woman, got married and had a child. He bought a home in Duluth and was doing quite well. All this time, Larry C. And I saw each other last September for a brief visit as I passed through Lusk, Wyoming, where Larry C. Lives, while I was on my way to the West coast to visit friends. Other than that and a brief phone call around Christmas, we hadn’t had much contact.

My friend Larry G. with wife Natasha and baby Lataysia

I felt like it was over. I didn’t think we would all hang out and talk to each other so regularly any more. But I was wrong. When I had heard from Larry G., I called Larry C. And we all started talking back and forth again. We talked about this phenomenon while sitting poolside at the Budget Host motel in Hot Springs the other night. We laughed at ourselves and how we still can’t believe that we have people out there that would actually want to hear from us.

Larry C. and me at the reunion

We made sure we all had each others phone numbers, both home and cell, and made a pact to stay in contact at least once per month just to say hello. I set the sights higher by saying that it wouldn’t count to call when you knew the other guy was busy or sleeping and leave a message. The call had to be one-on-one conversation, not a voice mail. We laughed and the conversation went on like we never took a break. I guess that’s what real friendship is, understanding and accepting of the quirkiness of each other.

To prove this, all it took was the actual attendance at the reunion. This event is just the Vietnam Veterans from the past groups sharing space in an small auditorium at the Hot Springs VA. Burgers and hot dogs are offered and shared along with a few side dishes and some chips. It was understood that I would meet the two Larrys at the auditorium. I got there first and within a few minutes, Larry C. Arrived. I was seated at table, alone. I got up when I saw larry come in to the room. I walked over towards him and one of the staff asked us if we had signed in.

Well, we had signed in on a sheet of paper that was on a side table by the door of the auditorium. But this staffer was talking about going to the other side of the domiciliary complex, into the dom office, and sign in and get a visitors pass. Both Larry and I turned and walked out. We both grumbled that it was the same old shit and a different day and that we weren’t going to get a visitors pass. After all, we’re Veterans, we used to live in that building and everyone knew who we were and we were invited to be there.

Larry C. was visibly upset, (read: pissed off to the max!), I was calmer, but just not willing to jump through the hoops that they wanted us to. After all, I came there to meet up with my friends, the two Larrys. We walked out together. I suggested we get a cigar and cool off out on a bench and that we settled down a bit while we waited for Larry G.

We did exactly that. Larry G. Came with his wife and child. We told them that we’d be out there and we’d see him after he ate. Larry G. Went inside. Another guy came out, a veteran we didn’t know, and we talked a bit. He tried to coax us into coming back inside, but we just sat there. His name was Tom.

A few minutes after Tom went back inside, one of the staffers came out. It was Rosemary, one of the counselors from the program. Seems that Tom ratted us out. Larry and I knew Rosemary very well from the program days in 2005. She looked at us like we were a couple of disgruntled little boys who were being belligerent. After rolling her eyes, she told us to come inside and get something to eat and that we were being silly.

We followed her. Seems her invitation was the encouragement that we needed. We both felt a little awkward. I apologized to Rosemary and told her that we caught in the act of being ourselves. She shrugged it off and just shook her head. She is used to the reactions exhibited about every day things she gets from PTSD Vets I guess. But this is the type of friendship and companionship I'm eluding to. Both Larry and I were willing to miss the entire event to show support for each other. And even Tom, the guy we really didn't know, did his bit to support us and help out. That scenario epitomizes how we never stopped supporting our Brothers some 40 years after it all.

We ate and talked a bit more. Took a couple of pictures and went on our way. Larry C. Drove home to Lusk, Larry G. Went back to the motel and had an afternoon of sightseeing on his calendar. I left for home in Goldie.

All in all, it was good for each of us to put forth effort to see and talk to the other guys. It was good connection. Thursday night, we had sat around a picnic table by the pool at the motel after a great dinner we shared. We caught each other up on the happenings in our lives. We laughed and cried and hoped the best for each other. We puffed on cigars and life was good. We told each other how much we loved each other and thanked each other for the friendship.

At the reunion itself, we ran into another fellow from our group of Winter, 2005. Russell C. was there. We sat and talked a while. It was good to see him there. There were ten in our group. One of us had heard from or knew the whereabouts for all but one.

Another old friend I met in Hot Springs, Russell

If I indeed do get to take another motorcycle trip yet this September, as is the plan, I told Larry C. I’d call him and pay him a visit when I passed by Wyoming. He told me, “Make sure you do!”

All is good after that visit. We decided not to attend the wedding in Duluth. I drove the 650 miles straight through to home and am spending a nice weekend here in Spadoville.



The Crow said...

I like your stories of friendship and camaraderie whenever you and your fellow Vietnam Vets get together. Makes me wish my brother had guys he could get together with, help him open up.

Goldie is a beauty, and so is her name.


Mel said...

You had me at the first photo.

And it just got better and better.

What a great weekend--camaraderie and connectedness. It don't get much better than that.

(I think they teach eye rolling in Nursing 102-Advanced Skills....LOL)

billie said...

hot head :) i probably would have done the same thing-- with a bit of cursing thrown in for good measure :)

susan said...

You reminded me of my father-in-law who passed away at a VA hospital in Providence of ALS. He was a wonderful man whose WWII friends came from all over just to hang out with him one more time.

It's good to have friends.

The Joined up Cook said...

Photos help you relive those magic moments don't they. I often go back and have a look and one day will have to scan all my pre-digital stuff.

Love the rock formations.

A good photo with a story is all you need to post.

Spadoman said...

A big Thank You for being here at Round Circle.

Crow.... I didn't know it was going to be like this after all these years, but I am very fortunate to have these guys in my life. We are helping each other find peace in our hearts.
Goldie is a fine one, for sure!
Thanks again.

Mel... Thanks for stopping. Glad you like the photos. That first one is from the epic trip in July, the rest are from the mini reunion.
The nurses at Hot Springs have eye rolling down pat!

Batmo... Thanks for being here in my blogworld, and now we're FB friends too! Great!
We don't blow our stacks like the old days, we just leave, but we leave together:-) And yes, we cursed the VA and their regulations too!

susan.... The relationships that are formed, especially during the war, are brotherhoods. Here's a saying:
For those that have tasted war, life has a flavor the protected will never know. (or something to that effect.)
Thanks so much for coming by and stopping.

AWB..... I've been scanning pre-digital, little by little. We have literally thousands of pics. Got them sorted by time in zip locs. A big chore, but yes, each a story.
Those rocks are Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah.
Thanks for coming here to Round Circle.