Gratitude Sunday: Veteran’s Day: Remember The Ladies

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “I spent 22 years in the Navy, and sacrificed numerous holidays and birthdays so every American can hold tight to his own beliefs and to be able to speak his mind…even if I don’t agree with him!” My brother (name withheld for privacy)

Sunday Haiku
Fog dips, undulates
around camera, obscures
lens, reality.

Sunday Musings
I ran into an acquaintance this week as I was leaving the grocery store. Since we hadn’t seen each other for a while we chatted, caught up, shared a few opinions and a few minutes, checked to make sure we had each other’s phone numbers, and decided we’d find a time to get together for coffee. I’m a late riser. Since forced into early semi-retirement I go with the flow as far as my body goes: I go to bed when I’m tired, I get up when I have to.

She admitted to being a late riser also but it’s taken her years to learn how to do so. She spent thirty years in the military before her body gave out. In the military you learn a schedule. You get out of bed at the crack of dawn, and you work til after dark. You are scheduled, disciplined, regimented, obedient. No naps, no lollygagging, no dillydallying.

I know half a dozen ex-military women. They are women like any other. They fell in love and out of love. They married; they divorced; they became widowed. They birthed and raised children and dealt with bodily monthly cycles, theirs and their children’s. They helped their elders die. The career they chose was to serve our country in one of the hardest service jobs there is. Women make great leaders; if we had more women leaders in our world we’d have less war. It’s as if the biological imperative of the female body keeps us more grounded, more steady, more connected to others and reality.

For many in the United States today, military service is the pathway to a decent guaranteed living wage income and retirement income, with caveats of course. I’ve watched many young people finish and polish their educations while serving, improving themselves and the quality of service they can give at a living wage. My younger brother, for example, was able to get into NROTC, and during his more than twenty years of service in the Navy earned his Master’s degree while serving at Annapolis, along with other posts. Like other men, he fell in love, married, raised and educated children, he went where the military told him and took his family with him. His retirement pension is more than I was ever able to make while working. We have good-natured disputes about how my tax payments are part of his retirement pay (though he still pays taxes as well, that’s where it gets muddy), but that’s another essay. I do not begrudge his income because he served. He worked; he earned it.

I was never able to make that kind of commitment. I was the dissenter in our family. It’s their fault; they taught me to read and think for myself and then they didn’t know what to do with me when I did. Well, Mom did. Her solution was getting me a library card and introducing me to the local reference librarian. When Vietnam started I was already versed in the military industrial complex and objected to the political machinery, so from a moral and ethical standpoint I was not suited for military service, though I have always advocated mandatory civil service (another essay). While my self-education and academic education might not have earned me much money, I know how to research, think for myself, and draw my own conclusions. That’s something.

The brother I mentioned above told our mom several times he thought I would have made more money and had more opportunities if I’d gone to college right out of high school. He’s likely right. I didn’t have proper guidance; because I came from a poor family, was female, and already on the rounder side of traditional women’s bodies, I was abandoned. It may be hard for young people to believe but in those days young women were still only encouraged to college in order to find a husband. Yes, not that long ago. From the way men treated me I didn’t think a husband was realistic and prepared to support myself in a trade. Platitude: hindsight is sooo 20/20. Obviously the opportunities and adventures would have been different had I been guided and encouraged to the college path. It’s a “what if” rabbit hole; the past is the past; it is what it is, and one does the best one can with what one has in the moment, because for some of us the best laid plans seem forever thwarted.

I wanted to honor women in the military with this post, not whine about me. I’ve talked in past posts about how I think every American has served America, just in different ways than military service; this is connected to the civil service idea. Dad served in the Philippines as a rear tail gunner, he got that particular job because he was skinny enough to fit the little seats they put in the read end of the planes. When I was a pre-teen Mom and Dad served in the local Civil Defense Corps. Most of the volunteers were families, some of them were neighbors and friends. They trained in rescuing people from rubble after a bomb or destruction situation, how to apply first aid, and emergency preparation. Families took their children with them. We were often used as “models” made up with wound make-up or fake broken bones, and fake buried under piles of real rubble (we were perfectly safe), so our parents could “rescue” and “treat” us. I advocate now for a resurrection of Civil Defense programs, because none of us knows how close we really are to such tragedy. When Mom died I found her Red Cross First Aid books and gave them to her granddaughter whose career is in nursing, another service career.

I think about women who have served similarly to the way my mother felt about the pioneer women who came across the Oregon Trail. Every time we’d drive through the Baker City area Mom would start crying as she thought about the women who helped their families move across a continent. In a covered wagon. With wooden wheels. Dragging kids, and horses, and cows with you, all who need feeding and cleaning. Cooking over an open fire. Doing laundry on the run, if at all. Having discreet sex with your husband within earshot of fourteen other families, only bits of cloth and darkness separating you from them. Cleaning rags to catch the blood from your monthly menstrual cycle. Birthing babies. Nursing babies. Nursing the sick and injured. Leaving loved ones for the unknown. Throwing your stuff away along the trail because the horses no longer have the strength to pull the heavy wagon. Mom cried, and it took years for her to tell me why. Would I have understood more had she been able to tell me her thoughts earlier in our lives? Rhetorical, of course, as it is what it is.

I cry thinking of the service of women. We carry that extra biological burden. The one with the monthly reminder our bodies can make babies too. When we leave our babies or loved ones behind we grieve. I can’t say we grieve more than men because in this lifetime I’ll never know that, but I suspect we grieve differently. Men often don’t recognize the connection between us the way many women instantly do. Life comes out of our bodies after spending a significant amount of time inside us. The life coming out of a man’s body he experiences for a few seconds, and once freed it’s like that tiny sperm cell has its own program beyond its producer, a mind of its own, if you will.

I do not want to imagine being in a foreign country thousands of miles from home, serving in a military issue uniform with Kevlar, hauling around a 40 pound pack and a 30 pound weapon, where it’s 100 degrees every day and so dusty you can barely breathe, and surprise. Nature bleeds from you. Or the surprise of no bleeding when expected and knowing in the next few months you will have to change your form of service.

I am such a spoiled modest queen, I totally prefer dealing with those personal women things in the comfort and privacy of my own home. After menopause one still deals with personal women things. So much to look forward to!

Women do it every day. We deal. We serve. In uniform and out.

Why should any less be expected? We are human beings. Male, female, or whatever else you come equipped with, we come with the same basic parts. Some of us are average, some exceptional, others not so much. None of it matters. If we think we can accomplish something we should be enabled to try, and if we succeed we should be honored. If we fail, we should be encouraged to try again, or move on to the next adventure. If we are women who choose to make the commitment of military service we figure out how to deal. Or we don’t and choose another path.

In honor of my aunt (name withheld for privacy), who served a career in the Navy: Thank you. I want to thank you now, out loud, in public, while I am lucky to still have you in my life. I couldn’t have done it without you doing the part you did in protecting and serving our country. I wouldn’t have the freedom to do my own research, think for myself, and draw my own conclusions. We couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you for serving.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – It’s the little things: from the smallest brown acorn cap cradled in green grass. To the burgundy shamrock shaped leaves and quarter-sized white flowers of oxalis defying the early frosts. To the complicated patterns of red berries and white starburst seeds backed by shiny green leaves. And the sage green and burgundy Fibonacci spirals of sedums against stone aggregate hosting gray lichens. To a wet webbed veil catching rain for another sedum. To the bigger pictures of translucent rain-dropped glass graying the autumn-fired day.

Photo by Sherri Mead

And a local walking trail caught on a foggy sunrise ever so like an impressionist painting.

Photo by Ashley Roth

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Committed (1985, not rated), a stylized black and white mockumentary style production about a period during the 1950s when Frances Farmer, a movie star of the time, was committed to a mental institution and her mental health status was questioned. I thought the production well done, but the littlest things about movies can bother me; continuity and details annoy me. Farmer was a heavy smoker, which is portrayed in the movie. Lighters were not so popular then and disposable lighters were a thing of the future; everybody used matches. Prior to 1973 the striker pad on the matchbook was on the front, same side you tear the matches from, and by law that year it was changed to be on the back, the opposite side you tear the matches from to prevent accidental combustion. The movie is a 1985 production about a 1950s time period and the strikers were on the back. So wah, bah, details. * Don’t Bother to Knock (1952, “passed”) with Marilyn Monroe, Anne Bancroft, and Richard Widmark. A film noir story about a young woman who is not entirely mentally stable. I think as an actress Marilyn had unrecognized depth.

Currently ReadingAdvice for Future Corpses (and those who love them):A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying (2018, death, terminal care) by Sallie Tisdale. Ms Tisdale isn’t kidding when she says practical: how we or our loved ones might change or be during the last days, during lingering and sudden deaths. This treatise is so frankly informative in such a dignified and respectful way, it should be required in every health class, and a reference item for anyone in health or nursing services, better yet it is in layman’s terms. * Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams (2017, sleep science) by Matthew P. Walker. Frightening to know most of the folks driving on the road with you are sleep deprived, including truck drivers, and the occurrence of sleep deprived car crashes are higher than drunk driving crashes. If you add alcohol to sleep deprivation, it’s not additive, it’s multiplicative. That’s a sobering thought. What counts as sleep deprived? Anything less than eight hours of quality sleep every night. Elders included.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Veterans.
  • Still having my own home to take care of.
  • Still being able to do much of that taking care of.
  • Finding some old jewelry I had tucked away.
  • One of those days I stayed in my bathrobe all day. Headache.
  • Getting a box full of the past moved out of the living room into storage. Out of sight, out of mind. Still available if needed.
  • Setting small goals and getting them accomplished.
  • Those five minute work windows and the days that allow for more than one or two of them.
  • Our community having two neighborhood clean-up days a year, during which we can dispose of extra waste at no charge. They accept a limited number of mattresses and appliances per household as well. I finally decided I had a mattress and box spring that could not be used again and have waited all summer to get rid of them. Hubster made it happen before the son could get his shoes on. To prove he could. I’m grateful he could.
  • Getting rid of unusable stuff.
  • Little Christmas lights I can put around the house without having to go full-tree. Bright and cheery on these dark nights. So easy on remote controls.
  • How lights placed behind you give another dimension to light in the room.
  • Appliances. I am so happy they are working.
  • The magically abundant and magically disappearing qualities of my house, though I would prefer to find the stuff I know I have when I want to find it, not when the house decides to cough it back up.
  • Craving Oregon strawberries already.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

This entry was posted in Aging, Careers, Education, Family, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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