For the past year there has been a harmless old guy with a yen to dance with the ladies at my Mother’s care facility. At the few occasions I’ve been with my Mother at a musical preformance he always seeks out a couple women to dance with some of whom rebuff his advances. He always has a gentle not quite vacant smile spread from ear to ear.
I’ve also gotten to know a woman whose children were in my Morgan Park Geography classes back in 1986. It was only last week that I put the two of them together as they stood in the hallway near my Mother’s room. The woman gently discouraged him from pursing one of his occasional dance partners a lady who appears to be my age and suffering from early onset Alzheimers.
The wife told me she blamed Vietnam for his state. He’d been in the 101st Airborne during the Tet Offensive when I was a Junior in high school. She blamed PSTD for his condition and Agent Orange which was slathered on US soldiers and Vietnamese alike. Today’s Vietnamese blame its lingering effects for high rates of infant birth defects.
We talked about the Veteran’s Administration which she felt gave her husband short shrift and when I mentioned that today’s Iraq and Afghanistan vets might face similar indifference in the future (as the war is forgotten and we come to resent its ongoing costs) she pointed out that at least today’s veterans have been welcomed home as heroes. That’s true, I guess, but somehow I still find it small comfort.