Today is my 68th birthday. Looking back on the totality of my life I find it altogether inexplicable and absurd. I should have died several times but I didn’t. From a fever at six months; near-drownings; a burning airplane and some spectacular car crashes; not to mention a very near miss in a mortar attack during the war. -Yet, I live.
If one were to ask me how I survived this long, the simplest answer would be:
“By the grace of Almighty God and the love of my brother”
I’ve never had gainful employment. Under the onus of the murderous poison pill policy of Affirmative Action, while other Vietnam War veterans were committing mass suicide by the tens of thousands, I, instead, moved in with my bachelor brother who inherited my father’s house; brushing past him saying quite simply: “I have nowhere to go.”
We struck a quick bargain, he and I, regarding household chores. I thus became his ersatz housewife. I cooked his meals, washed his dishes and did his laundry; I pulled weeds and mowed the lawn; I shoveled snow in winter; I painted and repaired and did all the things a homeowner needed to do.
He fed me and provided the barest necessities of life – soap, toilet paper, a place to bathe and a place to sleep. Peace reigned because I recognized his authority, not only as the proprietary homeowner – but as Head of the House. Often frustrated because I disagreed with his priorities and his decisions, I nevertheless kept my tongue.
I earned pocket money doing chores for the neighbors and, because, I suppose, I am who I am, never resorted to crime. Some men rob banks; not for the money, but for a place to stay; prison is a better alternative to life on the streets.
After a VETERANS STAND DOWN I began to receive some paltry government assistance with which I began paying my brother rent. But for nine years my brother was my sole support.
I survived the treachery of my high school teachers. I survived the war. I survived the treachery of the VA and the mythos of the GI Bill of Rights. I survived the mass suicide of Vietnam veterans.
Looking back on my life I say again: I survived “By the grace of Almighty God and the love of my brother”
I leave you with an expression often heard among the hobos in the 1930’s when the whole world groaned beneath the crushing weight of massive unemployment:
“Write if you find work”