Walking and writing go hand-in-hand. On the stroll to the lab from the parking lot I pass through the front entrance of the VA hospital. Everyday I see injured military veterans of various wars. Based on my guess of their ages, most of these patients endured combat in Vietnam, Korea, and Iraq (Desert Storm in the 90’s). Maybe a few younger men are from recent theaters.
It was a beautiful morning and many of the patients were outside: some holding canes, others bound to wheelchairs, a few were clustered together smoking cigarettes; altogether I noticed a diversity of visages. Older, haggard soldiers of times-past had looks of despondency, almost as if the resiliency had disappeared from their bodies a long time ago. Not all of them, mind you, just a few sitting on the concrete K-rails lining the roundabout entrance. Others, sat alone with their smokes, cheerfully admiring the day.
I kind of like the smell of cigarette smoke, oddly.
These guys have faced a reality I will likely never see (or not in an government sanctioned fashion). This is my morning: walk from car, pass hospital entrance, enter security check to the laboratories. Never do I see the inside of the goings-ons of the clinical areas. But, I know that someplace there is a never-ending torment in some of these patients. I know it, but don’t feel it.
I don’t throw cliches about recklessly, but I can’t imagine (for some, not all) the suffering they have experienced in the past, and still carry with them. Granted, this is true for me. If my pitifully small thorns in my side were magnified 1000-fold, then I may also be weak of body and of fragile mind. We have a harsh reality around us.
No platitudes here. I’m simply in awe of the darkness this world can throw at you. This is it, ladies and gentlemen, please find your footing.