Monthly Archives: September 2008

Guest blog from the past

I notice it’s past time for another post, but I’m so busy right now I don’t think I could put two thoughts together and be coherent. So here is another letter from my Great Aunt Mabel, who was an Army nurse during WWII. Someday when I have a website — someday when I’ve finished writing this book and it’s under contract and I’m working on the next one, someday soon I hope — I’ll put all her letters up in a space of their own for people to read. They really are an incredible glimpse into another time and place. Hope you enjoy this one, from the early days while stationed in Colorado:

Camp Hale
Army Ski Cantonment
February 11, 1943
2:45 A.M.

This is my 7th night on Night Duty. 8 more to go. We stay on only 15 nights at a time and that is long enough of 12 hour duty. It isn’t half bad – in fact I rather enjoy it. The only trouble is you don’t do anything but sleep and work on this shift. Before I went on nights I was a patient in the hospital for six days with a sore “Pando” throat. I had it for several days before and worked but when my temperature was elevated they put me in for a rest cure. G got the measles. We have to be on duty at seven P.M. I have three wards to look after. There is a ward boy on each and I have decided that a good one is worth his weight in gold or silver or whatever else is valuable these days. They really are a great help. Ward 12 is orthopedic.. a back injury – a fellow who got kicked by a mule. Several knee injuries and fractures. Most of them are ambulatory. Ward 14 is a surgical ward.. that had always been my pet ward. Have a couple of new surgicals as of yesterday – a hernia and an ingrown toe nail – big stuff!! Last night we had an emergency appendix – spinal. They do most everything under spinal. They brought a Sailor in off the train with an arm infection.. a Sailor of all things! He needed quite a bit of attention – such as getting his arm all fixed up with hot packs – sulfathiazole – forced fluids etc. Guess the boys thought I was taking too good care of him – they were all more than kidding us. Then to top it all off – he is from Chatfield… so I asked him if he had ever heard of Rochester. Then the boys just knew for sure they wouldn’t get any more attention tonight… the Navy had taken over Camp Hale! Ward 16 is the woman’s ward. Wouldn’t you know it – they’d have one even in the Army! We have 10 private rooms – use them for nurses as far as they reach. I make rounds several times to all three wards – feel like Florence Nightingale herself, walking through those big wards with a none too bright (at times) gov’t issue flash light. Often I expect someone to go “Boo” at me out of the dark but no one has as yet. Guess they are too glad to have a nurse come around. I find them sleeping in the funniest positions – sometimes I’m almost sorry I looked! But the main thing is to find them sleeping. They all wear gray p.j.s (gov’t issue) and red bath robes – when they wear one. I know for sure it will be a treat to see a man with civilian p.j.s on again ! We have so much snow. Everything is covered. Sometimes it thaws a little during the middle of the day and the snow is swell for snowballs. The icicles continue to fascinate me. They are so huge. They say it can snow here all the year around. See where shoes are being rationed. I feel quite at home. I must transplant easily – like a dandelion or some such weed. Wonder if they put me over in Siberia if I’d feel right at home.


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Does summer end if school doesn’t start?

Twenty years ago, I sent my oldest child off to attend pre-school two mornings a week. Every year since then — in fact, most of my life before then — has been in some way shaped and defined by the concepts of “school year” and “summer.” Until this fall.

This fall, that oldest child has completed his formal schooling and is working full time. My youngest child is still in school, but she’s studying abroad this semester and it seems more like she’s just on a very long extended vacation. Helping her pack belongings into a suitcase and putting her on a plane in the middle of summer just wasn’t the same as moving her into campus housing this fall. I haven’t even had to buy textbooks. Instead, I’m fighting the urge to run out to the store and pick up some three-ring binders and loose leaf paper. I’m at a loss without the back-to-school rituals that signal the end of summer.

This is different from the “empty nest” thing you hear about when the kids leave home. I’ve discovered, much to my surprise, that I like living alone. I truly enjoy that my son is living with me right now, but we both know it’s temporary. And I’m fine with that. I’m delighted by the prospect of having the nest all to myself. Just as I’m delighted my kids know the door is always open and a light is always on. Even if it is just the refrigerator.

But this, this disassociation from school, is different. This changes the basic order of things, the way I view what happens and when. For the past two decades, planning a vacation, even a quick trip to the beach, always took into consideration the school schedule. When did winter break start and end? Where did the teacher workdays fall and which ones added a day off to a holiday weekend? Was that enough time to get to the mountains and back? Where should we go over summer break?

But suddenly this fall, I realize my life is losing that structure. My daughter will have three semesters to complete once she returns home. A year and a half. And then my life will no longer be influenced by the school year. At all. I’m not sure I like that.

This feels odd, wrong somehow. Yet at the same time, strangely freeing.

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