Monday, June 11, 2012

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

"I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari"
Lowell George

I didn't actually go from Tucson to Tucumcari; however, I did go from Borger, Texas THRU Tucumcari, New Mexico on my way to Albuquerque along portions of old Route 66.

My trip was for the purpose of sharing the middle-school primer I had written about my Grandfather, Zero Wilson, and the Mighty Cabanatuan Orchestra and Art Players. I had received a grant from the Descendants of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor and part of the requirement was to present what had been funded with former POWs from the Bataan Death March and their assorted relatives and friends.
I'm not sure what I expected, but not on my list was to find another family be a part of. And find a family I did. There truly are only seven people in the world; not only did I meet other military kids (although, we can no longer officially be called "kids"), but I met people I had read about and people who knew about Zero. We spoke a common language and had a common background. Difficult to find I think, even with one's own family. It was emotional and exciting.
My presentation was well-received. My workbook required some edits based on audience feedback. My primer found a couple of new homes by way of educators I met.

No one found the typo on the title of the workbook until two weeks later when a 6th grader busted me. But that's a story for another day.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

On the Road Again

My trip from Chicago to Albuquerque via Borger can hardly be used in the same sentence as The Bataan Death March. Nevertheless, the journey that got me where I am today has included the heroes of the march; their words, their photos, their drawings, their memories.

My writing and research have been done. My middle-school workbook proof has been printed. And, my PowerPoint presentation for the Descendants of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor is ready to present to the grant committee.

I thought I knew a lot of my grandfather's story. What I didn't know where the stories written about him and the prisoners who participated in The Mighty Cabanatuan Orchestra and Art Players - true artists all.

Who could know the indomitable spirit and survival instincts that allowed these men to share with each other their talents.

The conference in Albuquerque begins tomorrow; I have no idea what to expect, but I'm sure I'll meet survivors and other descendants like myself. I'll hear stories, see images, and be touched in ways I cannot imagine. I only hope my small contribution does the same.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Wounded Warrior

Those of you who have been following my Facebook posts over the last several weeks know that I was wounded in the battle called Chicago Winter - I slipped on ice, fell, and broke my right wrist. My write/right wrist and lower arm are currently ensconced in their fourth cast/splint. But things are improving - this particular cast is plastic, removable, and allows for occupational therapy to start immediately. All this means I should be as good as new . . . sometime.

Since I'm also working on a middle school project about the Bataan Death March and Cabanatuan prisoner of war camp, I cannot help but compare my medical incident and accompanying care with what must have been 100s of like and worse wounds and breaks than I suffered. These men would not have had the advantages of a taxi to the ER, or in many cases, even a doctor. They were forced to march 80 miles and were executed if they faltered.

Photo Credit: National Museum of the Air Force

I know the disfigurement of my wrist post-break; I had 7 hours in the ER to stare at it before it was set and splinted. I also know that while I had pain (I'd say 500 out of 10), I was given pain medication to ease my torment. I would venture to say that any wounded soldier on Bataan fortunate to only have an arm fracture kept his mouth shut and his feet moving lest he be deemed too damaged to continue and summarily killed. I suspect that men with broken legs or backs kept themselves as upright as possible in order to take even one more step.

I write this entry to put my wrist into perspective, to put a lot of my life into perspective. I often fear that I take for granted the simple and expedient ways to "fix" my life, to make myself more comfortable. Perhaps I can recall this post the next time I complain about being out of Motrin, or having to walk to the bus in the rain, or yes, even the battle I call winter.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hoarder or Collector

In my writing workshop, we were asked to write about things we've saved that perhaps should have been thrown out. In the ten minutes we were allowed to write, I came up with:

  • Every postcard anyone has sent me
  • Every letter ditto ditto ditto
  • Every card celebrating every event in my life
  • Most emails since 1995
  • Many bad photographs of other people's children*
  • Many photos, good and bad, of other people's vacations
  • Most [Houston] Chronicle Sunday brides from the last 20 years
  • Boxes of books I will never read, but will go in my someday library to fill shelves
  • Every thing that has ever been on a refrigerator of mine, including the magnets 
I guess I save words and images.

For what? Because I can? Or because of the multi-volume biography that someone will write about me someday?

Postcards are understandable; I keep them in a big basket, and long-time friends and family pick through them to read about others' travels. Postcards once spawned one of my better essays - published even.

But really? I used to save every art magazine I had, every canister of sequins, every craft kit known to man because maybe . . . someday . . . I'd be an art teacher and I would need all of this for class projects. Guess what? I am never going to be an art teacher; at least not an everyday 9-5 kind of teacher, and anything I plan to teach at this point has vastly outgrown a canister of sequins.

Am I saving cards and letters as proof that people care about me? Proof that I exist for someone? Now as I wander into every-other-week-therapy topics, I think I'll stop.

And did I mention that I also save dead roses?

*If you are reading this and you have sent me a photograph of your child, I am not talking about you.