From Vietnam to Vesicare in 50 Short Years

“It seems like only yesterday.”

It’s an expression as worn out as those of us old enough to utter it routinely. But it captures our ethereal sense of time as we watch our major life events unfold.

It seems like only yesterday:

When a busload of nervous USMC recruits arrived at Parris Island, SC, with little to no idea what lay ahead. How could they? The majority were kids, 18, 19 years old. With parental consent, some, like husband Dale, went headlong into the maelstrom known as “boot camp” at the age of 17. They stepped off the bus and into a disciplined world that would sustain them throughout their lifetimes, or so they thought.

Dale’s a pretty tough guy. His first taste of international intrigue occurred when President John F. Kennedy threw down the gauntlet to USSRs Nikita Khrushchev in 1962. Khrushchev wanted to install nuclear missiles in Cuba, and Kennedy said no, not 90 miles off our shores.

For about a week that October, Dale floated around Cuba on the USS Francis Marion, one of many U.S. vessels ordered to quarantine Cuba against the delivery of the Russian nukes. Fortunately, Khrushchev blinked first and the rest is history.

A short time later, the United States committed American troops to defend South Vietnam from its communist enemies in the north. By then, war drums had been beating for close to a decade. Dale’s unit arrived in Chu Lai, landing amphibiously, and set about building the air bases and communications networks for the fighters who would follow them.

The Vietnam War would become the most controversial and emotionally-charged military confrontation of the 20th century. But Dale was blessed. He survived to live a full life, almost.

The Corps had honed his character and he forged his life around “Semper Fidelis” – always faithful to his God, his wife, his country and his principles. Throughout his youth and middle age, Dale didn’t worry about growing old. Who does? If he thought about old age at all, it was simply the fleeting fairy tale — the Rockwellian notion of sitting on a front porch with a gray-haired Carla, taking in a sunset.

As the years began to fly by faster and faster, we were largely oblivious to the gradual changes in our bodies. Youth had faded; stamina had waned, but our lives were unassailable. A little Ben-Gay and Motrin, and we were ready for any challenge.

One day, however, changes accelerated. No longer gradual. The hallmarks of our lives seemed like only yesterday, but in that blink of an eye we found our bodies under siege. The man who had built a number of latrines could no longer hold his water.

Dale was blindsided when he had to abort a shopping trip because he’d wet his pants. He wished the earth would swallow him up before he died from embarrassment.

The young Marine of yesteryear never dreamt that one day he’d step off a commuter train from Dallas and fall flat on the ground, attracting a group of staring, whispering people who wanted to help the “poor old man.” He considered himself lucky that a rolled-up catheter didn’t fall out of his pocket along with a bottle of Vesicare.

Behind a few gray hairs, a labyrinth of wrinkles and translucent skin, the same young, macho Marine who served his country honorably in time of war still resides. I wish everyone could see him as I do. If they did, they would honor him during his time of war with this disease, and always treat him with the dignity he deserves.

In another 50 years, or the next blink of an eye, we hope the array of Parkinson’s syndromes has gone the way of Polio, so that future Dales can live out the fairy tale on their front porches, talking about their pasts that “seemed like only yesterday” – with gray-haired Carlas by their side.

15 Replies

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  • Hi CarlaL

    A very poignant story, and beautifully expressed. Our stories need to be told!

  • Thanks, Strelley. You've been such a rock to this forum. I never miss your recommendations, but would also like to hear more of your story.

    Blessings,

    Carla

  • hi Carla

    a good story well told too

    u r a star and so is DALE

    LOL JILL

    :-)

  • I tell him that every day, Jill. He is quite the introvert, so he usually just gives me an "aw, shucks" smile.

    Hope you are doing well, my dear.

    XO

    Carla

  • What a beautifully written post. I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes. How many of us can relate to this? Lives lived very differently but now the time remaining playing out in very similar ways.

    Best wishes to you both.

    Nanna B

  • Yes, Nanna B. None of us got the "fairy tale" ending, did we? But I'll bet none of us would have traded the years of love and life, albeit fraught with thorns occasionally, for the fairy tale. It's just that we wanted both, and we're so deeply disappointed it didn't work out that way.

    XO

    Carla

  • An incredible and touching entry that made me think of how PSP had changed the man I married many years ago. Caring for sufferers of PSP, you just think of getting through, day by day. It is good to remember. Thank you.

  • "Getting through, day by day" is usually at the forefront of my mind, denmob. I try to take the moments in between the tedium to think about how much I love this man and how much we've shared together. Definitely takes some of the sting out, my sister.

    Take good care of you.

    XO

    Carla

  • Thank you. You're right. It does help to think about how much you love someone,the things you did together as a newly married couple and as a family. But how it hurts as well.... Woops,feeling sorry for myself.....wasted energy.

  • It may be wasted, but it's a pit none of us can avoid sometimes. Sending up prayers that you have a sunny day. I have to go empty the night urinals now...:)

  • Thank you again..

  • This post is so beautifully written! It should be published for all the world of PSP caregivers to read.

    My grown children (stepchildren to my husband) wonder why I have chosen to remain his caregiver when it takes up all my time, energy and resources. They cannot possible know how I feel about the man he once was - that I love him as much today as that happy day we married 35 years ago. My heart bleeds for what others see now and all too easily dismiss as an old man with nothing to contribute, not even conversation.

    Thank you for your heartfelt and so articulate post. God bless you both. I'm sure you are every bit as special as he.

  • Caroline, your deep devotion to your husband is evident from all your posts. In fact, I dare say that if your children were to read this very response you just wrote, they'd never question your decision again. Touching.

    Blessings to you, sweetheart.

    XO

    Carla

  • Carla - you are such an inspiration and so positive (and eloquent). If you put your posts together, they could be a manual for carers.

    I lost my husband to PSP at the end of last year - I used to sit and read to him and I know he would have enjoyed listening to stories of your former life and how you are coping now. Although communication was difficult, and his eyesight wasn't good, he still needed to be part of the wider world. Otherwise it was all too easy to become self-centred.

    You're doing a grand job!

  • Wifemo, I am so deeply sorry for the loss of your beloved husband. I've always heard that hearing is one of the last senses to go, so it was very loving of you to read to him. In addition to giving him a lifeline to the rest of the world, the fact that it was your voice must have given him immense comfort during his final days, weeks, months.

    Actually, it's my husband, Dale, and you, my dear, and all the others on the forum who are the inspiring ones. I simply respond the only way I know.

    Praying that your wonderful memories of your husband will sustain you through your time of sorrow.

    XO

    Carla

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