Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Shout Out To My Vietnam Vet Brother

NaBloPoMo Post #26

Alton ~ ~


I mention my sisters a lot in this blog. There are six of us girls, but we do have one brother. And if you've been a blogger friend for a while, you'll know that my brother is an invalid. He has lived at my Mom's for the past 18 or 19 years, since he suffered a stroke and needed some care in day-to-day life. About two years ago or so he became mostly bedridden; for the past year he has been entirely bedridden.  My sister Barbara is his main caregiver.

Alton was sixteen when I was born. I was told that he was not amused that Mom was pregnant at her age. I guess he was a typical 16-year-old boy. But apparently I grew on him because he and his best buddies called me "Baby" and took me places with them. I don't think I was supposed to draw in the girls, because I think he and his future wife were already dating not long after I was born, but I might be wrong about that.

I was about four years old when he was drafted and sent to Vietnam. I can remember going with Mom and Dad, his wife, and her little sister to Fort Knox to see him graduate from basic training. All I can really recall is standing there watching those rows of uniforms and not knowing which one was Alton. Mom or Viney yelled out, "There he is!" And I kept asking, "Where? Which one?" I never could see which one he was and couldn't figure out how they knew.

I have memories of Mom getting letters from him in envelopes with red, white, and blue stripes around the edges. Sometimes he sent pictures to her, and I remember one of him standing by a tank. Years later he gave me the 35mm camera he used in Nam, and I cherish it.

I know that Vietnam changed him. Well, how could it not? I was too young to know how it changed him at the time. I didn't appreciate until years later the ways it changed him, but I have come to see that my brother was and is a sensitive soul. My son is very much like him. He had little nervous quirks and could get overwhelmed if he had to be around a lot of people for a long time. He is peaceful, doesn't like to be around arguments or fights. He lived in his head a lot. (So do I!) I imagine my son going to that horrid war at the age of 20 and what kind of damage it would do to him, and that is how I can know what Alton must have gone through. 

He never talked much about Nam, not even to our parents. Several years before his stroke he was at Mom's house and China Beach was on the TV.  A certain place in Vietnam was mentioned, and he said, "I was there." And that was the absolute first time I, myself, had ever heard him make even that small a reference to his time overseas. A few years later he apparently started talking about it to one of our sisters. Then he had his stroke.

After the stroke he told some war stories. I have a few of them on tape. And after he started getting worse he would -- and still will -- hallucinate and think he is in Vietnam. 

The three oldest, Dennice, Alton, and Maxine

I'll write more about Alton in a later post. But right now I want to share a video that a friend posted to FB tonight. It's of the performing artist Pink and her father, performing together a song that he wrote about Vietnam; I believe she says that he wrote it while he was there. This video is from 2007, but I had never seen it before. It's nicely written, and I enjoy their harmony.  Perhaps you will like it too.

~ ~ Lori 


Ken Riches said...

Must have been a hard post to write. Happy thanksgiving to you and your family!

Paula said...

Thank you Alton for serving our country.

Mary Degli Esposti said...

Having praised the fact that Dian had a choice about her end-of-life, I come to Alton. I am not a person of religion. Many things reinforce my Atheism. Perhaps as well as a total lack of Faith, my intelligence & understanding of certain things -like this- are not nuanced enough to get beyond ..But WHY would a creator God let this happen? I don't believe in spiritual angels, but if there are angels on earth, Barbara is one.