Caught at the crossroads
The plan was that I’d continue to write about Walter Reed. It seemed simple enough, at least in my mind, where there are always tea and crumpets being served to little girls in dresses with crinoline underskirts that don’t itch and white socks that don’t get mysteriously pulled down at the heel into perfect patent leather Mary Janes.
Perfection is the problem. There is no such state in the past, present or future, no matter what they taught us in grammar school. Of course, the idea can be embraced that what is past is, in fact, as close to perfect as anything can be, since there is no do-over possible. The further away we travel from our past, the less we can even see it with 20/20 vision, if we ever could. It just is. Which is probably why some folks say it’s better to “claim progress, rather than perfection.”
My imperfect memories kept flooding in — mostly, but not exclusively about Walter Reed Hospital — and I decided to augment them with photos from a collection waaaaay too big to manage. Photos, I figure, are evidence that something actually happened more or less the way I recalled it. My good friend Wolfie the cameraman says, “Just keep shooting, and the story will tell itself.” He says writers are always trying to create something that hasn’t happened yet, and photographers just keep clicking or rolling away until it does. Hmmm.
I’ve spent the past two days looking for a picture of my mother in her long white gloves and red satin gown, getting ready for the Inaugural Ball of 1961, the one Daddy missed because of his first heart attack. I’ve given up, and accepted the likelihood that it won’t turn up until I stop hunting for it. What I did find was evidence that the doctors at Walter Reed kept Daddy alive and active despite four more cardiac episodes over the next decade. The next Inaugural Ball was for Lyndon Johnson and his veep Hubert Horatio Humphrey (don’t you just love the alliteration in that name!) in 1965. Daddy was once again asked to serve in the President’s Honor Guard, where he wore this purple ribbon:
The best thing about that ball is that I got to go. My mother, trying to finish up her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, was in Philadelphia for a seminar. I wore a silk gown printed with a zillion bright colors like a stained glass window. It appealed to the hippie in me, and satisfied my father’s ultimatum that no woman in his house would wear bangs or black until he was gone.
Which reminds me, the ceremonies at Walter Reed have been going on all day, and it’s time for me to bite the proverbial bullet and go say goodbye.
Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to count your blessings. Reading and Counting Your Blessings are Old School Rules!