Thursday, August 11, 2022

In Memoriam: Robin Williams and Jerry Hadley

(originally published on August 11, 2014)

 “All is ephemeral, fame and the famous as well” – Marcus Aurelius

It was a shock to learn today that Robin Williams, known no doubt worldwide for his many talents, died at the age of sixty-three, an apparent suicide. It was impossible not to hear about it – it was splashed all over the social media and on all evening newscasts. What we are told is that Mr. Williams was, and had been, suffering from depression.

In one of those life is stranger than fiction parallels, I had recently been researching a very fine American singer, tenor Jerry Hadley, who also took his own life not many years ago, and apparently for the same reason, depression. Hadley had one of the loveliest voices I have ever heard. He was opera’s Golden Boy for a time, and sang all over the world for nearly a quarter of a century beginning in 1979. From what I have read about him, he was a generous and caring colleague, with charm and wit. He was a very good-looking man. He was a fine musician and was equally at home in the standard operatic literature and in contemporary works. He was also comfortable in musical theater.

He was married to a pianist, Cheryll Drake, whose photos show her to be as lovely as Jerry was handsome. She was his accompanist and mother of his two sons. It would seem Jerry Hadley had it all. Though his fame was not as widespread as Robin Williams, he was well-known and admired by opera lovers. 

And yet. In 2002 Jerry and Cheryll were divorced, and for five years he did not perform. Apparently he stopped singing, and suffered from a deep depression. Whether the depression preceded the divorce or the reverse was true, the result was the same: a beautiful voice was stilled. I read that in 2007 Jerry had begun a comeback, and it seemed he was on the threshold of a second career. There was a new woman in his life. And then on July 10, 2007, he apparently shot himself in the head, suffering irreversible brain damage. He was put on life support for a time, and after being taken off the machines died two days later, on July 18.

I’m sure we will hear a great deal more about Robin Williams’ death in the days to come, and perhaps learn more about the depression he suffered that caused him to end his life. Williams was a genius. It would be difficult to find anyone in this country who was not familiar with his work. Of his many films, two I admired greatly were Awakenings and Dead Poets’ Society. In recent years I don’t recall hearing much about his impromptu comedy, but for those of us who saw him on various television variety shows and watched him launch into an impossibly funny and brilliant routine, it can only be described as “awesome.” He was one of a kind.

So here were these two gifted men, still young (Hadley was fifty-five when he died), famous on at least some level, seeming to have all the things so many people aspire to. Yet both in such despair they chose to leave the world they seemed to have at their feet. Hadley’s depression we know was of long duration; it’s possible Williams’ was as well.

I’d like to think there may be a lesson here. Mental illness still carries far too much of a stigma. If we have friends we think may be in trouble, we have to learn to reach out to them. We have to learn to reach out to them.

Depression is a terrible disease, as we learned to our sorrow once again today. Godspeed, Robin Williams. You gave us much joy. How sad that it seems you had lost it.




Thursday, May 26, 2022

Why I Write About Music

 

In my book Memories of Jake, the first in a series of two about brothers who served in Vietnam and how they managed to survive it, my character Andrew Cameron is an artist. Yet music is vital to his very existence. Andrew listens to music as he paints; it inspires him. Music provides hope, comfort, and healing throughout his life, through whatever challenges he must face. Music is also part of the happiness he experiences.

Music is in every book I write. How could it not be? As a child, my engineer father, whose avocation was playing the trumpet, frequently had recordings playing on the stereo in our home. Mostly classical orchestral music, which he loved and which I came to love as well. Like many young girls, I studied piano and ballet, learning more musical literature, and I eventually discovered opera at the age of 14 by listening to a Saturday Metropolitan Opera broadcast. It was, as I’ve said before, like falling in love, a love that has lasted a lifetime. Music has never failed me.

 I’ve had interesting responses to the music in my books. One reader’s review referred to my work as “music-centric” and I really like that description. Another reader, who hadn’t anticipated that music would permeate the pages, entitled her (one star) Amazon review of Eli’s Heart: “You should be an opera enthusiastic (sic) to really enjoy this.” Well, an honest appraisal from her point of view; the book is certainly full of music.The main characters are two musicians who meet at the age of sixteen.The young man, a piano prodigy,was born with a defective heart. Yet he and his love manage to enjoy a fulfilling life which includes his highly successful career—because of the music that brought them together and filled their lives.

That was my second novel, and I am now at work on novel number 15. The main character in this latest one is Andrew Cameron’s daughter Lindsey, who has wanted to be an opera singer since she was seven. The book begins in 1996, just before she completes her bachelor of music degree. It is definitely “music-centric,” and there is a great deal about the world of opera…among other things. (Maybe I should offer my one-star reviewer a complimentary copy?) Once again, my characters face challenges, and the music in their lives helps them to meet those challenges. So if you’ve read ”The Cameron Saga,” and choose to read And This Shall Be for Music when it’s released, you’ll revisit old friends and follow Lindsey’s path and that of her close friends and the man she comes to love.

 When I write about music, I describe it from the point of view of the listener or performer, or both. This excerpt is from the prologue to Memories of Jake. Andrew’s younger brother Jake has been missing for some years after returning home from Vietnam with retrograde amnesia, choosing to try to find the man he is now rather than struggle to recapture who he once was. Older brother Andrew receives a phone call from a sheriff in North Carolina, which is where Andrew was last seen. Human remains have been found and since Jake’s is an unresolved missing person case, it’s necessary to have them tested. Andrew hears back from the sheriff and puts on a recording to help him deal with this new crisis.

 ***

 Listening to this music always helped him reconnect with all the good in the universe, and when the second movement of Brahms’ Requiem started, Andrew was able to focus on the music and let it wash over him. The repeated timpani beats seemed to him the broken heartbeat of all humanity; the stately chords led into the chorus singing softly:

 Behold, all flesh is as the grass,

And all the glory of man is as the flower of grass.

For lo, the grass withers,

And the flower fades away.

 The orchestra returned, the chords changed and the powerful forward movement of the music culminated in the chorus now bursting forth full force with the repeat of the opening phrase and then dying away softly. But Brahms wasn’t done yet. An a cappella section was like a light playing through the gloom:

 Be patient for the coming of the Lord.

See how the farmer waits patiently

To receive the rain.

 The entire first section was repeated. Then came the part Andrew found so powerful he had to remind himself to breathe. A complete change of mood, the sun bursting forth and completely destroying the darkness:

 But the word of the Lord endures forever …

And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

 Andrew had been introduced to the Brahms Requiem when he returned to college after his tour of duty in Vietnam. He had felt lost for a time, unable to shake the experiences of the war, no matter how hard he tried to forget them. He needed some way to reconnect with the boy he had been before he left: the boy who loved art and music and beauty and peace. Brahms’ music helped bring him back; it spoke to him of hope and a great promise. Death is not the end, it proclaimed. Not even for his lost brother, no matter what may have happened to him.

***

The remains uncovered in North Carolina, Andrew learns, are not Jake’s. Hope remains alive for his missing brother.

 Writing this book was a wonderful, gripping, emotionally wrenching, yet uplifting journey. It wasn’t easy to write, and it isn’t easy to read. But many readers have found it well worth the journey it took them on. Memories of Jake is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

To order: 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06XXHJ63N/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i3

 

Monday, April 18, 2022

The Wonderful World of Opera in America

 I’m staring at a page that’s about three quarters written, and the heading says “Chapter 27.” But I’m wondering if this book is ever going to be finished. This is first draft, and I feel like I’ve been swimming through a river of mud and driftwood during the last few chapters. I’m supposed to enjoy writing. I want to enjoy writing. I have enjoyed writing. Right now, though, it feels more like an arduous chore.

 I heard my first opera in the fall of 1952. I was fourteen, listening to a Saturday Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Claude Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande (sung in French, of course). It was love at first…well, hearing. In the fall of 1955, I became a freshman at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, thrilled beyond belief to have been accepted as a vocal performance major.

 This is a preamble to the book I’m attempting to write at this point in my second career as a writer, which began nine years ago at the age of seventy-five. I’ve written fifteen books, much to my astonishment. All of them include music. Music has been my life since even before that fourteen-year-old impressionable child became enamored of opera, thanks to a father who loved classical music (though opera wasn’t his thing). Even my eight-book cozy mystery series overflows with music. Some people love these books (it would be nice if there were more readers, but I think my protagonist Augusta McKee—singer/teacher/amateur sleuth—has a small but loyal following).

 My years at CCM were a dream come true. As a freshman, I realized fairly early on that my voice was one of those described thusly: “she has a small voice, but it’s pretty” (any singer will know exactly what I’m saying…at least it wasn’t “small, but ugly”). It was a real eye-opener to hear some of my schoolmates—indeed, some of my classmates, who had large, mature, thrilling voices. Wisely, I realized singing at the Met was not going to happen for this soprano. That was okay, I still loved opera and wanted to somehow be part of that world. Then I met this tenor.

 Yes, I fell madly in fatuation (I just made that up) and fairly soon we were married. He had a true talent, and for about a decade managed to sing professionally. I did everything I could to support his dream. Or what I thought was his dream. After those ten years, he decided the life of an opera singer wasn’t for him, and instead established himself as an independent notesetter for music publishing companies. He liked his new career, and I accepted it. He loved to sing, but he never truly loved singing opera. (His acting ability was not on a par with his singing ability, but that didn’t prevent him from continuing to sing right up until his death fourteen years ago.)

 Three children later, we left Cincinnati to move to Northeastern Pennsylvania so the notesetter could be close to his primary customer. He then suggested I establishing a private vocal studio, and that’s when I realized my true calling. Because of that “small, but pretty” voice I had worked hard to develop my own instrument. While my voice was never suited for opera, I had become a decent singer, thanks to the three excellent teachers I worked with. What I learned, I loved teaching to young singers, and it turns out I communicated vocal technique to them well, along with my passion for classical vocal music. I believe in the past forty-three years nearly every student who came into my studio left with a better understanding of their voice, and some continued their music studies in college. Some even built careers, which was tremendously gratifying for this teacher.

 So, the book I’m attempting is about a young aspiring opera singer, beginning with her graduation from “the Conservatory” (translation: CCM) in 1996. It should be easy, right? I’ve been on the fringes of “Opera World” for decades, and even lived there with the tenor for a time back in the sixties. Not so. The “landscape” of opera in the United States changed dramatically beginning sometime in the sixties, and while at that time there were two major opera houses in this country (the Met and San Francisco) and three regional opera houses…that adds up to five…these days the organization Opera America has a list of ONE HUNDRED FORTY-NINE major and regional opera companies on their list. And there could be even more.

 This showed me that my protagonist, Lindsey, has a lot of decisions ahead of her, so I needed to learn all about the growth of my favorite art form over the past five or six decades. How does an aspiring opera singer build a career in more recent years? She has many paths, but also much competition.

 On top of that, because of a trauma in her young life, Lindsey becomes aware of music therapy, the Bonny method of Guided Imagery with Music in particular. Something else I’m researching because until I started writing this book, I had never heard of GIM music therapy.

 So. Here I am, up to the first draft of Chapter 27 and my outline shows potentially 32 chapters (it could be one or two more). You’d think the finish line would be in sight. And yet, lots of logs and debris in this river as I thrash and splash my way through.

 Opera in America is as much of a production offstage as it is on. Those who love the art and try to make it happen face challenges, sometimes traumatic, that can change them. This next story shows how people react to what a life fraught with trials in opera can bring, seen through the eyes and experiences of my soprano Lindsey.

 Am I having fun yet?

 Well…I am. In a weird sort of way. Which only means I’m a writer. Right?






Monday, January 3, 2022

MY FAVORITE PERSON I’VE NEVER MET: THE RETIRED CINCINNATI COP


One of the things I enjoy most about writing is research. And my favorite part of research is finding remarkable people who are willing to share their time and expertise to assist a writer pursuing a subject they are passionate about. 

After writing several historical novels, the last two of which were intense because they were about brothers who had served in the Vietnam War, I decided four years ago to go in a completely different direction and try my hand at a cozy mystery. I chose to set my story in a city I love, Cincinnati, when I lived there during the nineteen-sixties.

Almost immediately I was stymied by police procedure in that city in that era.  I found online good information about how the Cincinnati Police Department operates today. My memories of the city were that we admired the local police and felt protected, but since I was never on the wrong side of the law, I’d had almost no personal interaction with what I’ve since learned was maybe the greatest police department in the country at the time.

During an internet search, I stumbled across the Facebook page of the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society. A further search took me to the organization’s website, and I wondered if this might be a place where I could get some answers. I sent a message through the Facebook page, explaining who I was and what I hoped to do. Fairly quickly I had a very nice return message from retired Det. Lt. Stephen Kramer, then president of the organization, saying he’d be happy to help me. I had done as much preliminary research as I could, so I sent Lt. Kramer my list of questions about police work in the city during that era, explained my story in more detail, and again in a short time received a remarkably complete and wonderfully written response addressing my questions.

Eight books later, I can’t even imagine how many e-mails have flown through cyberspace between Steve Kramer and myself. I know that without his input, interest and guidance, “The Augusta McKee Mystery Series” would be sadly lacking in accuracy and interesting details, and also in the personality of one of the main characters. Homicide Detective Malcolm Mitchell has become a significant part of all the novels in the series.

 A writer himself, Steve Kramer has been willing to help me work out details in each plot so that they are believable, even when I’ve stretched the envelope a bit. Need a really scary jail where Augusta visits a suspect? Here you go…the Cincinnati Workhouse, complete with its history, photos and his own visceral reaction to the place. Perfect. Who provided security for Music Hall in 1964? Not only an answer but a contact, the former chief of the Cincinnati Private Police Association. (All those times I attended concerts and even performed in Music Hall, and I never knew that.)

I lived in Cincinnati from 1955-1971 and remembered Sheriff George Ratterman and April Flowers, and knew Newport wasn’t the picturesque town it appeared to be from the Eden Park Overlook. But I never knew about master bootlegger George Remus, and even more, his wife Imogene’s ghost. Lt. Kramer recommended a book which gave me a wonderful insight into that story. Imogene is discussed in the second book in the series when Augusta is directing an opera workshop production that includes operatic ghosts.

We (notice I moved from “I” to “we” by book #3) need to stop this suspect from getting on a plane on her way to flee the country and to complicate matters further, we want her to be arrested but released. Fortunately, Augusta’s best friend is involved with a criminal defense attorney. A wild drive to the airport and while Malcolm tracks down the suspect to detain her, Augusta calls Garrett and tells him to get over there ASAP because the suspect needs his assistance.

More recently: need to check out a downtown Cincinnati car chase? I put together the route from my vivid memories of driving in the city often and with the help of Google maps. Steve and his wife Pat “surveilled” it for book #8 by driving it! (Aside: The Case of the Bogus Beatle, which begins with an actual Beatles concert at Crosley Field in August, 1966, along with all other books in the series are available on Amazon, Kindle and paperback. You can find them on my author page, Susan Moore Jordan. Note: end of the shameless self-promotion pitch.)

An enormously important element of this book series is Lt. Kramer’s insight into what drives a dedicated law enforcement officer. There are numerous times in the books when the words that come out of Malcolm Mitchell’s mouth originated in Stephen Kramer’s emails. My female protagonist (there’s a spark there even at their first contentious meeting) eventually asks Detective Mitchell why he became a cop. And more specifically, a homicide detective. Here’s what Steve Kramer sent me, which almost verbatim became Malcolm’s explanation to his new love interest:

“Being a homicide detective has to be one of the most satisfying occupations on God’s earth. Mentally, it’s challenging. It’s like playing a different puzzle every day, except the outcome is very important to another human being. Actually, if you’re successful, two human beings. No, if you’re successful, many human beings, considering what happens if you don’t catch the perpetrator…he just keeps perpetratin’. When you’re doing a homicide investigation, you see the person who’s dead and you have a physical reminder of what’s going to happen if you don’t catch who did it. When you catch him, it’s hard to explain how it makes you feel. The endorphins scatter in your brain like fireworks. It may be the best thing you ever feel.”

I’ve never asked Steve Kramer why he’s willing to have emailed me thousands and thousands of words (along with more photos) to assist with these books. Maybe I’m afraid he’ll decide enough, already, at some point, but I have a feeling he enjoys sharing his knowledge and memories of his lengthy service to the city we both love.

He’s done all this to date for copies of the novels and a gift certificate to Skyline Chili (one of the things I really, really miss about living in Cincinnati). We’ve never even spoken on the phone. Maybe it’s the twenty-first century equivalent of being pen pals?

Steve Kramer is definitely my favorite person I’ve never met face to face, but I feel he’s become a valued friend.


Det. Lt. Steve Kramer then ...

... and now


 

 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

THE CAMERON SAGA

 One brother can’t forget. The other can’t remember.

 Andrew and Jacob Cameron are tied together by a bond more powerful than blood. As young children, they experience a horrific event that tears their family apart. Then just as they complete their high school years, the Vietnam War intensifies. Both young men serve in the military: Andrew in the Marine Corps, Jake as a Green Beret. Each brother is damaged by his service in Vietnam, Jake in a way that will change his life forever.

 A helicopter crash in Vietnam leaves Jake with total amnesia, and the young Green Beret returns home to a family he doesn't know and a life he can't remember. Unable to be the son and brother his family has lost, Jake sets out to learn whatever he can about the man he was. When he uncovers a dark family secret, he decides to protect the people he loves by disappearing.

 Andrew's life is left in shambles. His loving parents, his always supportive wife Mary, even his burgeoning career as an artist seem not to be enough to alleviate the pain of Andrew's frantic question: Where is my brother?

 ***

 The Cameron brothers’ books, Memories of Jake and Man with No Yesterdays, required considerable research. While I didn’t write war scenes, my characters talk about their experiences. I spoke with veterans, read many first-person accounts, read online articles and veterans forums’ entries, and watched films and videos in order to try to understand the impact of service in Vietnam on those who served. Coming back was difficult for many of those who made it home. I was fortunate to find a consultant, a veteran of both Korea and Vietnam, retired Army Lt. Col. Chuck Vincent, whose assistance was invaluable.

For nearly two years I immersed myself in that period in history, and it was an intensely emotional experience. I found on YouTube television coverage of the fall of Saigon and watching it again, all these years later, I had the same visceral experience. But I learned about Operation Frequent Wind … a herculean effort by helicopter pilots to rescue as many South Vietnamese as possible for 48 hours after the city fell. It’s a little-known story about the war, I believe. I have a description as an appendix to Man with No Yesterdays. Our warriors fought with valor.

I’ve received gratifying reviews for both books from Amazon readers. One of my favorites:

Man With No Yesterdays is a relatable story … for veterans and the people who love them. This is a story for those who have returned home, body intact, but a mind in downfall, suffering from crippling mood disorders like PTSD, depression, and anxiety. It is a well-researched and engaging story full of hope, love, forgiveness, and survival. A must-read.

The Kindle edition of both books is currently available at a slightly reduced price, $3.49, and Memories of Jake is free to readers who are members of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.





Thursday, September 9, 2021

THE MAGIC OF MEMORY

 

I should ask an expert if memories and imagination are somehow intertwined because at this point in my long life I'm putting memories and the ideas they sometimes produce down on paper, so to speak. Since 2013, I’ve written thirteen novels and am currently at work on a fourteenth.

 In a work of fiction, everything our characters say and do is the result of what we imagine happening to them. And not always, but often, it’s something we, or a friend or family member, personally experienced. Or something we read about somewhere, or perhaps learned through research. We then try to apply this information to what we want to happen with our characters. While I occasionally have to search through my memory banks, I’ve been blessed with considerable retention, and recall nearly always comes. I started writing at the age of seventy-five, so those are pretty big memory banks!

 Not all memories are beautiful, of course. And having a good memory sometimes means sleepless nights regretting past bad choices, going over a long list of things done and not done which might have meant a different life. It’s a pointless exercise and thankfully, I don’t do it too often. And it’s a trade-off I can live with, and do so gratefully. I’ve seen first-hand the devastation caused by dementia and I’d rather deal with my bad memories than lose them.

 Maybe this piece isn’t so much about memory as about the remarkable capacity of the human mind and its ability to create. How does that actually happen? With me, it began with a considered recall of a traumatic experience from my teenage years, and an attempt to feel what a close friend did when both her parents were shot to death one horrible night in January 1954, by her estranged brother-in-law. And in the aftermath, how she found the courage and fortitude to go on with her young life, playing the leading role of Julie Jordan in Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical drama Carousel, in which Julie's husband takes his own life and leaves her alone to raise their child.

 I wrote my first book, How I Grew Up, in the first person, setting myself the daunting task of attempting to live another person’s pain. In Man with No Yesterdays, I went even further, trying to put myself in the head of a Vietnam veteran who had suffered a traumatic brain injury and lost all memory of his former life. Imagine having to live with such an enormous loss.

 Not long ago a high school friend with whom I communicate regularly reminded me of a day trip with a mutual friend—actually, the principal character in How I Grew Up, Anita Barker (she’s Melanie Stewart in the book, which is a roman à clef). My friend Audrey even sent me photos from this trip taken in the summer of 1954. I still can’t remember that trip, and my failure to do so gave me a glimmer of understanding for my character Jake Cameron.

Currently, I’m writing the eighth—and perhaps final—novel in my mystery series, which is set in Cincinnati, Ohio in the nineteen-sixties. My time in that lovely city began in the fall of 1955 when I matriculated to the College-Conservatory of Music. Locating “The Augusta McKee Mystery Series” in a city I fell in love with at seventeen and delighted in for sixteen years has awakened many happy memories. Thanks to the marvels of the internet, I've been able to affirm nearly everything I need to double-check particulars about my time in Cincinnati. (Not the least of these tools are Google maps which have helped me numerous times revisit different areas of the city and trace the exact routes I drove.)

 When I published How I Grew Up I at first thought it would be “one and done”—I’d actually written a book. But it was only the beginning, as one story brought to mind another that I needed to write. That has continued for over eight years. I’ve set all my books in the past, during remembered times, with many containing remembered events. Books that sprang from my mind, my imagination—and my memories.

poster for The Pocono Cinema and Cultural Center 

designed by Katy Schulz Burton

For more information please visit my website, www.susanmoorejordan.com



Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Forty-Six Years Ago, Saigon Fell

 

Due to the events in Afghanistan over the past few days, there have been many references to “The Fall of Saigon.” Many of the younger generation may wonder why.

 My two books in “The Cameron Saga” deal with the lives of two brothers who both served in Vietnam and whose lives were forever changed by being part of that war. In Man with No Yesterdays Jake Cameron, the younger brother who served as a Green Beret, has suffered a traumatic brain injury which erases his personal memory almost completely and he is left trying to rebuild a life for himself.

 While he is living in Canada, Jake witnesses the television coverage of the North Vietnamese Army overrunning South Vietnam, and he writes to a friend about his reaction. (It amazed me that when writing this chapter, I actually found the CBC coverage of the event on YouTube and was able to see exactly what my character Jake experienced.)

 Here’s Jake’s letter to his friend Louis:


May 2, 1975 - 3:00 a.m.

 Louis,

 April 30, 1975, will remain with me forever. I’m sure the news of the fall of Saigon reached you.

Thousands of South Vietnamese abandoned to fend for themselves. People who had aided the United States in its fight against communism, left to the mercy of the invading North Vietnamese to do God knows what to them. Seeing those people surrounding the embassy hoping for helicopters to return…and it never happened.

 I had to write you because you know my history and will understand how watching those images tore me apart. No, I didn’t remember my time in service, but seeing the helicopters lifting off from the embassy grounds gave me a chill. Anger…despair…maybe an echo of my time there? I don’t know.

 It was gut-wrenching to see all those Vietnamese at the locked embassy gates, pleading to be taken out of the country. Some of them people who had visas to come to Canada. What the hell?

I’ve got to tell you, watching those choppers being ditched in the ocean. God, that was the worst. I felt like I might have been reliving the crash I was in…it made me shaky and sick to my stomach.  I managed to hide it from my co-workers who were in the room with me. Probably nobody would have noticed anyway…we were all riveted to the television monitor.

 Through it all, I was proud of our Marines. They never lost their cool and handled an impossible situation with great courage. Did what had to be done. When we got word that the Marines had been successfully airlifted, a whole roomful of Canadians audibly relaxed and exhaled. I don’t think until then I realized I’d been holding my breath.

 I haven’t slept for two nights. I’m too wired to sleep, afraid of what my mind might recover and wake me with. I felt guilty as hell…guilty about being part of that war. We went in, thinking it would be an easy victory. Instead, we pretty much destroyed what had been a once beautiful country. Andy told me about that, how hauntingly beautiful it was when he first got there in 1965. Then walking away from all the mistakes we made. A blasted landscape. Hundreds of thousands dead. All those young American lives lost, and for what?

 All this makes me wonder if I’ll ever be free of Vietnam. It’s in my atoms. Senses that awaken within me that I can’t escape or deny. Part of me will always be a warrior. But I hang on to George’s wise words: “A man can be a warrior with his voice and his passion, finding a way to bring good things to people.”

 Later today I plan to participate in a healing circle held twice a month at the Outreach Centre. Up to now, I haven’t joined in, but I need this. I need to find a way back to peace and balance, and a way to scrub the haunting images from my mind. I pray my First Nation brothers will include me, their white brother.

 I’m going to close, but I want you to know how much I appreciate being able to write you and know I won’t be judged…you never judged me. I can tell you things you I can’t tell anyone else, and that means a lot.

 Thank you for listening.


 I vividly recall watching the TV coverage at the time and having a similar reaction. Disbelief, dismay, anger. I felt physically ill. I was not actively part of the protest movement, but I felt the war was wrong. I was distressed by the way our Vietnam veterans were treated on returning home. It was a sad, confusing time in our country, and then we learned the government had lied to us. About almost everything having to do with the war.

 Watching the events in Afghanistan unfold recently and the quick collapse of the government brought back all that emotion. Once again,  the skies over a national capitol have been filled with helicopters. This was never a “good” war, if there is such a thing. I’m sure many of us who were around in 1975 saw with dread what was doomed to happen. How tragic that those in power apparently did not.

 

 photo by Dr. Bertram Zarins

used by permission