Saturday, August 8, 2009
I need to give some background before telling you about Don. I have been giving him rides from his apartment, that he shares with his bride of 63 years, to a location 1 mile away where he needs to go three times a week for dialysis. I enjoy his company so much that I wish the trip was longer. He is funny, bright, has good hearing and good memory and visiting with him is like visiting with a live history book. (Actually, that is why I like visiting with the elderly- They have first hand knowledge/experience of what the "old days were like")He fell a month back and has a deep bruise so they moved him into Golden Age Manor, a nursing home connected to his assisted care facility. Last week I was visiting him in the nursing home and the subject of his military came up. When asked, he told me that he was stationed in France and Germany during WWII. I asked him if he was part of the Battle of the Bulge. He said yes. I was intrigued because I had seen the HBO series called THE BAND OF BROTHER. It was about a group of men who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. So I started asking him questions. I needed to leave so I said that I would see him next week to visit more.
Yesterday, I tracked him down at the dialysis location and spent over an hour with him. Here is his story.
He was born 3-27-1925 in LA, Cal. He went to high school in Fairfax, CA, graduating in 1942. Right out of high school he worked in a machine shop but the war had started so the following year he joined the service. He said that his Dad had him enlist instead of being drafted to avoid being in the infantry. Don is only 5' 6". He said with a smile that he got volunteered for everything while in the army. He was shipped over to France and served three years. His job was to take target locations from reconnaissance and then phone in directions to operators of the big artillery guns. His job was "relatively safe". At night they would stay in billets. I asked what they were and he said they were homes. They would take over the home for the time they needed to be there. His guys always treated the homes with respect but others would steal from the homes. When they moved on to their next location, the home owners would return. A good thing to come out of being over there was to see places like France, Belgium and Germany that he had never seen before.I asked if he had ever gone back. He said he had not. I asked if he had wanted to and he answered yes.
One other good experience of being over there was the relationship he had with 10 other men he was close to. He told me that he was the last of them to be alive and he wondered why. We hear that all the time when there are survivors of a bad accident and they wonder the same. The worst thing was to see the death of the men that would be brought in.
After discharge in 1946 Don went to work for a telephone company back in his home area. After all, he was experienced in that field. I said you have seen the telephone come a long, long way in your time. He smiled and said "back then they were basically tin cans connected by a wire". ( I took his picture with my cell phone camera)
While at the phone company, he noticed a gorgeous (his term)girl that he would ask to go on a hay ride with him. He was drawn to Catherine's openness and friendliness. He could be himself around her. They had a 6 mos. courtship, (no use wasting time) and were married. They lived in the gambling town of Gardenia, CA and Don worked for the phone company for 37 years,retiring in 1980.
They had one son, Tim,and in 1985 they followed him to Wisconsin. Tim had married a "Badger" girl and they have settled just south of Little Falls. Tim is a sculpturer who specializes in making small clay figures that companies use for models for one purpose of another. I have not met Tim yet but he and his wife had two children that went through the Amery school system but I did not know them.
I asked Don what he and Catherine did for fun in their early years. He said they would have couples over and play games like Scrabble, Monopoly and a few card games. He also liked to bowl and play beach volleyball. I think of beach volleyball as a recently invented game. Guess not.
He says often how much he hates it in the nursing home because of the others there. Unlike himself, many are in advanced stages of dementia and he just does not picture himself belonging there. The big thing, however, is not being with his Katherine. She is very hard of hearing but he says, they don't have to talk but just being close to each other is what he painfully misses. She can walk over each afternoon to visit him but to him, that is just no enough. Plus, it is quite an effort for her; for she arrives out of breathe. Perhaps that is why the Bible states that "the two shall become one".
I don't know how much longer we will have Don. His kidneys are not good. Plus, he is a "bleeder" and they cannot let him out of the dialysis clinic until he stops bleeding. That is not always a quick process to take place. I do relish and so much enjoy the time I do have with him.
So, now Don Bruckner has been introduced to you!