Light filtered through
leaves of the large old trees before it fell onto the floor of the
hospital room and this flicker of dark and light was what woke me. Birds
were singing in loud and deliberate chorus. Everything from Robins, Blue
Jays, Mockingbirds, and even a Wren chortled, almost laughingly with
lovely song. It was, after all, August 24, 1959, summertime. There was
no air-conditioning then but the heavy stone building made the room
comfortably pleasant. A bustling about of nurses and staff as they went
to their duties reminded me of when I was working in the hospital at
Chilocco Indian School.
There was the remembrance
of the doctor's talk the night before even though the drugs made it more
like a dream than reality. The peacefulness of this world held no
evidence of the horror of the last two days and in this bright light it
was as if nothing at all had happened.
"Did the doctor come in
here last night or did I just dream that?" The girl in the next bed held
my middle name, Colleen. She was of my tribe, Ponca, and I felt a
kinship to her so much so that I trusted her to be honest. Her maiden
name, Collins, was the same as my Grandmother Bell’s name.
"Yes, he did," she
replied and then Colleen, the young woman, looked down at her hands.
Somehow, the gesture alone was telling the girl's sadness and this
confirmed what was said in the eerie darkness of the shadows of this
place. Everything now was bright and pleasant where surely there just
couldn’t have been something so black and full of despair the night
Voiceless weeping bound
my body like the unsavory weak shreds and wrappings of a mummy. There
was no tearing away from it. I was dead to what had been the joy of
youth only a couple days ago. My wracking sobs were stifled but couldn't
be stopped. Soon I learned how grief can be hidden from the world but
not at this time. I was a stranger to this kind of tragedy and anything
this base only happened to animals, I believed. The tears wouldn’t stop
and without sound my sobbing continued.
Colleen must have alerted
the nurses because they were all at once beside me. The nurse who was
the one to keep calling for assistance from a doctor stood at my bed,
again. She was of the Otoe tribe and, maybe, a kindness given to her
niece while we were in school at Chilocco gave her the need to want to
protect me. No discrimination existed among the Native people. Most of
them had children of mixed blood and they accepted such things.
Their nursing skills were
only an addition to an inborn need to fight the demons of pain and
It was doubtful Mother
had been called because she couldn't have arrived from Ponca City in
such a short time. The scene she walked in on was not what the woman
wanted to see. Her captain's position at Chilocco had already groomed
her many years ago to confront a situation, either to squelch or at
least get to the cause and effect of a situation.
This last incident was
all Velma needed for bringing down her wrath on the young doctor's head.
No one heard what she said, or how she said it, but it must have been
vehement enough so that the young man denied he had said anything. She
was like a mother lion, no doubt, defending a cub.
Experience comes upon us
ever so slowly and even the movements of the giant sloth couldn't be
compared to how wisdom begins. This was only the start of a long walk
through unfamiliar, dark places. For every weight there is a counter
balance and this was what family proved to be. The strength, love and
encouragement of each of them acted like a rudder to guide me through
the heaviest of storms until my own thinking began to come to the fore.
Rod and I were young, but
I was not a veteran like he was. His trip through the terrors of war in
Korea as a Marine had hardened him to what was important and what
wasn't. He was steady and did not bend to grief. It was his presence to
give strength and courage and this is how we started of our own small
He came face to face with
death over and over on Korean ground in different difficult ways. As is
the case with all veterans who wish to speak very little about the
atrocities of war, neither did he.
I knew Rod’s eardrums had
been damaged from his feeding shells into the big guns. He talked about
the cold being as much an enemy as anything. The heavy rubber-like
poncho issued so they could keep their uniforms dry was a testament to
that. Only once he spoke of the horrors of being on the pick up duty of
the dead some of whose bodies had already broken down to a point of
decay so that their flesh came off in his hands. He wasn’t ashamed to
tell how the contents of his stomach came up suddenly with him heaving
until there was nothing more to throw up. It was true his youth and
belief in the goodness of humanity had been lost before we were married.
My husband’s little
daughter and I were not dead. We were alive. This must have been how he
looked at it. If the Flood's held the blood of Vikings there on the Isle
of Wight off England's coast, I knew nothing of that at the time. All I
saw was how he stepped up with courage and unflinching loyalty to me and
his injured child. Had he been trained to master this kind of thing or
was it just something in the strength of his genetic make-up? We will
have to admit it was probably a bit of both. As carefully as he picked
up his dead, decomposing countrymen in Korea he now picked up his little
daughter and young wife.
Rhonda was born in 1959
and this was just the beginning when those who were crying and sighing
for truth in regards to blood infected with disease, syphilis being one
of such. Later the nation would become aware of another great plague and
that was A.I.D.S, transmitted by blood transfusion. So as it seems not
only was there strength in blood as spoken of in the Vikings there was
also weakness. The warnings in our own Christian-Hebrew scriptures were
there to tell about using care in handling blood. In ancient days
nothing was known about microscopes. All they had was a willingness to
be obedient to a Greater Power’s instructions.
With this in mind I had
and still have a deep respect for the doctor who stayed with me and was
obedient not only to his oath as a healer but to the calling of a
Greater Intelligence who has, no doubt, already recorded this act for
His own memory with a high regard for kindness shown to me. A greater
reward is in store and will be given to a mortal, who seeks immortality
as we all do.