There was no way we were not going to watch it. I posted the date of the premier on my calendar so I would remember to set the DVR. The guys in my husband’s veteran’s group had been discussing the airing of the Vietnam documentary by Ken Burns and Kim Novick for weeks. His veterans group is made up of a WWII and Korean War veteran, Vietnam veterans, and a couple of veterans from the Desert Storm campaign. In advance of Sunday’s airing, I made a mental checklist to gauge his reaction after each episode and be on alert for any signs of distress, insomnia, agitation or withdrawal. We got this, I reassured myself.
The weeks before the airing had been packed with emotional highs and lows. My cousin’s son whose neck injury confines him to a wheelchair had to be rescued from his apartment when the flooding in in his Houston neighborhood was further impacted by the release of water from a nearby reservoir. We watched in horror as Harvey made neighborhoods rivers where there had before been streets. With no time to catch our breath, Irma was making her deadly path toward the Caribbean, Cuba, then the Florida Keys with model projections bringing her up the entire state of Florida. My text campaign to bring my parents to our home in North Carolina was politely declined until the day they were going to try and drive up themselves. The power of my persuasive mom, who watched my eighty-six year old father secure patio furniture, trees, garden pots and ceramics so that they would not become projectiles in the anticipated one-hundred plus mile
an hour winds, full knowing he would be too tired to drive far, acquiesced to my last text.
“Chester says if you can wait until Wednesday, he will come get you guys”.
“Change of plans” began my Mom’s second response after her first text reiterating that my Dad wanted to drive them up. “Dad says have Chas come get us”
Chas. My moms affectionate abbreviation for my husband’s name left that Tuesday afternoon, after fishing with a veteran friend of his. No matter he started on the wrong Interstate heading west instead of south. He caught his navigation error in the first half-hour. Memories of my parents evacuation from Pensacola twelve years before had weighed on all of us. When he arrived, they were packed and waiting. He brought them home and we did our best to assuage their anxiety the week they stayed with us. My brother took them home to fallen debris and spoiled food in the refrigerator, but no structural damage and no flooding. My psyche will forever equate the Baseball and the Weather Channels to Hurricane Irma and my parents increasing uncertainty over the fate of their home.
Our youngest daughter Megan who is a Navy Aircrewman is deploying at the end of the month to Bahrain. I spent a fun-packed weekend in D.C. with her and a her friend Nat watching their favorite team the Dodgers, beat the Nationals. The entire trip was punctuated with Nat’s recollections of their deployment in Bahrain the year before. Separation anxiety emanated from all of us, like a failed deodorant.
Vietnam aired the evening I returned from D.C. The next five evenings we were beset with images, new information, recollections, and a cacophony of munitions, human suffering, and period music. One of my friends posted on Facebook,
“I have watched only one hour of Vietnam and I’m traumatized”.
My husband's veterans group meets every week. Some are not watching, some are. Some have battles that are going to be covered in this extremely well-written, detailed, damning account of one of the most misunderstood times in this Nation’s history. They want to make sure Ken Burns and Kim Novick get it right. If our sleeplessness is any indication, Burns and Novick did indeed get it right.
Yesterday, my husband got a call from one of his friends. He asked my husband to meet him at a local BBQ restaurant. Our friend is a member of the veteran's group. A battle he was in will be part of Monday or Tuesday’s episode. When Chester returned from his meeting, he took a moment to sit down before he went on his way to see a great-nephew play football at one of the local high-schools. Sensitive to his body language I asked him if he was okay, fully expecting him to tell me of something from the meeting that unsettled him.
“I want to stay in my house.” He told me. I saw pain and resignation in his eyes. “I know we have stuff coming up, I know I have judo tomorrow and maybe golf on Sunday. But, right now, I just want to stay home." He paused, then added. " Where it's safe.”