I knew I liked him right away. Let’s call him Mr. X as he doesn’t know I am writing this story.
I was listening from my office as he was being screened for his eye exam. We have a number of tests that are performed before I see the patient, and some of them require the patient to lean forward and put their chin and forehead in a machine. I heard him say, “ I’ll try, but I am all stooped over from the shrapnel in my back from Vietnam.” He tried, and he was able to do the test.
When I saw him he had his VFW cap in his hand, and he walked into my office. We shook hands and started our exam. Luckily for me, I had a little extra time that day and I was able to have a chance to talk to him a bit.
He was retired after many years working in road construction. He had been married to the same woman his whole adult life. I asked him, “ What is the secret to a successful marriage?” He said, “Communication! You can’t go to bed pissed off at each other”. I laughed and said that sounded like a good idea. He told me, “not everybody likes me, but everybody knows exactly where I stand. Because, I tell it like it is.”
He told me that Vietnam was terrible. He showed me where his hand had been injured and told me about his back. He had to kill people, or get killed. That was how it was. He was shot in his back, and he told his best friend to leave him. His friend did not leave him. He survived, and was sent home. When he got back to the US he was spit on by a protester.
I told him I was sorry that happened to him. He looked at me, and I looked at him.
Years later, his friend who saved him came to visit him. His friend wasn’t sure about coming because he was a black man. He came to visit, and they were going to meet at the local bar. The friend got there first and walked in the place. They all looked at him. The bartender said….”your money isn’t good here.” Silence. Then the bartender said, “We know what you did for Mr. X and your money isn’t good here because you are a Heroe.”
I loved that part of the story.
Mr. X told me they still get together when they can, but there aren’t that many left. Many of his friends have killed themselves, or been killed in other sad ways. He said that back then, there weren’t any psychiatrists or help for people like him. He said he was a scary guy back then, and it was a miracle his wife stayed with him.
We talked about life, love, good stuff and bad stuff. He says when he hears people complaining, he just says “Quit Yer Bitching!”
I really liked that part too. So, I have decided to toughen up, suck it up, and try not to complain. Because compared to that story, I have nothing, nada, zip, zero to complain about.
He is sticking with me. I told my Mom and my Sister the story. We have already used the “Quit Yer Bitching” motto several times. I have been doing my job for almost 18 years now. It is the people that I meet that keep me interested in what I do. What a treat to meet Mr. X. Back to work tomorrow, I wonder who I will meet?