April 6th, 2016


April 6--Memories

I was reminded by an old friend the other day that we met 40 years ago, while we were both in the Air Force in technical school. That was in August of 1976, in Wichita Falls Texas. It reminded me that it was 40 years ago today that I entered the Air Force and left for basic training.

I remember quite a bit about that day. My mom and step-father drove me down to the military entrance center in Oakland where I took the oath and got put on a bus to the airport. We flew down to LA, and had some free time, so we ate at the revolving restaurant that used to be there. The military gave us something like $25 for travel food, so it was plenty. Later we got on a plane and flew to San Antonio, home of Lackland Air Force Base, where basic training happens.

We got in super late--after midnight, and took a bus to the base. The minute we stepped off the bus, the drill instructors started yelling at us and making us line up. There were numbers on the pavement and we had to stand on a number and count off. They yelled at us some more, then marched us over to the chow hall for some food. After we ate they took us to the barracks and assigned us bunks. We fell into bed about 2:30 am, and got to sleep in until 5:30 am when they started yelling for us to wake up. I loved it--it was a real adventure.

I had some lectures with the third semester class today. I do a few of their lectures for them because the instructors are somewhat overwhelmed, and I don't mind helping out. I do a variety of topics for them--HIV, lupus, and some of the cancers. Today was the cancer lectures.

I don't know all that much about breast cancer, but I know more than the students do, generally, and each time I teach about it I learn some more. There is always something more to learn about almost anything. This class asked some great questions and connected some dots that I hadn't connected.

During the lecture, I talked a bit about my first wife, Arlina, and her journey with cancer. She was a nurse too, and would be pleased that I use her experience to teach people who will soon be nurses. She always liked working with students on the floor, and had a great relationship with the woman who was my teacher, and whose position I now hold.

Talking about her isn't really painful anymore, although there are still some random details that can hit me unexpectedly. Some of it is my experience too. I talk about how sometimes the most important thing you can do as a nurse is to simply be present for those you are caring for, particularly when it is something you are powerless to change.

Today was her birthday. Another memory. She would have been 59. It feels strange to type her name. Arlina. She had the greatest smile.

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