Tuesday, July 26, 2011


So tomorrow is the closing ceremony of an icon--Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The colors of this icon will be forever cased. That's right. Soon, this iconic hospital of all that is Army medicine will close it's doors forever. As crazy as it sounds, I feel honored to be living in this area at the close of Walter Reed and bear witness to such a momentuous occasion. To me, as a nurse, it is such a definining moment in Army medicine. Walter Reed has always been the "be all, end all" to the Army medical system. It was the place that our wounded warriors came straight from that we would receive in Georgia at the smaller MEDDAC where I worked before the move. Now it is the venue of the beginning of my husband's career as an Army nurse. My younger daughter and I went out to the hospital today so that I could get immunization records updated as I am returning to school (I guess I'll be a perpetual student in some form or another.) We walked through "the tunnel" to the "old" Walter Reed. As I transitioned from the new building to the building that once housed patients in days gone by, I was humbled at the thought of the footsteps that had come before ours. My mind automatically shifted to my grandmother who is 89 years old. I have spent countless hours listening to the stories of old told by her, my grandfather and her siblings. One of these stories was about my Great Uncle Robert. Uncle Robert was a patient at the "old" Walter Reed many, many years ago after WWII. He was a patient there for a long time. My grandmother and her siblings would ride a bus from Alabama all the way to Washington DC to stay with Uncle Robert. At some point, the family was called to stay with him around the clock. This went on for months. They were on a first-name basis with the nurses and staff. Perhaps they stayed somewhere like what is now Fisher House. My grandmother has spoken countless times of them having lodging nearby and the good food they always had while staying with Uncle Robert. My grandmother has told me about coming in one door and walking out of another (thinking she was walking out of the same door) and ending up on a completely different street block. Trust me, getting turned around in DC is not that difficult. It's funny because older people tend to tell us the same stories over and over and more frequently as they age. To some, it's annoying to hear the same stories. To me, it just reinforces my heritage. My mother has actually recorded some of these stories. They are priceless. When we found out we were coming up here last year as the first duty station after my husband graduated nursing school, I was none too happy. My grandmother went on and on about what a fabulous place Walter Reed is. I don't think she realized that the hospital she knew was now a collage of offices, a library, a small PX and other necessary adjuncts to the hospital but nonetheless, I cannot help but think of her everytime I go through the tiny gate onto the property of Walter Reed. I took my parents to see the old Walter Reed during their visit and my mother and I, along with my daughter and nephew have stood on the steps together of the place where my grandmother and her siblings spent so much time--cried so many tears--shared so many hugs with their brother before he passed. So there have been officially 4 generations to walk in those footsteps--my grandmother, my mother, me and my daughter and my nephew. How wonderful to have that legacy!

Uncle Robert passed away with his loving family around him just on the otherside of this tunnel through which we passed today. Wow..and all these years later, here we are walking where maybe he walked, where my grandmother and her brothers and sisters walked and so many after them...

So my daughter and I finished our business in the old Walter Reed and transitioned through this tunnel back into the new hospital that very soon will be also known as the "old" Walter Reed. Again, I was humbled at the footsteps in this building. Now, some of those footsteps include my husband's and friends that I have met and have grown to care for dearly. I try to explain to my little daughter at the legacies in these two buildings and although I am not sure she understands, I plan on through the stories she will hear over and over as the years go by, I hope that someday she will also feel the same humble pride that I feel.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

There's no place like home...

I think Dorothy was exactly right when she quoted the title I have used for this journal entry...there is definately no place like home! Of course, I have made our home in Virginia but to me, HOME will always be in Alabama where I grew up and where my parents still live. It's funny when you return home as an adult, it's almost like you never left in the first place. The kitchen is still a place of yummy smells and the sound of my mother preparing something wonderful for us all. Daddy still watches westerns on TV and there are still deer parading around the yard at all hours of the day and night! There is still the familiar and welcoming sights, sounds and smells and home but most of all, there is always alot of love to welcome us home!
Since my husband seems to working all kinds of hours --crazy hours I might add--the last 2 trips home (about 14-15 hrs) has been made by my youngest daughter and me alone. The trip right after Christmas was wonderful and even more special because my oldest daughter came back with us. I was dreading more than you could know the long drive home at the end of our visit after having to say goodbye to my parents, oldest daughter and grandparents. That's the worse part about a wonderful visit--having to say goodbye (or "see you later" as I like to say) at the end. This time, however, my mother surprised me on the day of our arrival with the news that she had found some wonderfully priced plane tickets for her and Daddy and they were thinking about driving back with me and my little one. Before the evening was over, we'd decided to inquire as to if my sweet nephew who was visiting could come back with us. Thankfully, his parents ok'd the trip and my mother promptly purchased three tickets for a flight from Dulles to Atlanta! I was overjoyed--thrilled beyond words!
The time in Alabama was fabulous! I was able to visit with my grandparents who are unable to travel, spend alot of time with my daughter who has a summer job down there and visit with my brother who came down for the day! Spending time with my niece and nephew was so nice! I didn't get to see them last visit so it just made me feel so happy to have that time! My girls and I had a sweet lunch with one of my best friends the day before we left and before I realized it, we'd sat and chat for almost 3 hours.
True to form, the day before we left for VA, my mom was busy in the kitchen making cookies, brownies and pound cakes to bring on the road trip. She'd packed fresh tomatoes from their garden, bread and all kinds of snacks for the road as well! We left early and headed back to VA and I could not have been happier.
I found out during this visit something about my mother that I never knew. Funny you spend 39 years as a woman's daughter and you still learn new things! I discovered that my love for Rod Stewart is shared by my mother! Wow! Riding north listening to Rod Stewart with your mom is just one of the coolest things! The traffic stunk on the north side of Charlotte as we decided to travel I-81 instead of I-85 so my nephew could see the mountains. It was all worth it as I heard his comments of "how beautiful" and "this is AWESOME" from the back seat as we came through. Eventually we arrived in VA and were greeted by my sweet husband and I was very happy to see him. I have to wonder why it is that a family cannot just be together in the same town forever and ever and that way everybody would just be together--that would be my idea of perfect. Anyway, since he had to work the next day, my parents, the kids and I headed out the next morning and the first stop was Georgetown for a yummy cupcake from one of my moms and my favorite television reality shows--DC Cupcakes. The line was not that long and after a walk down to the Potomac River we leaded up and headed down into DC so my nephew could see the monuments, etc. Listen--the 4th of July holiday weekend is NOT the time to find a parking place in DC and after riding aimlessly around without parking success, we decided to head over to Walter Reed so that my parents could see where my husband worked. As I expected they were touched as I always am at the sights of this famous hospital. My mother and I both left teary-eyed partly because of sadness but also partly because of pride that there are those (and their families) who are happy to make sacrifices for our freedom and our glorious Country. We also were able to see the "old" Walter Reed where my great-uncle died many, many years ago after being a patient for months. My grandmother and her siblings spent countless weeks with him during that time. I cannot say how many times I have heard my grandmother tell the stories of staying with him and how kind the staff at that hospital were to them. After the visit where we had found my husband being a very busy nurse, we decided to see if DC was still so crowded. After dropping Daddy and the kids off at the Air and Space Museum, Momma and I found a parking place--glory hallelujah! Thank goodness my mother can parallel park because I cannot do it to save my life. We had a nice time that day but were exhausted after getting home that evening!
The next day, we did the visit into DC. We packed a picnic lunch (my mother is so frugal and organized) and decided after researching our route to take the metro into Union Station and buy tickets for the "Hop-On, Hop-off tour bus."Momma and I had done this type of tour a few years ago in NYC and had a great experience. We got off at a park in DC , had our lunch at some point and enjoyed our tour and narrated history of DC. The following day was the 4th of July--Independance Day. My mother had said last summer when my husband received order to this place that she was hoping that this 4th of July she'd be able to see the National fireworks display--and that she did! We started our day trying to go to Arlington to see the Changing of the Guards but due to the holiday CHAOS the roads were not accessible. Somehow we stumbled upon a HUGE parking lot near the Pentagon and fortunately it was open for the event. We had just the right spot to see the beautiful and marvelous fireworks offered by our Nations Capitol. After a quick trip to the grocery store, we were all set. Husband had put chairs in the van and so with chairs and food in town, we camped out to wait for dark. The kids ran around and played and we enjoyed some wonderful conversation! I have to say that I enjoyed the fireworks but I more so enjoyed the looks in the eyes of my mother as she'd always dreamed of seeing this display. It is a look I shall never forget. After sleeping in the following morning, we had breakfast and headed out to the NRA Museum. Wow--I had never realized this museum was so close to our house. My dad thoroughly enjoyed it. His face seeing the items in that museum is another site I shall never forget! I took my mom to Tyson's mall (which is the biggest I've ever been in) and it was there we all gathered around a television at one of the restaurants to watch the Casey Anthony verdict be revealed. Have to say Daddy and I have both been enthralled by the goings on of that trial. I was specifically interested in the forensic portion of the trial. I also have to say that I was disappointed in the verdict but was not completely surprised b/c of the lack of stone hard evidence. After being stuck on I-66 west for over an hour (and moving less than 3 miles during that time) we finally made it home that evening. The next day which was the day I had been dreading, we loaded up everything and everyone and went to the air and space museum near Dulles Airport. I think I like it better than the one in the district. Too bad we didn't know about that one and went when we had more time (mental note made for their next visit.) Sadly, I had to then take my precious parents and nephew to the airport for their trip home. I wanted to climb in their suitcase and go home with them. I cried the rest of the afternoon and part of the next day but finally decided I really had to get it together. I started thinking about a potential date for my next visit home and that made me feel better. On Thursday, the little one and I ventured out to Walter Reed again to attend a Luau Farewell party in honor of Ward 57. Since Walter Reed will be closing it's doors soon, this was done in conjunction with staff farewells. I met some wonderful ladies and gentlemen who are part of a group called Operation Ward 57 and was happy to see that Georgetown Cupcakes donated 72 cupcakes to the event. The patients and their families seem to enjoy "their day" and I felt very blessed to be a part of this event as well.
So that's it in a nutshell. I loved going home and I loved bringing home with me. I learned again something during these last 2 weeks and that is that home is not just a house of bricks but everything that makes that house a home--it's smells, the sights, the sounds and more than anything the love in that home and within those who dwell in its walls.