Jon Wolfman’s Open Call for our recollections of the veterans we’ve encountered in our lives comes to me at a time of coincidence. I am two weeks into living in motels in Texas for the sole purpose to begin the process of trying to determine what, if any, services the Veteran’s Administration may be able to provide for my older brother at the end of his life.
My big brother Bill never served in Vietnam. He enlisted in 1962 and served in Germany. The closest he came to combat was three weeks of methamphetamine saturated DEFCON 3 status during the Cuban Missile Crisis when he manned an artillery emplacement on the German - Czechoslovakian border 200 meters opposite a division of Soviet tanks.
While President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nakita Khrushchev brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, my brother was dug in next to a 155mm Howitzer spotting camouflaged Russian tanks hiding in the woods. He was always a little bit crazy, but after he finished his four year enlistment and returned from Germany, he slept with a gun under his pillow for the better part of a year.
Eventually he got on with his life but never really got out on the other side of it. He was a hard working, hard drinking oil patch redneck who worked off shore in the Gulf of Mexico and partied hearty every time he hit the beach. He was in and out of jail more than once, but with the help of our parents and two wives, he managed to survive.
All that took its toll and in his early sixties Bill manifested symptoms of early onset dementia / Alzheimer’s disease. That and a bout with throat cancer forced his early retirement and after the sudden death of his second wife from brain cancer, he was once more on his own. By the fall of 2010 some unsavory people had borrowed/stolen his car, run up hundreds of dollars in long distance charges on his phone number and forged checks on his account at the local bank which brought me back into his life in January 2011 as his financial and medical caretaker.
At our father’s request my younger brother Rick had taken financial and medical responsibility for our parents in 1998 and twelve years into that experience, he asked me to handle Bill’s care. It made sense to me so I stepped up to the plate.
Four years later the time has come to make plans for Bill’s care over the few remaining years that he may survive while dementia – Alzheimer’s progressively destroys what remains of his brain and central nervous system. Judging from the symptoms and behaviors that our parents presented, I estimate that Bill has from five to ten years left to live, but over the past year it’s become clear that he can no longer live on his own. Thanks to his Landlady, who is an angel in disguise, he’s managed to make it on his own over these past four years; but it’s clear that he’s becoming too much of an imposition for her to continue working with us to sustain him. It’s time to pull the plug and move him into assisted living before something goes south and the State of Texas gets involved.
Today I’m sitting in a motel room a few miles from his trailer house, getting ready to go to his doctor’s office to collect copies of his medical records for the VA Release of Information office so that we can make the next step to determine what resources may be available to him for assisted living, nursing home care and hospice. We’re going to drive to Austin tomorrow morning and with any luck we’ll have some answers within the next week or two, so that we can make plans for the rest of 2015. One way or another we’re going to take care of him, but the specifics of how, when and where remain to be seen.
Wish us luck, I’ll keep you informed.
Except for attributed photos and text, all content is copyrighted © 2014 JKM (an apparently ineffectual boilerplate joke?)