Chapter Nine: Grandpa Gordon Meets the Love of His Life

Grandpa Gordon decided to spend a week in the Hawaiian islands on an impromptu vacation. Mainly because he never really had any time to enjoy the islands since he had only spent a few hours in Pearl Harbour for refueling while on his way to Japan and eventually on to South Korea. So, after he got off the short wave radio with his CO, he hopped in a taxi and took a ride to Lanikai Beach. After spending the better part of the day at the beach and getting way too much sun, he found himself a motel close by to spend the night. The next day he decided to do a little shopping and buy some island clothing and a bathing suit that wasn’t olive drab in color. Military clothes while certainly serviceable could become quite boring after a while.

You can see by these examples of some islanders wore in the 1950s that Grandpa Gordon will look pretty snazzy in his new clothes.  He was now ready to see some more sites and beautiful Waikiki Beach was next on his list.

Grandpa Gordon had learned his lesson this time and he wore a shirt and a large floppy hat to cover his face. Getting sunburned once on a vacation was enough. So after strolling up and down the world famous beach, he hopped on one of the local tour buses that seemed to circle around the island continuously . For 20 cents, you could ride from one stop to another or you could ride all day if you just wanted to see the sites from the bus.  They had volume discounts where you could get five passes for 75 cents.

I have included a bus brochure of local attractions in and around Honolulu and the Island of Oahu in the 1950s. Grandpa Gordon decided to pace himself and cherry pick the sites over the period of a couple of days. There was no timeframe, so when he got bored all he had to do was hop on a USAF troop or cargo flight to the mainland. Since the war had started, the flights were quite frequent and now that the war had ended the flights were just as frequent.

After perusing the brochure he decided that he wanted to see Diamond Head, the Academy of Arts, Ala Moana Park, Aloha Tower, Kewalo Basin, Joalni Palace, Foster Park Botanical Gardens, Bishop Museum, a Pineapple Cannery Plant, Kong’s Flora Leigh Gardens and the YMCA-armed services facility. He wanted to then wrap it up by riding a traditional outrigger along the coastline. Of course, you had to eat at a luau to say you had really partaken of all the Hawaiian delights. After he had completed this intinerary, he expected to have had his fill of island life and would be ready to go visit his family back in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. He had brought his trusty Contax Camera with him to Korea, so he would have plenty of eye popping photos to show his family. He was becoming quite the traveler, he had now been to Europe, Asia and Canada. Quite a departure from the backwoods farmer that he was as a young boy.

Before he knew it he had completed his travel itinerary and he was ready to go home. One goal he had set for himself when he got back to Las Vegas was to get his driver’s license, he figured that it was about time he did so. A license and a dependable car would open up a whole new world for him. If he had a car he could go exploring the countryside on his days off. He had heard of all the local attractions that there was to see around Las Vegas, not to mention the water sports that were available at Lake Mead and Lake Powell. All that was neither here nor there, he had more pressing things on his mind and that was seeing his parents.

Lucky for him, there was an Air Reserve Station located at Minneapolis-St. Paul. Any active duty serviceman is eligible to get a hop on Department of Defense (DOD) transport plane as long as they are on leave. Since he did not actually have the paperwork with him, he had to get an affirmation from his CO Col. Miller. Thankfully, his boss was on top of things and had already wired the documents to the AFB in Honolulu while he had been sightseeing in Oahu. This was also in part of why he had taken the time to sight see in the islands and that was to get the paperwork for his military hop flight. Now that he had the appropriate paperwork all that remained was for him to take the flights, fortunately there are staffing personnel that specialize in troop transport and they made all the appropriate arrangements for him. He was going to go from Hickman AFB in Honolulu to Los Angeles AFB in El Segundo, CA to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station.

Since the flight was free and he was at the mercy of the Air Force schedule, the flight back home took two whole days due to a lengthy layover at the Los Angeles AFB. When he finally arrived in Minneapolis he had just missed the morning train ride to Sauk Centre. So he took a taxi to the Greyhound bus station and as luck would have it there was an afternoon bus departing from Minneapolis, Minnesota and would be passing by his town on its way to Fargo, North Dakota. So he paid the $5.00 for the bus ride and picked up a sandwich and a bottle of Coke for the ride home. The ride would take approximately two hours. He had foregone telling his parents about his coming home because he wanted it to be a surprise. He also did not want to trouble his father for the ride, he knew driving the distance would be hard for him. Since he was too proud to say anything he would have just have suffered through the drive and since Grandpa Gordon did not have a driver’s license he could not help him with the drive back home.

There was unfortunately a hidden passenger that tagged along with Grandpa Gordon on his way back from Hawaii. That passenger was in the form of a bacterial infection that was caused by a sharp piece of lava that he happened upon while exploring the extinct volcano at Diamond Head. The sharp lava rock had sliced right through his pants and left what he thought was just a simple abrasion. Despite his best efforts to keep the wound clean by cleansing it daily with betadine and daily dressing changes it had become infected. He had considered having it checked out at the Veteran’s Hospital in Minnepaolis but he was just too impatient to see his parents and siblings to waste any more time. Unfortunately, this decision would come back to haunt him because the wound would continue to get worse and worse and he even developed an elevated temperature. However, every decision you make in your life has multiple possible outcomes, and so did his decision to put off taking care of his wounded leg. It just so happened that the woman of his dreams was not on duty when he would have went to the Veteran’s Hospital Emergency Room (ER), so if he had chosen to go there to take care of his wound he may never have met her.

When he finally arrived at the Sauk Centre bus depot he had already put the thought of his leg out of his mind and the only thing he could think about was seeing his family. He knew that this could be the last time he saw either of his parents, so he wanted to make the most of this visit. Upon his arrival, he quickly made a call to his family’s farm house. Of course, his parents were overjoyed that he was back home but they chided him about not giving them advanced notice so they could prepare a proper greeting for him. He said that was precisely why he did not notify them. He did not want any fuss. Besides the way he had left from his previous visit it left little hope that he would be back and besides he was not sure how they would receive him. They said that he was an idiot and that he was their son, and no matter what he did or said that would never change. Their love for him was unconditional.

Even though he had said that he did not want any party, a party is what he had. His parents quickly called up the rest of their immediate family, and what only seemed like a brief pause they were all there hugging and kissing him. Boy, was it good to be back with his family. There is an old saying that “friends may come and go but family is forever”. His family truly drove that point home. He truly was a lucky man.

It was only when the dust settled and his family had finally gotten used to his being around the old homestead that he slipped up and his mother saw him limp and grimace with pain. Of course, mothers being mothers she asked about his limp. He, of course, said it was nothing, however, she cornered him and pulled up his pant’s leg and saw the dressing. It had a stain on it and when she got closer to it she could smell putrefaction. She immediately made him sit down and put his leg up on another kitchen chair. She then quickly unwrapped his makeshift dressing and gasped when she saw his wounded leg. The wound was an angry red and there was a green colored exudate coming from the wound. She immediately yelled to Papa Thomas to bring their first aid kit from the washroom. While she waited for him to get the kit she washed it with fresh cold water, she poured half a bottle of povidine iodine procured from the newly arrived first aid kit and then wrapped the wound like a professional frontline paramedic with a nice tie made from the remaining gauze wrap. Then she proceeded to give him a tongue lashing like he had never had before. After she finished dressing him down she told Papa Thomas to get the keys for the pick-up truck becasue he was taking Gordon to the doctor’s office.

It was no use arguing with her, so he limped over to the truck, hopped into the passenger side and his father already was starting the truck just looked over at him and shook his head and smiled. She had told him not to come home until her son was taken care of, even if that meant driving to Minneapolis. When they arrived at the local clinic, the family doctor was just finishing with his last patient of the day. He started to tell Papa Thomas that the clinic was closed but after seeing the determined look on his face he thought better of it. Besides if he was at the clininc it must be serious, so he said bring him in. They followed him into the examination room and he motioned Grandpa Gordon to the examination table. When he tried to hop up on the table he found that he did not have the strength to do it without help. So his father immediately rushed over and assisted him onto the table. Even though he was starting to show his age, his grip was still like a vice and he was easily able to help him.

The doctor remained silent as he took in the activities before him. Once Grandpa Gordon was situated, the doctor asked him what had happened. In a few brief sentences he told him about the cut to his leg from the lava and what he had done to care for it and what his mother had just done. The doctor remained silent as he rolled up his pant leg and cut the dressing that his mother had so painstakingly applied. When the wound was exposed he took one look at it and said that he would need more advanced care than he could provide. The only thing that he could do would be to sprinkle some Sulfa Powder on the wound and redress it, though in his expert opinion Gordon would  have to go to either to St. Cloud or Minneapolis for more advanced antibiotic therapy. He also added that he believed that intravenous (IV) Streptomycin or maybe even the newest drug in the anti-bacterial arsenal IV Vancomycin would be required, all of which was not available to a country doctor and clinic.

Even though St. Cloud was closer, Papa Thomas opted to take his son to the VA hospital in Minneapolis, mainly because it was larger and had more resources. See how fate has intervened, if they had went to the St. Cloud VA Hospital he would have still missed meeting the woman of his dreams. Apparently, this chance encounter was meant to be.  Of course, he was not aware of any of these events that were transpiring because they were simply the machinations of an overactive imagination and a contrived storyline. A piece of lava?! Pleeease…. Besides let’s face it, it’s time that our hero finds himself a love interest, otherwise, the story would not be able to progress much further.

So Papa Thomas helps his son off the examination table and into his pick-up truck and as have already established off to Minneapolis it was. The ride is uneventful unless you count all the potholes his father hits on the way. Grandpa Gordon’s leg is really starting to hurt mainly because of all the attention it has received in the last few hours. What with all the aggressive cleansing his mother did on the wound and the debriding the doctor did in the Sauk Centre Clinic, he was in much need of a shot, too bad he doesn’t drink. He was also becoming a little feverish and since Tylenol was not readily available until 1960 (by prescription only in 1955), he had no recourse but to suffer.

Finally they arrived at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis, the sun was starting to set as they pulled up to the ER. It was quiet in the waiting room, as most veterans visiting the hospital do so for non-emergent reasons. Papa Gordon pulled up to the front door of the ER and went in to get help. A lovely Candy Striper immediately assisted him with a wheelchair for Grandpa Gordon. When she positioned the wheelchair on the passenger side of the pick-up truck, Grandpa Gordon looked up and their eyes met. There was a moment of embarrassment before she got back to business in helping him into the chair. It was at that moment he knew that he had met the woman of his dreams. Nothing else mattered, his father no longer existed, the pain had also disappeared and all he could think of was that lovely face and her gorgeous brown eyes.  She was a vision of beauty and she seemed to float like an ethereal being when she glided with the wheelchair. He knew he was smitten, he had never said or thought of the word ethereal in his life. Damn, what was happening to him?! He was turning into a blithering idiot right before her eyes. All he could do was stutter when he tried expressing even the simplest of thoughts.

All this took place as his father quizzically looked at him. His son had never been at a loss for words and could in fact be quite garrulous at times. Then it suddenly dawned on him, his son was in love. It was that realization which brought a smile to his face. He had been starting to lose hope that his son would find happiness as all of his other children were already married. It had been his hope that Gordon would also get married before he drew his last breath. Dare he say it, yes, he dared because he knew his days were drawing short…he could read the writing on the wall. His energy levels had been dropping and he was in a lot more pain than usual. But none of this mattered now because his hopes for his son had finally come to realization. He could not wait till he told Gordon’s mother the great news, she would be so elated. He knew that he was acting somewhat prematurely in this matter, but there was no denying that his son was a force of nature. No one or thing could either stand in his way or resist him for long and as soon as he learned how to relax around this fresh faced candy striper, she would bend to his will. He knew that they would soon be choosing the date for their nuptials.

OK, back to reality. We have to save our hero’s leg before he can dance at his wedding, so we have a lot to do before that happy date takes place. That poor candy striper never had a chance, did she? Well, for starters, let’s find out what her name is. Oh yes, Grandpa Gordon did have the presence of mind to look at her name badge before he became a blittering idiot. The lovely creature’s name was Clara Wilson. Who am I kidding… Clara (Wilson) Anderson? You could tell that the feeling was mutual for her as well because even though Grandpa Gordon was making little sense on what he was saying, she was seemingly entranced by his every word.  As Papa Thomas followed behind the couple, all he could do was shake his head and smile. Even though it was only a short distance to the front desk in the ER, it seemed to take forever to get there, in reality it only took a few minutes.

When they pulled up to the desk the moment was shattered by the brusque voice of the desk nurse as she walked around the front counter. She was having none of this nonsense, she immediately asked what the problem was as she started rolling up his sleeve and attached a blood pressure cuff to his arm. As she did this she looked up at Gordon’s father and gave him a kind look and pointed to the chairs in the waiting room. She then finished taking his vital signs and she queried him some more. After she finished triaging Grandpa Gordon she told him that she was going to wheel him to examination room “A”.  During all this time, poor Clara had all but been forgotten, so she walked over and sat besides Papa Thomas and explained what was going on with his son. I want to stipulate that this was not her normal routine. She was, however, on a mission and her motives were quite devious, she wanted to learn more about this handsome young patient that she had just rolled into the ER. She knew that she was acting like a Jezebel but she didn’t care. She didn’t care because she too was smitten and besides it was slow in the ER tonight, at least that is what she told herself.

Of course, there are few thing that gives a parent more pleasure than that of bragging about their children. Papa Thomas was no exception, so he regaled Clara with countless stories about his son Gordon. He, of course, knew what she was doing. He was not so conceited that he believed she was actually interested in him or his problems. The more Clara heard about Gordon the more she liked him. He was serious, driven and hardworking and he had a good job. She was amazed at how much he had accomplished in such a short time. She found out that he was 33 years old which was a little older than optimum for her since she was only 19 years old, but men like Gordon are few and far between. Besides she wasn’t a dimwit, she knew that he was captivated by her as well.

Now we need to return to our hero to see how he is fairing with the head nurse. She pushed his wheelchair into the examination room at the end of the hallway. The room was typical with a couple of straightback chairs for the patient and a family member, a swivel chair for the doctor, a examination table, a cabinet with a counter with all sorts of medical paraphernalia including  glass jars with cotton balls and tongue depressors, a rubber hammer for testing reflexes, an otoscope and an opthalmoscope, to name a few. There was a pedestal sink  next to the counter and there was a free standing examination light with a goose neck arm located close by the examination table, to round out the equipment. The walls were covered with your usual posters of the human anatomy. All these things were meant to display professionalism and competence and to allay the patient’s and family members apprehension and concern.

It turns out the head nurse whose name was Annabelle Stockton was all about posturing and turned out to be very nice and caring. She could see that his leg was bothering him and that he was having difficulties in applying any weight on it, so she gently assisted him up and onto the examination table. Once he was made as comfortable as possible, she informed him that the doctor would be in momentarily and then sidled out of the room, leaving the door slightly ajar in case he needed anything.

The wait as it turned out was in fact close to 15 minutes, which all things considered was not to terrible in a bustling facility like this hospital. The doctor was lean and athletic looking and appeared to be somewhere around 40 to 50 years of age. He had a pleasant bearing and exuded a quiet competence. He introduced himself as Dr. John Pemberton. He immedialtely went over to the sink and washed his hands. That impressed Grandpa Gordon immensely. He then asked how Grandpa Gordon was doing as he sat down on the swivel chair besides the examination table. He queried him on what brought him to the hospital and asked him a few background questions to establish a health baseline. He then told Gordon that he wanted to check out his wounded leg. So he spun around and opened up one of the drawers in the cabinet and took out a pair of bandage scissors in a slip case.

He then proceeded to cut the bandage off of his leg.  As an aside, disposable latex medical gloves were not available until the mid 1960s, sterile rubber gloves were only worn by surgeons and doctors doing sterile procedures. Dr. Pemberton was doing neither, he was just going to look at the wound so he had not doned sterile gloves at this time. He repositioned the examination light so that he could see the wound better. He looked at it closely for a few moments. He then stood up and called Annabelle, the charge nurse into the room and whispered a few instructions to her. The doctor came back into the room and informed Grandpa Gordon of what he was going to do next. He said that the charge nurse would reapply the Sulfa powder on his leg and redress the wound. He then said that he was going to admit him to the hospital for the next couple of nights so that he could receive intravenous antibiotic therapy. He said the wound was quite infected and that it was a good thing he had come in when he did because if he had waited much longer it could have turned gangrenous. So he was going to start him on IV Streptomycin for two days then once the infection was under control he would send him home with a prescription of the antibiotic in pill form where he would take it for the next seven days, by then the infection should be cleared up. He also said that he would send him home with bandages and dressing material so that his family could change the dressing daily. After he had finished the week of antibiotic treatment he said that he wanted to see him one more time so that he could check on his progress. Dr. Pemberton said that he not need worry about remembering all of these instructions because the nurse discharging him from the hospital in a couple of days would not only discuss these discharge instructions with him again but she would give him a printed copy as well.

After the doctor had left the room, charge nurse Anabelle came in and quickly and efficiently redressed his wounded leg. Once she was done, she helped him off the table and back into his wheelchair. She then called Clara, the Candy Striper into the room and told her to roll him over to the second floor, on the medical/surgical unit in the hospital, Room 202. Of course, Clara was glowing and Grandpa Gordon was still all flustered by their second encounter.  The charge nurse Anabelle then went out to the ER waiting room and told Papa Thomas what was being done for his son. She told him that he could go home and since he lived so far away, frequent visitations would be a hardship so it was understandable if he was not able to visit each day. Besides he would only be there for two nights and days.She added that his son was in good hands and that he would be fine and not to worry. He thanked her and left and went home with a large weight lifted off of his shoulders.

Once Grandpa Gordon reached his room and Clara had made him comfortable, she asked him if she could come and visit him when she was not on duty. She could not believe her brazenness, but she wanted to make sure that this one did not slip away from her. He, of course, turned beet red and stammered, “Yesss, I would love that very much.”

The reader may ask why I am covering this experience of Grandpa Gordon’s life in so much detail, my answer is that you don’t meet the love of your life every day. Besides I am sure that most of my readers have developed a soft spot for our hero and want to see him happy. Relax, I will not cover his next two days in the hospital in such excruciating detail. Spoiler alert, Grandpa Gordon does get better and goes on to fight in his third war.

Over the next two days, he received 4 doses of IV Streptomycin and the day nurse changed his dressing each morning. True to her word, Clara came by to visit him and he finally started getting over his shyness around her. He definitely looked forward to her visits. She would come before her shift began to say “hi” and then she would spend at least an hour when her shift was over. He learned that she was in the first year of the nursing program and she volunteered as a candy striper to get community service credits towards her degree. They acted as extra credit and it looked good on her record.

He learned that she was the youngest of three children. She had an older brother and sister. He found out that she was born in Minneapolis  and that she was 19 years of age. He knew she was a little young for him but he didn’t care. He was aware that he had just met her and that he barely knew her but something inside him said that she was the one.

She lived with her parents but while at school, she resided at the college dorms. Her nursing curricula was essentially a three year program. So she had two more years before she completed her degree and was able to test for her license.  She vehemently stated that she would not get married until she completed her nursing degree. This was because too many of her fellow classmates did not complete their course work after they got married.  She was quite emphatic when she said that she wanted to become a nurse. Grandpa Gordon said that he understood why she had such a strong desire to become a nurse because he too had been driven to become a pilot.

On the morning of his discharge she came to say goodbye and he asked her if he could keep on seeing her? She said that she would be pretty cross if he didn’t do so. He told her that he had 3 1/2 more months of leave then he had to report back to duty in Nevada. He also told her that he had 30 days of leave every year.

She said that would give them plenty of time to see each other. So they exchanged addresses and phone numbers. Her phone number was for the dorms she was staying at. He said he was not sure how he would arrange seeing her since his parent’s farm was a  two-hour drive away. But he would work out something.  He neglected to mention that he did not have a driver’s license, mainly because he felt foolish that he was 33 years old and still could not drive a car. He knew one thing he was not going to wait till he got back to his base to get his license. He would get it right away, even if it killed him to do it.

After saying his goodbyes with Clara, he received his last dose of his IV antibiotics, his nurse gave him his discharge instructions and his dressing supplies and a bottle of antibiotics enough for one week, a total of 14 pills. His father was already waiting at the hospital entrance. And guess who came by with a wheelchair to take him out to meet his father? You guessed it…Clara. She had started her shift early so she could be the one to take him out. What a pleasant surprise.  Of course, when his father saw Clara wheeling his son out the front door, he knew he had a new daughter-in-law.

I now think it is time to show what all the fuss is about, so I will describe our Miss Clara to the reader. As you can imagine she is quite pretty. She stands 5’7” tall and weighs 135 lbs, making her quite slender, but she still has a shapely feminine figure. She has jet black hair, brown eyes and has a heart shaped-face with full red lips. She has a pouty nose and has cute little dimples that show when she smiles. Her teeth are white and straight. She knows how to walk and carries herself like a lady. She is shy but can be assertive when called for. She is smart, hardworking and is also loyal to a fault. She is a woman that makes men look when she walks past, but does not generate the rude type of behaviour that some women cause, all told she is a lady.

So now back to our smitten hero. The next week went by without any problems.  He kept to his schedule for taking his pills one tablet in the morning and one before he went to bed. His mother changed his dressing every morning like clockwork after breakfast. And his father started discussing cars with him including the maintenence schedule for modern cars. Boy, you almost had to be a mechanic to own a car these days. However, he did allow his son behind the wheel till he got a clearance from his doctor. 

The week finally came to an end. So he and his father hopped into the trusty pick-up truck and drove to the VA hospital in Minneapolis.  They had waited till the afternoon, so that Clara would be on duty. This time Grandpa Gordon walked into the ER on his own, albeit with the assist of a cane, it still hurt a little to put weight on it. As he entered the waiting room, he scanned the room looking for his Clara. He did not see her at first, so he scanned the room a second time and he saw her as she just came out of a supply room.

His face lit up when he saw her. She gave him a great big smile as she walked over to assist him to the front desk. Annabelle, the charge nurse was there. She asked how he was doing, he said, ” very well.” He said he was back for a follow-up appointment with Dr. Pemberton. After he signed the appropriate paperwork, she escorted him to the same room he was at before. This time he did not need any help getting on the examination table. She quickly checked his vital signs and wrote them down on his chart. When she was finished she said the doctor would be in shortly.

This time he only had to wait a couple of minutes.  Dr. Pemberton repeated his ritual as before. He asked how he was doing? Grandpa Gordon said his leg felt a lot better, but it still ached some when he put his full weight on it. The doctor then unwrapped his dressing and looked at his wound. He said it looked much better. He also said that he wanted him to take the antibiotics for another week. But this time he did not require a return visit, unless the wound got worse. He also said that he would supply him with enough dressing material to last the week. After that it should be healed enough where he could leave it open to air.

He shook his hand and left the room. Nurse Annabelle came in the room as soon as he left and put a new dressing on his leg. She also gave him all the dressing materials he would need in addition to another bottle of Streptomycin. She escorted him to the main desk and motioned for Clara to escort him out, of which she gladly did. On the way out, she asked him when he would come and pay a personal visit? He said that he hoped he would be able to visit her in two weeks. She looked crestfallen but she nodded her head in acknowledgment.

Grandpa Gordon didn’t tell her that he had a lot to do before he saw her, like learn how to drive, pass his test and get his license and buy a car before he could come back. He could not expect his father to keep driving him to Minneapolis after all. As he got in the passenger side of the truck she gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek. Of course, he turned beet red in response. She waved goodbye as they drove away.