They Tried to Bury Us: They Didn’t Know We Were Seeds


There are times when I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this. This isn’t a cry for help. I have a number to the VA hotline when things get hairy. I talked to a counselor today. It wasn’t a long conversation, but it was what I needed to right the ship. I left the turnips in the ground too long and they became wooden. I pulled one and was pleased at the size. Until I tried to cut it. It was as hard as any tree root. I tried chewing a piece and there was some nice flavor, but it became wooden gristle in my mouth. I had to spit it out. I have two young sons dear to me. I don’t get to see them as often as I would like. One lives halfway across the country. The other is just a two-hour drive away, but relations with his mother are strained. I am working on it. Some days I get overwhelmed with grief. But I have the hotline if I need it. I had a nightmare the other day about Donald Trump. In the dream I was in a school setting and he was an authoritarian schoolmaster. He disproved of my wearing a speedo in class. All the students had to provide him blood samples by pricking our fingers and squeezing a few drops of blood onto a card. He said it was so they could check us for hepatitis. When I went to prick my finger I could see that my fingers were discolored, purple and black. Something was wrong with them. A few drops of pus were all I could squeeze onto the card. I was scared Donald Trump would take over the procedure, jab the pin in, and take the sample himself. Single me out. I was sure I would be singled out as having hepatitis and that would be the excuse they would use to take me out of the class. I felt that the whole hepatitis check was just a ruse to get me out of the class, to take me away somewhere. I felt scared and alone and it didn’t help that I was only dressed in a speedo. I competed in swimming in the military. I was not the best swimmer. At one of the swimming events, against the Navy, I swam the 100 meter crawl as part of a medley team. I was the weakest link in the chain so I knew I had to give my all if we were to have a chance. After the event I thought I had an aneurysm. My head was pounding for several days. In basic training my issued boots were so tight that I developed a bone spur over my instep. I was too scared and timid to complain about the ill-fitting boots. I had just turned 18 when I shipped out to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood. I weighed 138 pounds. We did a lot of simulated killing that summer. I worry about getting fat. Not like enormous, just getting a gut. I know that this is what happens as you get older, but I don’t like the feeling I get when I sit down and I can feel my stomach pressing against the waist of whatever it is I am wearing: shorts, underwear, pants. One of the reasons I am getting a gut is because I am less active. AB was diagnosed with a ligament tear in her right hind knee several weeks ago, and I am trying to rehabilitate her, which means not going out in the mountains as much. She is a dog and doesn’t take well to being injured. She pushes herself. She can’t help herself. I am doing my best to restrain her from pushing herself too hard. Because I am less active in the mountains I am getting a gut and I am spending lots of time sitting around the house. Lately I am spending a lot of time on social media when I am not out cutting wood. I am a big supporter of the senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. The more I learn about him the more I respect him and the more I want to support his campaign. He has gone from a longshot to a contender, which almost makes it worse, because there is now real hope that he can prevail. So it’s like pins and needles for me. Bernie reminds me of the person I would be if I were a better person. I can see how honest and courageous he is. I can see his indignation and anger at the ascendance of the oligarchy and the corruption of our political system. In recent days I have watched footage of his impassioned speeches in Congress gleaned from the last 30 years. When I see how long he has been fighting for a better, more just society, a society that respects women, a society that respects the elderly, a society that respects the sick and the young and our students and our veterans, fighting for a strong middle class, and I think of how he has been so marginalized over the years, so disregarded, and yet found the strength to keep persisting in his message and his beliefs, I’m overcome by his strength. I believe he is one of our greatest leaders. The military has been a lot to me, and done a lot to me. I have been severely tested. When people learn of the extent of my service, from E-1 to O-3, from military intelligence to field artillery to light infantry to special operations, they are dubious. I do not fit the mold. I myself, at times, have a hard time believing that I served as I did. I was an unlikely soldier. Now, ten years after leaving the military, I live with AB alone in a small mountain valley. I don’t feel much in common with my neighbors or my countrymen. Small talk is difficult for me. Socializing is difficult for me. Being around others is difficult for me. I miss my sons and the family life I have known. I am working on improving my relations. I pray to be a better man. I don’t know what this looks like other than being more involved in the lives of my sons. One of the reasons I am ardently for Bernie is that I recognize his sacrifice over decades of public service. He could easily be in a comfortable retirement, enjoying his family and grandchildren. “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” I have come across this several times in the last few days on social media. It makes me think of Bernie. And: “Politicians care about the next election; leaders care about the next generation.” Of course, the first quote should read “old people.” Sexism should be put in its place in this country, that is to say, buried. Buried in our dark past along with all the many other darknesses that we are trying to put behind us. When I am in the mood for it, I try to read. I have gone years without reading. It is only recently that I got a library card and am starting to read again. We must all continue fighting, just like Bernie Sanders. I have made it this far in life because of my mother. My mother is a great fighter. My mother also supports Bernie Sanders. As a youngster growing up in the Philippines during WWII, my father survived several strafing runs by American warplanes who would mistake him and his fellow villagers for Japanese soldiers in disguise. Despite this, he never stopped believing in America. Nearly 90, he doesn’t know who Bernie Sanders is, and doesn’t care. But if I can get him into a voting booth, I will. At 43, I am finding reasons to know, believe and care anew.


4 thoughts on “They Tried to Bury Us: They Didn’t Know We Were Seeds

  1. Robert, I have to respectfully disagree with you. Bernie Sanders makes no secret that he is a Democratic Socialist. He is not trying to fool anybody. He states his positions and beliefs very clearly. Also, it seems hardly possible that a communist can have served in public office for the last 30 years without anyone else noticing. Unless you also believe President Obama is a secret Muslim, in which case there isn’t anything I can offer you. Oh, and I should add one more thing. It shouldn’t matter, or at least it doesn’t matter to me, what the religion of any president is: I don’t care whether they be Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or whether they be atheist, or whether they “rather not say.” For years my dog tags read NO PREF. Not an issue for me. Separation of Church and State is a good thing. Otherwise we could devolve into some sort of theocratic society, like the Taliban.

  2. Alex, that was a very beautiful and moving piece, my friend. You are a fine writer and a fine person. It’s obvious that you have been through a great many heavy trials. I hope that you are able to get some respite from the cares that weigh on you and that you are able to spend time with your sons. You have much to offer the world, so I hope you stick around. If I feel at the end of my rope, I say to myself, “You can always kill yourself tomorrow” and by tomorrow, the urge has usually passed. I completely agree about Bernie–he is the only hope we have at this rather pointed crossroads. If Elizabeth Warren decides to be his running mate, that would be unbelievable. It means so much to me that we have people of integrity in political office, and that has become so rare. Anyway, wishing you peace….

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