Today was going to be a slightly weird day no matter what, but as I headed out with my Aunt and my husband to go visit my cousin in hospice, I was completely disengaged somehow. I’m not sure if it’s due to my visiting so many people in the last year in assisted living communities that I have somehow psychologically checked out, but I guess it’s a basic defense mechanism.
People at the end of their lives due to cancer all look remarkably similar to one another. The two most recent experiences were the most different men before their ailments got the best of them. One of them, an egocentric, academic philosopher musician who approached the world as a way to assist in the growth of knowledge and critical thinking; the other, a loving philosophic socially self-sustaining man who was battling to reach a goal imposed by others and ultimately who later stopped trying to meet standards that were impossible and did not keep himself from realizing who he was and that he deserved basic human dignity. While my aunt tried to be empathetic and was trying to say goodbye, I watched and finally just chatted with him for a moment, but we have understood each other for most of our lives and accepted and cared for each other without reservation for decades, so not much needed to be said, communication had been continuous enough to suffice without requiring a last rite of discussion or conversation. We were always able to speak without actually saying anything out loud to one another, and I was profusely grateful for that skill today.
No sooner had we left the hospice, that an incident in the Little Vietnam community near Bailey’s Crossroads, Virginia displacing nearly 100 Vietnamese and Korean Americans who were evacuated from their homes. So my husband and I went down to document the event and assist in the temporary sheltering and feeding as we were in town and available on Memorial Day weekend to volunteer.
Arriving on the scene in our poor man’s emergency response vehicle, nearly 100 Harley Davidson low ride motorcycles were parked all around the Best Western where Red Cross was providing temporary housing for the evacuees. They belonged to many of the guests who were among the thousands in town for Rolling Thunder XVII “Ride for Freedom” to remember veterans listed as prisoners of war (POWs) and or Missing in Action (MIA). Several Caucasian males in Skullcaps, helmets and bandannas with chaps, vests and boots were mulling around the hotel trying not to have a complete flashback to their tours in Hanoi or Inchon while a huge white Hummer limousine unloaded the bride, groom and guests in every color of florescent satin and silk for an interracial wedding ceremony on the front lawn of the hotel.
As we pulled up and volunteers unloaded the poor man’s emergency response vehicles with meals from Miu Kee Cantonese Cuisine; additional Red Cross volunteers continued to feed and register the displaced residents upstairs, while affected residents were sitting downstairs with families and friends drinking in the hotel bar right next to the huge mugs of beer and the Duck Dynasty fan club.
Suffice to say, that today I felt like an actress in a movie having an out of body experience watching herself in a Theatre of the Absurd comedy on film while the music in the background was Oingo Boingo’s “We Close our Eyes."