Photographs and Memories, part 3

October 3, 1918

Near Lachalade, France

Dear Wes,

We are in an area called the Argonne Forest, and the fighting is fierce. I believe this may be the Germans’ last stand, but as yet they show no signs of believing that themselves.

I was approached last evening by my commanding officer. Apparently someone in the ranks, I cannot imagine who, has made several absurd and scurrilous accusations against me. I soundly refuted the ridiculous charges, of course; they are based on nothing. However, as a result, my commander has strongly urged me to accept a commission from Army Intelligence once I return to the mines, which will do away with the need for further investigation of these anonymous accusations and guarantee my honorable discharge. I feel compelled to accept.

I never doubted that you would succeed in the classroom! You are certainly deserving of your students’ respect, not only for your subject knowledge but for your war service.

Best to Louisa.



Tuesday, June 14

Our plan for the day was to visit the war memorials on the National Mall, grab lunch, then wander up to the White House and the Ellipse. In spite of it being a weekday, the city was swarming with tourists. We’d left the Mall and were standing on a corner, waiting for a “walk” signal, when a tour group crowded in behind us.

An elderly lady was standing beside me. The tour group behind us began jockeying for position and, in doing so, knocked into her. She flailed, about to fall off the curb into traffic. I grabbed for her, stepping off the curb with my right foot as I did so, just as she stumbled off the curb. Her right foot caught mine just above the ankle, and she braced her entire weight against my leg to catch herself.

My right ankle rolled from the strain, and I began to fall.

Pete grabbed me. The old lady went down, fortunately landing on the curb rather than in the street. A couple of people cried out, and gathered around to help her. The light changed, and the tour group surged around us, a couple of other people treading on my foot and ankle as they passed.

Pete said, “Are you okay?”

“No.” I tried to put weight on my ankle. “Fuck.”

The old lady was helped up and brushed off. She seemed unharmed. She and her party scuttled across the street. Jeff, Val, Kevin, Kristen, and Dad had crossed the street, unaware of my injury. Pete and I were left on the corner, which was now relatively thinly populated.

He moved to my right side and braced me. “Let’s move back against a building.”

I hobbled and hopped across the sidewalk, my ankle screaming in pain every time I bore weight on it. Pete steadied me against a brick wall and knelt down to examine my ankle. He said, “Can you move it up and down?”

I tried. “Sort of.”

He stood up. “I’ll call 911.”

“No, no – can’t we just go to an urgent care?”

“In downtown D.C.? Do you know where one is?”

“Of course not.”

“I didn’t think so.” He dialed. As he was talking to the dispatcher, the rest of the family realized they’d lost us, and came back across the street.

Kevin said, unnecessarily in my opinion, “You need to get that elevated.”

“No shit. See a park bench anywhere?”

He looked around. “Uh -”

Pete had already given our location to the dispatcher, so there wasn’t any point in moving. I stood still and tried to refrain from swearing. I wasn’t successful.

The ambulance arrived in less than five minutes. I gratefully climbed onto the stretcher. One of the paramedics took my shoe and sock off, and whistled appreciatively at my eggplant-colored, spaghetti squash-sized ankle. “Let’s get some ice on that, then you need an X-ray.”


By U.S. Navy photo by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Seth Rossman. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

They took me to the George Washington University Hospital emergency room, only a few blocks away. The ER was bedlam. Fortunately, the staff were efficient. An X-ray showed that my ankle wasn’t broken. The doctor diagnosed a severe sprain. He prescribed rest, ice, compression and elevation, wrapped my ankle tightly, and gave me an extra Ace bandage, a pair of crutches and samples of painkillers. Dad called Denny, who came to pick us up.

Denny called ahead to alert Toni. When we got to the house I appreciated the full force of Toni’s Southern hospitality. She had built a nest for me on one of the sofas in the family room, with pillows and blankets, and was waiting with ice packs. “What else do you need? Something to eat?”

“Yes, please.” We’d missed lunch, thanks to my injury.

Toni bustled away. I took a pain pill and settled back against the pillows with a sigh. Jeff asked, “How are you?”

“Better.” I smiled weakly at him. “Sorry about the abrupt ending to our day out.”

Val waved that off. “Forget it. We’ve got all week.”

A few minutes later Toni appeared, bearing a tray with soup, a grilled cheese sandwich, and a glass of chocolate milk. “Your dad made the sandwich, so it’s just the way you like it.”

“Thank you, Toni. This is awesome.”

She patted my shoulder. “You relax, now, and if you want anything, send one of your minions here.”

We all laughed at that. Toni had just scored points with the Brodie gang.


At bedtime I hobbled into the guest bathroom to brush my teeth. Pete had brought my toothbrush and paste downstairs; now he hovered behind me. “You can’t get up the stairs, can you?”

“Not tonight.”

“Should we move into the downstairs bedroom?” There was one first-floor bedroom suite in the house.

“No. My grandfather needs to stay there. He shouldn’t be going up and down the stairs either. You’ll just have to shuttle my stuff up and down for me for a couple of days.”

Pete looked unhappy. “I don’t want to sleep without you for two weeks.”

“It won’t be two weeks. In a few days I should be able to get up and down the steps slowly.” I spit and rinsed. “You can sleep on the other end of the sectional, if you want. At least our heads would be together. We can have pillow talk.” The family room sectional sofa formed a large L against two of the walls.

“Do you think Toni would mind?”

“Why would she? As long as we clean up every morning.”

He laughed. “And by we, you mean me.”

“Until I can bear weight, yeah. Sorry.”

“I was just teasing.” He kissed the back of my neck. “I’ll go get my pillow and the blanket from our bed.”


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