Mom, Andy and me
November 24, 2008
at the Fisher House
Mom, Dad and I made lunch at the Fisher House on Sunday and Andy came over. It was quite the most wonderful non-eventful family dinner. Wish Daniel and Deb and Matt could have been there.
Andy's still not to excited about excessive photos but he did indulge us for a few.
a minor infection that's being treated but this is the second one in about three weeks...
an elevated heart-rate
the possibility that he's developed an ulcer...will know more this evening after a meeting with an endoscope...gotta love those. :)
More this afternoon. Hopefully I'll be able to touch base with Daniel and have news on the housing front as well.
The above was taken on Veteran's Day...the boys attended an outdoor parade to celebrate. (Andy on the right).
Airborne--all the way!
**Note: Both pictures stolen from Daniel's Facebook--there are others if you want to go there to see more click here.
I'm departing on Friday morning for a quick visit. I know updates have been a little sparce recently...stuff just doesn't change as fast as it once did as far as blog-worthiness news items. Being there with Andy may alleviate some of the info-clog. :)
Andy's address (by request):
James A. Haley Veterans Hospital
13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd
Tampa FL 33612
SCI-D47-2 James Andrew Burnett
I'm going down next weekend for a quick visit--so looking forward to it!
Moreover the strongest support is provided not only to protect the young from evil, but also to rouse them and attract them more easily and gently to the performance of good works. Like the twigs of plants, the young are easily influenced, as long as someone works to change their souls. But if they are allowed to grow hard, we know well that the possibility of one day bending them diminishes a great deal and is sometimes utterly lost.
-- Saint Joseph Calasanz
I returned from visiting Andy and Daniel in Florida earlier this week where they clarified for me the difference between "Snow Boarding" and "Snow Birding." It seems to do the first, you run toward the snow and to do the second, you run from the snow. I actually had an unexpected encounter with two dear friends, Bill and Carol Shearer, who were doing the Snow Bird thing for the next few months in Tampa. When Daniel and I went to church on Sunday morning, there they were. The last time we saw each other was almost two years ago in east Texas. It was a really nice surprise to find friends in a place that you didn't expect them to be. That happens to us a lot lately.
This was a somewhat different kind of visit than those preceding. This time, Daniel didn't leave out as I was coming in, so, the boys were all together. I'm not sure how my sons felt about that, but for "Pop" it was great. I got such a "kick" out of watching those two boys interact. For years they have had their own thing going, and it seems that it is even now just going right on.
When Daniel and Andy were growing up, most of the time they shared the same bedroom, and almost all of the time, all of the other issues of life. Now, it seems, in those years they just really worked out the "getting along" thing. Well, it is still working. In a time when so many ideals have gone by the way side, it is so personally refreshing to me to see brothers actually being brotherly.
Daniel is amazing. He has quickly figured out and fitted into his new, though somewhat temporary, role to his brother. He knows just when to get in Andy's face and just when to give him space. He is Andy's right arm, his administrative advocate, his confidant, his trusted psychologist, his greatest admirer, and always his older brother ( If not his big brother. The weight advantage actually shifted several years ago. Strangely enough, that is also about the time the physical confrontations stopped. Go figure.)
Dan is fearless in the taking-care-of-Andy task. He tackles anything and everything from unfamiliar cities to hospital bureaucracy to helping Andy get going in the morning (he is better and faster at it than most of the nurses) to the biggest deal of all, braving 5:00PM Tampa traffic to "bring back" the "take out" for half of the SCI unit at the hospital.
It usually goes down like this. About 4:00PM, after the last physical therapy session of the day, Andy starts attracting people. Typically they will sit outside in the patio area for a few minutes and talk. The conversations range from profound to mind-numbing (I promise you that there is way more mind-numbing stuff than profound stuff.) but eventually they get around to the "prime question:" Where are we going to eat tonight?
At that point these titanic intellects all become focused as one mind to answer this all important question. It usually takes about four seconds. They just consider two things: What did we eat last night? (because we sure don't want to eat that again) and What do we have gift cards for? (Thank you all for those precious gift cards)
When those defining questions are answered, the mighty Daniel swings into action. A quick check of Google Maps to find the chosen place and he is off to retrieve the bounty. In a flash, he is back to distribute these favorite rations of the day that compose what has to be the worst diet of any soldiers in the US Army. I have to say, It's good, It's really good. But this stuff will kill you if you are over 50. However, if your under 30, it seems you can flourish on it, at least while you're in the hospital.
Dan seems never to tire of trying to accommodate these food tyrants, sometimes stopping at two or three places to get all the orders filled. And this is at the end of a day that always starts at around 6:00 AM after ending the night before well after 11:00PM.
Andy is getting to be Mr. Independent these days, and he is very careful to consider Daniel and take as much weight off of him as possible. He has told Daniel that he can make it in the morning. I also offered to take over a few mornings. Dan's answer, " Naw Dad. It's not necessary." When I pressed him a bit to let me do it, he opened up a little more. He said, "Dad, it's OK. Andy could actually get going without me. I know that. He's getting pretty good at taking care of himself, and he has great nurses. But, he hurts in the morning in his hands and arms especially. And I can save him some of that pain. So, I just like to do it. We got a system."
I knew better than to press it any further. I've been watching that "system" work for a long time now. And I have to say, I am extremely proud of their - system.
The really big thing that happened on this visit was Andy's first outing without a professional therapist. He got a pass to leave the hospital and on Saturday evening about six, he rolled out to the pickup (the seat of which is about 8 or 10 inches above the level of his wheel chair seat) made the "transfer" into the vehicle (after warning me, "Dad, stay back! I can do this.") and bopped off to The Texas Road House for his first steak as a "free man."
As we drove Andy, was mostly quiet and obviously jittery. You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to know what was going on inside him. But, here he was, pushing on into a very frightening unknown. But he did it, and it went well.
The place was absolutely packed, the music (country of course) was so loud that you could not hear yourself think. But he was undaunted. ( I was absolutely frazzled.) He wheeled himself through the crowd, positioned himself gracefully at a table that required some finesse and eventually went to work on a great steak.
After a while we were done. Then back through the crowd, back in the truck, and back to the hospital, but with a lot more confidence. I think courage is sometimes just being bigger than your comfort zone. Andy lives there.
I also found out that Andy is getting a second Purple Heart. It seems that on the same day that he was wounded in the neck, he was hit on the left side of his face with some spraying shrapnel from a disintegrating bullet that hit the tripod of a weapon that he was near. I guess in his silly mind this was classified a "unworthy of mention."
He said that he never really thought about it. He said the fragments surprised him, knocked him back a little and cause his eye to close involuntarily. He explained that they also knocked his best friend, Mac, who was firing the weapon to the ground. Andy, said the sergeant that was in the tower with them "went nuts," yelling, "Burnett, are you OK?" Andy said the sarge was all over him, trying to check him and see if he was all right, while he was trying to get his eye to open again and get to Mac to see if he was all right.
Finally, in frustration, Andy yelled, "Sarge, you do your job and let me do mine." So the sarge jumped on the weapon ( guess he figured, "This kids must be OK.") and Andy, always the medic, then went nuts checking on Mac (McCain) who, as it turned out, was also OK. Thus, is the saga of the second Purple Heart. So, somebody wrote it up because it he was actually wounded. And the people who do such things are planning a second presentation ceremony now.
We had a long discussion about Purple Heart Medals one afternoon with Andy's room mate who is a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps. He has four Purple Hearts. We all decided that if you get one purple heart that is OK. Not really your fault. But if you two or more they ought to Court Martial you for destruction of government property. We laughed. It is what Dad's do to keep from crying. But later, back in my room, the Lord inspired me with a poem concerning the sacrifice that those Purple Hearts represent.
I'll just close with that poem, and another inadequate expression of our gratitude for your love and support for Andy and his family in these days.
Thank you for being our circle of security.
A SOLDIER'S HEART
(A tribute to all who have fallen in freedom's service.)
I saw a soldier's heart today.
I wondered at its strength.
It seemed afraid of nothing mortal,
Fearless, breadth and length.
It spoke to me of war and pain,
The toll of Freedoms Gate.
It spoke to me of sacrifice,
And a noble warrior's fate.
It spoke to me of hearth and home
Revered above all else,
And the courage to defend it
Without regard for self.
It spoke to me of fallen love,
And a hero's greatest struggles.
And it spoke to me in a language red,
For this great heart was purple.
With deep respect and appreciation for their difficult service
--- Larry Burnett
Intense physical therapies continue with progress coming slowly. The work is hard but Andy's highly motivated and the ability to get out and go keeps him pushing on.
The paperwork for the driving test has been filed and it's possible that the driving test will happen within the next week.
There was some discussion of "moving" but Andy's going to continue his rehab in Tampa for the forseeable future. While both Andy and Daniel are wishing for home, the unit in Tampa is a safe strong environment and a good base for now. Morale is high and there's a great deal of comfort in the familiar. No date of departure has been set.
Daniel noted that while they both miss East Texas, the weather in Tampa is a wonderful consolation--yesterday it was a breezy 77 degrees--in Novemeber!
The boys send their appreciation for the care packages that have been sent. Not only do they enjoy the contents and the excitement that is "mail call", they have become known for their generous sharing of the contents. Goodies help make friends. :)
Daniel finally ventured out and found himself a good Nazarene church to attend as he is able and like any good Nazarene church, they've adopted Daniel quickly. The second time he attended there was a potluck meal--Daniel l-o-v-e-s church potluck meals and they have made him feel warmly welcomed.
The blood pressure issues are decreasing in intensity as Andy's body adjusts to the ups and downs. This is a very good thing.
Andy has enjoyed visits from some of his fellow soldiers--Daniel said two of his buddies drove down from jump school at Fort Benning (GA) for a visit. Andy is encouraged and enlivened by these visits. Daniel says he can see the difference that it makes in Andy's spirit when his fellow soldier stop by.
Both Andy and Daniel are very future-oriented right now--looking towards the best possible future for both of them. There are many things to do and decisions to be made. Andy's striving for as much independence as he can handle--chomping at the bit, Daniel says.
The main area for prayer is for the upcoming holidays. Understandably, holidays mean shifted and disrupted therapy schedules and lightened workloads for Army personnel. Conversely, this lightened load gives Andy more free time, which is not always a good thing. Pray for him to be strong in mind as well as to continue to build strength in his body, even with the lighter sessions.
That's all for now...
Ahh, the smell of red rubber.
Warmed from the mail box.
Life is good.
Stephanie Wheeler's designs at Purple Onion have seduced my red-rubber lovin' heart. It's going to be a stamping night.
I'm just sayin'.
In other news, I talked to Daniel today so there will be an Andy Update posted shortly. I have to get dinner for my guys...
Do you believe this?
There's no home for the beach.
What I mean is "there is no home for the beach in my home."
I found some silver-plated shells at Target.
They are beautiful.
I thought they would be a perfect way to bring a bit of the beach to my space.
I assembled a plate and some sand and carefully beached the shells.
I set the plate on my desk.
It got sloshed by the flow of papers and projects.
I took it to my bedroom, to see if the nightstand would make a good home.
No, definately not. Too much stuff there already.
I took the beach to the kitchen.
So now it's back on my desk.
And there are grains of sand in my Quickutz dies.
I think perhaps the beach is going to be relocated from the plate to a bowl.
In scrapbooking news, if you've been contemplating the Nestabilities dies, here is an excellent source. I'm playing with Labels One and Two and the Stars tonight...and they were definately worth the wait.
Little dude is learning to dribble a basketball and in the process has managed to jam up 9 of his ten fingers. Poor guy. Not to mention, he's still sick, so he's stuck inside. I'm considering building some kind of outhouse for sick children. When one gets sick, one is secured in the outhouse for the duration. I'll deliver food. And maybe dress in a hazmat suit for a hug or two. I'm so tired of short people making tall people sick.
And maybe I would pretend to be sick for my own vacay to the out house. Hmmm. This idea might have potential. We do have a big backyard, afterall.
Anyway...short wave note to my mother and sister: did you know that ooey gooey butter cake is the same thing as a Chess Cake? I seriously had no idea. Bought a mini-Chess Cake (the size of a brownie) at the bake sale at school and learned that some people call OGBC "Chess Cake". Who knew?