Wednesday, February 19, 2014
“You’d think, to hear some people talk,
“That lads go West with sobs and curses,
“And sullen faces white as chalk,
“Hankering for wreaths and tombs and hearses.
“But they’ve been taught the way to do it
“Like Christian soldiers; not with haste
“And shuddering groans; but passing through it
“With due regard for decent taste.”
--Sigfried Sassoon, How to Die
With Due Regard for Decent Taste
I am at this time, at this moment, supposed to be writing a list or series of words or explanation as to how I changed when or after returning from my war. All I can do is recount a conversation with Chip Troiano, said conversation occurring on August 24, 1986, nineteen years and three months after his and my arrival in the war. It was at dinner the night of the first reunion, after the meal and during a quiet time before introduction of the event’s speaker. Chip and I drank our drinks and made small talk about jobs and families and such. At some point in that conversation I said, “I don’t remember who I used to be.”
It was a fine phrase, but not satisfactory to my psychiatrist. She wanted more. Well, Hell, they always want more, don’t they. If you’ve never been quote treated unquote by a psychiatrist, you probably don’t understand what I mean. Trust me, no matter how much you tell a psychiatrist, it’s never enough.
With a psychologist, it’s different. Psychologists give tests and come up with what are claimed to be measurable results.
I remember one test in particular; not the name of the test or even what the test measured, other than I was supposed to study a card and then look at other cards and point to the design that was common to the first card. I failed. Miserably failed.
The psychologist wrote that while a lower score was not uncommon for a subject with very superior verbal skills, the totality of my failure indicated subtle yet significant deficits in levels of higher cognitive thinking. Those deficits, she said, were caused by brain damage.
Okay, so I failed a test.
Within six months of the first go-round, the psychologist tested me again.
About halfway through the second test I said, “What if I said I don’t want to play any more.”
The psychologist said, “You don’t want to play any more?”
I said, “I don’t want to play any more.”
She said, “I think it will be beneficial both for you and for me if you continue the test.”
And, again I failed. Miserably. Forty-seven correct answers from a possible total of one hundred twenty. Truth be known, those forty-seven correct answers were guesses, every one. I had no idea what was the connection between the first card and subsequent cards.
So for my psychiatrist to ask for a list or series of words or explanation as to how I had changed -- Well, that explanation is impossible. If I do not remember who I used to be, how can I explain how I have changed?
There were many things I could have told my psychiatrist, but she wouldn’t have believed me.
Hey, hey, Captain Jack
Meet me down by the railroad track
With a rifle in your hand
I want to be a fighting man
-- Army marching song
(Written several years ago, when I still thought the system maybe had some ... I don't know -- treatment or made sense. Or something.