Saturday, April 10, 2010

Miracle at Elmwood Rehab Facility ...

While visiting Dorian at Kaiser Permanente post-surgery,  she mentioned that back at the nursing home where she'd been living for the past several months recovering from fractures of both legs -- there was a plastic bag containing soiled laundry which needed picking up.  Since I pass through Berkeley on my way to my home in Richmond, it was convenient to stop by and relieve her concerns.

Dorian shares a room with another patient who has only been under treatment for a few weeks, and who had never been communicative -- always with the curtain drawn when I visit with Dorrie -- and, though my gregarious daughter knows the names of every C&A, physiotherapist, RN, and social worker in the facility, she did not know that of the woman who shares her room.  Very odd.  Dorian, who is developmentally disabled, has the personality of the Great Dane puppy and romps in her wheelchair about the halls and visits constantly throughout the building. 

I probably should tell you that our roommate is taken by ambulance 6 days a week for dialysis, and is rarely out of bed, but I have no idea what her ailment is, though she is obviously in pain much of the time, and her legs are visibly swollen ... .

When I went in to pick up the laundry I was surprised and delighted to see the room filled with sunlight (curtain between the beds was drawn back) and the patient was busily crocheting on a beautiful bed coverlet.

"Oh, so you're an artist, too," says I.  How lovely that you and Dorrie have this to share."

She smiled and said, "Oh, no.  I didn't know how to crochet, your daughter taught me to do this.  I never made nothin' so beautiful.  It's for my daughter."

Dorian is not only brightening up the home with her handmade presents to staff, visitors, and patients, but she's teaching!  I may go broke buying skeins and skeins of yarn, but I'll go happy.  She gets such pleasure from keeping her little book of "commissions" and taking orders for these lovely colorful gifts of love. 

Photo 1:  Happy roomie!
Photo 2:  Dorian and one of her latest projects.  This was taken 3 days after her second surgery and one day after her return from Kaiser Hospital to Elmwood Rehabilitation Facility. I'm heading out to see her in a few minutes -- and she's progressed to the point where she's again cruising the halls in her wheelchair and no longer bedridden.  It's been less than two weeks (3/31) since the corrective surgery was performed.
Life has been fraught with activity -- rehearsing for Vagina Monologues plus the usual workload plus driving to Berkeley to visit with Dorian each day ... 

This last sentence in that paragraph from the Golden Gate National Cemetery has continued to haunt my days ...

"...  Additionally, 24 African Americans who perished while loading Liberty Ships in the Port Chicago incident on July 17, 1944, and whose remains were unidentifiable, are buried as unknowns in Section P."
  •  Why are those men not identified as Navy men, only as African Americans, who may well have been civilian stevedores?  We know they were sailors.  Does that mean that the Navy didn't claim them as real servicemen and therefore not entitled to full military protocols in these final rites?
  • ... but that could hardly be true since they were tried for mutiny in trials conducted by the Navy.
  • And, why is the word "ammunition" not used before the words "Liberty Ships" which would have given the sentence more relevance, and
  • in describing the deadly Port Chicago explosion that vaporized two ships and 302 lives as an "incident," did it not dramatically understate both the magnitude of the tragic event and the loss of life? 
  • When there were 302 lives lost in all (220 of whom were black), why was the number reduced to "24 African Americans," though I'm sure the intent was to use the 24 as proxy for the many who died on that day.  The sentence as stated fails to account for 196 young black men as never having lived at all.
  • Of the 302 who perished, 82 were white servicemen (Maritime and Navy). Where are they buried since the graveside rites in the Joseph photo are being held in the Negro Section P.  Were the others given full honors, including flag-draped caskets?
  • Since the memorial has the names of all those who died on that fateful day etched in the marble monument at Port Chicago, one would suppose that there would have been an updating of the information in the annals of the national cemetery that might answer these questions.
  • And, finally, after six lines of description of the burials of German and Italian Prisoners of War, almost as an afterthought, "additionally, 24 African Americans ... "
You can see by my questions that little has been resolved, though I've posed them to a military expert who is a specialist in all things WWII, and -- though I'm not sure when -- I should hear soon and will pass what I learn along to you.  There must be a story here that needs telling.  And in the telling, we are describing circumstances in which a fair trial was impossible.  As the nation's history has continued to evolve toward enlightenment, it is time to support those working to remove the stain of what many sincerely believed to have been unjust convictions.  Finding answers to questions long buried with the victims may be critical. One would hope that exoneration is still possible before any more die in shame.