It’s been a while since my last post. I still need to publish the last few chapters of “An Accident Spy”, which I intend to do over the next week or so.
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been battling the “Savannah Crud”, i.e a sinus infection. Common this time of year, my only break came during a four-day trip to the mountains of North Carolina. Below is a photo taken during one of my morning walks.
Tired of fighting a losing battle, I made an appointment to see the PA at my doctor’s office. Arriving a few minutes early for my appointment, which is my M.O., I performed the customary shuttling between the waiting room, the exam room and the in-house lab for nearly two hours. And while I’m not a doctor, I did make a quick assessment of my competition in the waiting room. These were all some very sick, and in most cases, very elderly people. My “triage” didn’t make me feel any better, but I did take a few moments to count my blessings.
I did, however, make an interesting observation. While waiting for my turn in the lab, I struck up a conversation with a fellow waiter. He was an elderly man, somewhere in his late 80’s to early 90’s. I asked his name and he said “Taz was just fine.”. I remarked on the name, and I guessed that he was of Greek descent but that his accent was pure Savannah. Right on both counts. While we were talking, I noted long , vertical scars on both legs. Taz said those were the result of surgery to treat aggressive prostate cancer, along with chemo and radiation. Doctor’s gave him 6+ months to live in 2002. He’s made it 9 years now.
We started talking about age and the issues that come with getting older. One of the toughest things for Taz to deal with was the loss of long-time friends. Having served in a B-24 Liberator during WWII, Taz is only one of three crew members from his ship that are still alive. He spoke of that time at length, his lower lip quivering from age, not emotion. Taz talked about the pilot, who at 28 was the senior member of the crew. Out of respect for his tenure, the crew called him “Pops”.
I asked Taz what station he manned on the B-24. He looked straight at me, then began jerking his head repeatedly to his right as he stuttered, “I was, I was, ah, ah, ah, I was a, I was the nose gunner.” The jerking and the stuttering stopped. He regained eye contact and broke into a huge grin. This was a routine he had performed many times over 60+ years and got a laugh each time, I’m sure. I laughed, not only at the story, but out of sheer relief that Taz wasn’t having a seizure. He explained that in the nose of the Liberator, he had “the best seat in the house” as he could see whether the ship was heading toward bad weather, anti-aircraft fire, enemy planes or any combination of the three.
As Taz wound down his stories, it occurred to me that these vignettes were being lost thousands of times each day as time claimed those involved. Encourage those around you to commit their experiences to print, so that these stories will live for future generatiions to enjoy. And wartime stories, while of personal interest to me, are only a fraction of the history experienced by our older family and friends. Make it a family project, before these treasures are lost forever.