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Mid-May of 1966 finds me sitting in the outer office of Dr. Ruth Simmons, a psychiatrist in Tucson, Arizona. This is the last place in the world I want to be. I'm dressed down in a scruffy two-piece athletic suit, because I don't feel like dressing up for anyone or anything. My eyes are red from lack of sleep and twelve hours of sobbing my heart out. I didn't put on any make up and there is none in my purse. My hair is almost untended; I merely turned the scraggly mess into a ratty looking ponytail before rushing out the door. I'm late again, which has become my most current mode of operation.
The twenty-six hundred square foot ranch style house John and I built in Tucson has become a prison. I rarely venture forth for anything, but the necessities of life. My best friend Carlotta Mason has become so worried about me she arranged an appointment with Dr. Simmons.
The Doctor enters the waiting room, and says, "Please come with me Tracey. How are you today?"
I make no comment, but I rise with dread barking at my heels and precede her through one door, and into a large office with comfortable looking white leather furniture grouped around a large coffee table. Total security, nothing I say will pass outside these walls. Dr. Simmons gestures toward one of the chairs and when I am seated, she takes the one opposite me with the table between us. I look around the room. I've never been to a psychiatrist before, so don't have any idea what to expect. The place is light and airy, fish float in a glass tank along the wall beyond Dr. Simmons.
"Good morning, Tracey. How are you today?" she asks again.
This time I answer. "Goodmorning, Doctor. I'm probably about medium today, angry at the world."
"I see from my secretary's notes that you are thirty, and recently widowed. How long ago did your husband die?"
"November eleventh, nearly seven months ago.
"How did it happen?"
"I was told by his Summary Court Officer that he was killed in Vietnam, by friendly fire."
Dr. Simmons says, "How terrible. I'm truly sorry. What an awful thing." I feel my eyes fill with tears as I reflect on how close he came to coming home to me. "Can you tell me what happened?"
"His tour was half over when he went on a four day trip to Okinawa. The C-130 he was in was struck by naval gunfire. A cruiser the air-traffic controllers knew nothing about was lying off shore firing inland in support of ground troops. One of the shells struck the transport as it was climbing out. I was told the odds of that happening are approximately one in two million. What was left of the plane fell into the ocean. John's body and that of his back seater were recovered. We had the funeral November twentieth in Fort Logan National Cemetery, Denver."
"Where are you living now?"
"In our last home, here in Tucson."
I grab several tissues from a nearby box, press them to my eyes and bend forward from the waist while I sob hysterically. When the sobs reduce to an occasional spasm, she continues in a calm even voice.
"What are your plans now?"
"Plans? I don't have any. I'm afraid of the future without John."
"Do you have any relatives you could go visit for a while?"
"I have John's parents, but when I go there I feel like an outsider because I gave them no grandchildren. So for me, there are no relatives anymore, just me."
"What about your parents?"
"Both dead in a plane crash ten years ago."
"Would you care to elaborate on that circumstance?"
"It was a private plane crash. Dad flew them both into a twelve thousand foot mountain in eastern Utah. I am an only child, so there aren't any siblings, although I wish there were."
Copyright © 2005 Max Ibach