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Robert A. Mills

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Blogs by Robert A. Mills

BUCKHOUSE
4/28/2012 5:51:23 AM

A tip of my tam o’shanter to you who wrote regarding my recent bouts with primary lateral sclerosis. It’s a bitch of an inconvenience, a frustrating hassle, especially a daily shower and getting dressed—I’ve gotten eating down to a science—but the other day I met a fellow who’d lost his right hand overseas to a roadside bomb. Talk about the fickle finger of fate bringing things into perspective! Made me realize just how lucky I am!

A lot of people who are afflicted with PLS have requested I inspire them by using this space to talk about my continuing battles, but quite frankly I have bigger fish to fry. Consequently, I will rarely write about this damned ailment, devoting my efforts to op-ed matters of general interest. Come to think of it, I was a writer long before I got involved with neuro-stuff.

So, on with today’s thoughts . . .

There was a time during the 20th century when it was almost as important to be in London to witness the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace as it was to admire the soldiers who protect the Tomb of the Unknown at Washington’s Arlington National Cemetery. Well, almost. Maybe not quite.

I had the good fortune to be in England more than once, and there was a one particular time I shared the experience with my bride. “What would you like to do today?” I asked, with new groom enthusiasm while getting dressed at the Churchill Hotel.

“Either have tea with Edward Heath or see the changing of the guard at Buckhouse,” was her immediate response. We both knew that tea with the prime minister would pale in comparison to the ritual at the palace.

But once before, while exploring another part of London, I had wandered onto Downing Street by accident, and my devious partner at the time said I should knock on the door of Number 10 and tell the butler I was an American on holiday and could I please have a word with Mr. Wilson (the PM back then)?

“If the bobby over there on the stoop says anything, just tell him who you are, and you want to see your old friend Harold,” he suggested, were I foolhardy enough to attempt the ploy. (I wasn’t.)

Christine and I, on this subsequent trip, made haste to the Forecourt of Buckingham Palace and joined the gathering sightseers in front of the Victoria Memorial. Well-positioned in the second row, we had only a few children between the ornate wrought iron fence and us. A jolly good vantage point, if I do say so meself!

Our Kodak Pony 127 at the ready, Christine asked, “Do you know who those kids are in front of us?” I looked down; I had no clue. “They’re the Jackson Five,” she informed me. “The little one is on your right is Michael. He’s going to be a big star.”

“No shit,” I mumbled, more interested in the guards in their ridiculous hats beginning, under the Queen’s Balcony, their orchestrated and flamboyant routine.

The madding crowd pressed closer, becoming less controlled; and it was suddenly apparent we were all being squashed against the fence. “Hey!” I shouted to the callous group behind me, “take it easy! There are kids up here!”

It did no good. The insane rush continued to press on, and the small child turned as best he could and looked up at me. His eyes, pleading in genuine terror, were as big as banjoes. “They gonna kill us!” he cried.

“Not if I can help it!” I grabbed two wrought iron spokes in my fists and braced myself with feet planted firmly apart, shielding the child with my body, preventing the indifferent tourists (mostly Frenchmen and Germans, I suspect) from crushing us. As soon as the short tableau was concluded, the pressure at the gate abated, and the Jackson Five evaporated in the milling hubbub.

“You saved that little boy’s life,” my wife said later, as we enjoyed a late morning’s repast of tea and scones at the Dorchester.

“You didn’t do too badly yourself, protecting the other four.”

“Shoot. Three of them were bigger than I. It was the tiny one that might have gotten squashed. He’s the one I was worried about.”

“Yeah . . . What was his name again?”

“Michael.”

“Oh,” I said, devouring a pastry in one gulp. “Well, let’s keep it under our hat. No need to ever mention it.”

“Okay. . . . How does it feel to be a hero—even if you have no idea whom you saved or why?”



Copyright©2012 by Robert A. Mills, all rights reserved


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