Vietnam scared Vinnie, and it went beyond the fact that he took a bullet to his spine and came home in a wheelchair, it was something deeper than even that. Teresa spent as much time with him as he could, but as time past he pushed her away, and she felt at a loss. She understood why many did not want to fight, but did the government have to treat those like her brother so shabbily? Did people have to go so far as to spit on him as if he was a criminal!
“Vinnie why are people like this, why do they treat you as if you are a criminal, you almost died for your country.?” Teresa asked her brother, one day as they sat at the kitchen table, in some ways he continued to push her away, but the bond of brother and sister would always be there, and they would always need each other.
“Baby girl I don’t think they see it that way. I mean they see something that they don’t understand and it scares them. The way Mamma was scared when we told her we were no longer going to Mass, because we had found another church. But Mamma began to understand, and she did not press us.”
‘But they are hateful Vinnie and that war put you in a wheelchair.”
“Baby girl I choose to fight.”
“I know and I am proud of you, but they are treating you like you are a bad person. I hate the way you are treated by some of those who do not see the way you see.”
“Everything is about free love and peace, but don’t they realize that even peace has a price?” Teresa asked her brother. Sometimes there conversations went late into the night, there Mom would sometimes sit at the table with them, but not for long. It was to painful for her to listen to, and it was hard for her to even look at her son.
“Times are changing Baby Girl, and I am not sure all the changes are for the best. I admit some had to take place, but I think sometimes we take things to far.”
The conversations would last for hours, until both made their way to there bedrooms exhausted, but usually it was only an hour or two if not sooner before Teresa would wake up to Vinnie’s screams of terror and she would walk into his room as she did whenever he had a nightmare, which was nearly everyday, and take a chair beside his bed, and pray for him. Sometimes he knew she was there, he would wake up drenched in sweat, but when he saw his sister he would always smile. They were each others strength.
“Baby girl you don’t have to come to me every time you hear me having a nightmare.” Vinnie said, but he was not chastising her. He truly enjoyed her company, and was glad for the prayers she offered up on his behalf when he was to weak to pray for himself she would pray for him, and that brought him a great deal of comfort.
“I know Vinnie but I want to, you are home now, but in those dreams I know you are back in Vietnam, and I want you to wake up knowing that you are at home with your Kid sister in the room next to you, and if that takes sitting beside your bed every night, that is what I will do. I was so afraid that you would not come home alive, and here you are, I want to cherish each moment I have with you big brother.”
“Your prayers brought me home baby girl.” Vinnie said, looking at his baby sister, realizing just how much she had grown up.
“They didn’t stop that bullet from shattering your spine.” Teresa said sadly.
“Baby girl I am not going to lie to you, this is hard, it’s taking an adjustment, I was never one to just sit around, but now I guess I have no choice, but that does not mean I regret going to Vietnam, and it certainly does not mean I blame you. I saw worse than this in Nam, so much worse, I lost buddies to that war, buddies I thought I would have for a lifetime.”
“I know you don’t blame me for this Vinnie, but maybe I should have prayed harder, maybe I should have talked to the Lord more, I asked he bring you home alive.”
“And he did Baby girl, the fact that I can’t walk does not mean my life has ended, I saw guys in the hospital that choose to look at it like that, and I refused to let myself get sucked that deep into self pity. Sure I have my moments, and some changes are hard to deal with, but I am alive, I made it home from Vietnam, I was not another casualty, another number on the news who was killed. I am alive, and I know that your prayers and Mom’s prayers prayed a large part in that, and the Lord himself must have plan for me.”
The conversations came during the night and during the day, but sometimes days would pass where Vinnie would not talk about Vietnam, it was as if he was trying to erase the memory from his mind, but deep down he knew that could not happen, nor should it, someday he would be telling his children about Vietnam and the reason he couldn’t walk, and as they grew older he would teach them to respect those who served the country, as he had. He was proud to have served in Vietnam but sometimes it was to hard to talk about, but if he needed to talk he knew Baby Girl was always willing to listen, his baby sister, was now proving herself to be a strong young woman, and he was proud of her.