Again, the past few weeks have been busy ones, although this time with presentations as well as patient care issues–oh, yes, and Life. In addition, though, I have been working on plans to publish an e-book edition of the series The War Within, to be entitled The War Within: Different Veterans with PTSD, Different Missions to Recovery. At this point, I am considering publishing it on Kindle, and I hope to have it available by November 15.
I plan to keep the original series available here on the website for all who might be interested. However, some persons have expressed interest in having access to the material outside of the website as well. Therefore, I am editing and streamlining the essays a great deal, with a focus on helping readers frame the challenges of recovery from combat trauma/PTSD as ones of redefining a veteran’s “mission.” In doing so, the veteran’s intensity and strength can then be re-channeled into endeavors that can be more worthwhile and rewarding. I will be arguing again that extroverts, i.e., those who “recharge” themselves in the world “out there,” have very different missions–and therefore very different recovery paths–from those of introverts, i.e., those who “recharge” themselves in the world “inside.”
Still, both “missions” can still lead to the same endpoint: a more full, more rewarding life post-combat. If through these essays I can help some combat veterans find a way to reframe their challenges into ones that are more hope-filled and more productive, I will consider my efforts to be successful.
Today, however, in addition, a remembrance: for some unfathomable reason, earlier this week I began thinking about my elementary school teachers back in Des Moines, Iowa, where I spent my early years. Given that over forty years have come and gone since those halcyon days of yore, I figured that some of them had passed away, so I went to the website of the Des Moines Register to see if I could find any of their obituaries–
–only to find that one of the most influential teachers of my life, Doris Elinora Stukenberg, just passed away two weeks ago today, on October 18, 2012, at the age of 91. Her picture accompanied her obituary–and though older, I saw the woman I still remember.
It was 1967-69, my fifth and sixth grade years. I was invited to join a gifted education program at a school across town from mine, and for both years Mrs. Stukenberg was my “basic skills” teacher, i.e., all academic subjects except math (why the latter was taught separately, I haven’t a clue). She taught us during tumultuous times: Viet Nam and the Tet Offensive; the deaths of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy; the race riots of the 1968 summer, Detroit, Newark; the fists held high at the Olympics in Mexico City; the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago; Richard Nixon’s defeat of Hubert Humphrey (and, never forget, George Wallace!); Armstrong and Aldrin on the moon the summer afterwards.
Only now can I appreciate the freedom she gave us to explore our ideas, to come up with crazy projects, crazy skits. Dan Rowen and Dick Martin’s Laugh-In was hot back then, and in the sixth grade she let a group of us boys put on Cry-Out, which was so ridiculous, I suspect it was hilarious. I remember trying to make crêpes suzettes, of all things, when we studied Europe. During the fifth grade, my mother was up all hours of the night making some crazy “float” of the state of Iowa, replete with some tower sticking up somewhere in the northern part of the map. In class we watched this inane Spanish-language show on the local public television stations (which was dedicated to “educational programming” during the day), my very first introduction to ¿Cómo está Usted?, courtesy of this very odd Latina who was always about three beats behind everyone else on the show. I also did some over-the-top report on Japan, during the sixth grade, as I recall, courtesy of some propaganda supplied by Japan Air Lines through an ad in the National Geographic, entitled Fifty New Views of Japan (or something of that ilk).
One year Mrs. Stukenberg even called together a noontime summit of the fifth and sixth grade gifted classes to settle our differences in The Great Foursquare Wars. Hillary, Madeline, and Condoleezza, eat your hearts out.
Yet what I most remember was her encouraging me to write, no matter how long (yes, even then . . .), no matter how fantastic. To this day I remember some semi-novella I penned that went on and on about a flamingo and the Presidency and Ameranada and, well, you get the picture. I recall her as having an eternally bemused look, as if she just quite couldn’t believe what was coming out of these kids–and specifically, this kid’s–mouth.
She taught me a bit about tempering the fine art of the smart-aleck. She was quite kind and understanding during my father’s illnesses and surgeries.
In so many ways, this blog is an outgrowth of her belief in me all those years ago. From what I could see in her obituary, she lived well and loved well, leaving behind a family and a legacy not only with elementary kids, but with college kids as well.
She helped me learn how to pave roads back. May she rest in peace.