Wednesday, December 7, 2022, is a day that will live in infamy (to borrow a catchy phrase from my favorite president) for me.
While visiting the USS Arizona Memorial on Pearl Harbor Day, I experienced severe chills in 80-degree weather. I went to the gift store and bought a really cool Pearl Harbor jacket, put it on and zipped it up tight, much to the amusement of people around me. It didn’t help much.
Lillian felt my forehead and said, “You’re burning up.” She went and found a park ranger who just happened to have some medical training. He confirmed a spike in temperature and called an ambulance.
I was admitted to Tripler Army Medical Center near Pearl Harbor. They gave some IV Tylenol, which killed the fever, did some lab work and began pumping me full of antibiotics, which continued Thursday.
This is likely due to a recurrence of my leg problems, which had me hospitalized much of the summer. It’s called Lipodermatosclerosis, a severe inflammation of my right leg. The doctors call it LDS for short. I call it Mormon Disease. It’s the longest disease I’ve ever had. Twenty letters. Count ’em.
I was somewhat better Thursday, but probably will be here another night while the Army doctors work on figuring out what might happen if I leave.
Lillian’s holed up with the rest of my family on Waikiki Beach. I’ve told her not to worry. This is my seventh hospitalization with this thing since June 4. When it was finally diagnosed, they told me there are two adjectives to describe it: progressive and Recurring. Boy were they right.
There are 14 of us Fuglies here — kind of a dangerous thing. We are here to put my brother Jay to rest. He died almost two years ago and requested his ashes be brought here, to his favorite place in the world, a place he visited many times.
We held a memorial service over on Maui at a little chapel he loved, officiated by my niece, Erin Power, a Lutheran minister. We brought his ashes to Waikiki on Oahu this week, and early one morning, around daylight, when we figured we could get away with it, we dropped his ashes into the ocean off Waikiki Beach. We didn’t get caught. Jay is smiling.
Now, we’re beginning to disperse, some headed home, some to other islands and other warm states. Lillian and I don’t arrive home until New Year’s Eve.
As soon as the Army doctors and nurses declare me fit, it’s back to Waikiki, preparing to depart Saturday for the Big Island of Hawaii, where we visit Volcanoes National Park. Doesn’t that sound exciting! We are spending a couple of nights at Volcano House Hotel — if it’s still there.
Other than this little medical bout, Hawaii has been everything I remembered. Let me digress a minute and tell you about my first trip. It was May 1970. I had just completed Navy Motion Picture Camera School and was headed for the Aircraft Carrier USS Oriskany, which was being deployed for the Gulf of Tonkin on May 13.
When I went to pick up my travel orders, I was surprised to see I was supposed to report to the ship at Alameda Naval Station on May 14. Hmmm.
I puzzled for a while about what might happen if I showed up the day after the ship had sailed. I decided it might be an adventure, so I flew home to North Dakota for a few days and then off to San Francisco on May 13. I reported to the Navy base bright and early May 14 and went looking for my ship. Darn. So I reported in to some office on base, showed them my orders and asked about my ship.
Well, they said, looking mighty surprised, your ship sailed yesterday. Well, I said, looking just as surprised, now what? They said we’ll have to figure this out. I wasn’t in trouble because, like a good sailor, I was just following orders.
Long story a bit shorter, they flew me to Pearl Harbor Naval Station to await the arrival of my ship. Seven days hence. I think I played golf five of those days and toured around Hawaii a bit while the ship conducted exercises at sea. I greeted my new shipmates at the dock when they pulled in.
There was some chagrin expressed by my commanding officer, Capt. Frank Haak, and my photo lab chief, PHC Gilchrist, but I also thought I caught a glimpse of a smile or two when I checked in at the photo lab.
The next seven months weren’t nearly as pleasant as that first week, but I survived, came home, hung around San Francisco for five months and did another seven months at sea, arriving back home Dec. 18, 1971, 51 years ago next week.
And now, here I am stuck in Hawaii again. With, I hope, another happy ending. I kind of put a crimp in Lillian’s vacation, but she’s a loving, understanding wife, married to an old man. For quite a bit longer, I hope.
John Burke December 9, 2022 at 9:06 am
Wishing you a quick recovery and a pleasant remainder of your vacation, Jim. I’m sorry about your travails! Loved the story about your orders–that seems so you. Happy Holidays to you, Lillian, and all the Fuglies! John BurkeReply
Dan Rice December 9, 2022 at 1:04 pm
Jim, we have never met but I read and enjoy your blog on a regular basis. I hope you make a speedy recovery and rejoin your family soon. Safe travels and Happy Holidays! And keep up your crusade for the preservation of the most beautiful and vulnerable places in our state. Dan RiceReply