The Year I Forgot Valentine’s Day
Hello Old Friend
One year in February, I ran into an old friend. Actually an old Army buddy. Hah! I’ve always wanted to say that, “an old Army buddy”! I can’t remember the specifics, but I guess the Air Force was having some kind of conference, like the Physical and Occupational Therapy biennial Management Symposium, and we were hosting in San Antonio. I was walking with friends along the River Walk going to lunch. Then I saw my friend! “George?” It was him! He was in San Antonio for an Army conference.
George was an Army Veterinary Surgeon. We were stationed in Turkey together. Actually, he was Miss Mocha Bean’s “Uncle George”. George was roommates with my physical therapy colleague, Deb. They lived across the road from me and my then-spouse in “the village” right outside of the base. Deb and I were members of a team that traveled to Ankara and Izmir, Turkey, and Iraklion, Crete to consult in the schools. We traveled a lot. We were gone from our home base, Incirlik, near Adana, Turkey, slightly more than half the time. It was pretty grueling. George traveled too, covering the various base veterinary clinics. Sometimes either George or my team would already be on the road somewhere, and not realize we would all be in the same place the following week!
Friends in Turkey
On these trips when we all wound up in the same place at the same time, we’d have nice long dinners in the evenings, and spend time in the shops looking at handmade Turkish and Persian carpets and drinking hot tea called çay. When we were all “home”, we’d have movie marathons at my apartment on the weekends. The base had one television station, with programs from the previous year. Off base, we had nothing, except videos sent by friends and relatives. My family got off to a very slow start sending taped TV programs. Our favorite was when Deb’s family sent her Star Trek, Next Generation. We also had a marathon watching I, Claudius, also courtesy of Deb.
We had regular dinners with our Turkish friends. We’d barbeque on the roof. Or sometimes our Turkish neighbors would just invite us for roasted corn, or watermelon. One of our bigger eating occasions, Uncle George was naturally coming over. He had recently had to give Miss Mocha Bean anesthesia for an x-ray, which was scary to her. When he came to our apartment, he expected to greet Miss Mocha Bean as usual. This time though she remembered her last official visit with him and ran the other way! I think it really hurt Uncle George’s feelings!
Visiting With Miss Mocha Bean
When I ran into Uncle George on the Riverwalk, it had been about 8 years since we’d seen each other. We made plans to go to dinner later that week. I picked him up and we went to the Olive Garden. It was a mad house! We were saying “What the heck is going on?! Why are there so many people here on a week night?!” We put our name on the list and were told it was about a two hour wait. Plan B!
We decided to go ahead to my house and visit with Miss Mocha Bean, which we were going to do after dinner. It was a nice visit. And somewhere during that visit, Uncle George said the nicest thing anyone has ever said regarding Mocha. He said, “You two spoil each other.” My heart may have skipped a beat! Everyone always said Mocha was spoiled, which I didn’t mind too much. But this was much more true! Our relationship was not one-way! We did indeed spoil each other.
So That's Why It's So Crowded
Miss Mocha Bean was a Boykin Spaniel. They are bird dogs raised in the Southeast, and are the state dog of South Carolina. I’d had her since she was 4 weeks old and weighed 3.7 lbs. My spouse had brought her home from the vet clinic he worked at right before we went to my first duty station in Illinois. The breeder had accidentally dropped something on her and mangled her left hind leg. So that’s how I came to have a 4 week old amputee puppy at a time when it was not convenient to train a new puppy. But Miss Mocha Bean and I bonded. My spouse used to say “I love her and she loves you.”
Well anyway, we eventually had our dinner at Olive Garden, and figured out somewhere along the way that the reason it was so crowded was because it was Valentine’s Day! I’m sure we had a laugh at ourselves, and how absorbed we were in our military careers. I told George it was a shame he had not taken some extra time off in San Antonio with his conference so we could take a day trip. George was very familiar with San Antonio and the surrounding area too. As luck would have it, he was coming back in a few weeks for another class or conference of some kind.
Relaxing Day in the Hill Country, Sort Of
When George returned, we drove my Saab to the Hill Country. We drove part of the Devil’s Backbone, a scenic and curvy road, perfect for a great car like mine. We stopped in Boerne, Bandera and Wimberly. We browsed my favorite shops in Wimberly, and sat a long time along the river. We talked about the stress of our military careers. George asked me if I could ever dismiss it from my mind completely. The answer was “no” for both of us, but there was some comfort in that, at least for me anyway. It was a relief saying something out loud that I had carried inside for so long, and knowing of a certainty that someone else truly understood.
And so it was that one of my most memorable Valentine’s Days ever involved no chocolate, no flowers and no romance. There was a nice dinner with wine, and a day trip a few weeks later. But the best thing was the memories of Miss Mocha Bean and our good friend, an old Army buddy, Uncle George.
James Taylor You've Got a Friend
© 2010 rmcrayne