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|Irene (standard:other, 1569 words)|
|Author: Pitter Pat||Added: Jan 08 2003||Views/Reads: 1999/1245||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|This story is in honor of Irene, an Alzheimer patient, whose final conversation was of memories she had made many years earlier as a WASP during WWII.|
Her name was Irene. In 2001, with much regret, her husband had to put her into a small town nursing home. Irene had Alzheimer's. She'd wonder off physically as well mentally and Irwin couldn't watch her 24 hours a day. Iowa winters were very cold. He couldn't take the chance she might wonder off and freeze before he found her. He loved her dearly and was very concerned about the quality of life she would have during her last days in the nursing home. Soon after he admitted her to the nursing home, Irwin had a heart attack. When he returned home, I took a casserole to him, as was the custom in our neighborhood when a neighbor was ill or unable to do their own cooking. During this visit, he voiced his concern for her and I promised I would visit her when I could and make sure she was being treated well. At my first several visits, Irene told me many stories. She and her husband had built the local airport together on a farm field. She was very proud of their accomplishments. The last time I visited Irene, a nurse entered the room just before I did. I watched as she patted Irene's hand and asked, “How are you doing today, Irene? Your blood pressure is going down a little. Are you in any pain?” Irene assured her, “I'm fine, just tired.” “Do you know what day this is Irene?” the nurse asked. “Of course, are you confused again honey? It's September 10, 1944.” The nurse looked very concerned when she left the room. Irene smiled when she saw me and asked, “Do you know who I am?” With a big smile she continued before I could answer, “I'm Irene, a former WASP of the U.S.A. Do you know what a WASP is?” I shook my head no. “WASP stands for Women Air Force Service Pilots. I'm proud to say I am one of the first women in history to fly an American military aircraft.” “You've never told me that, Irene. What was it like to be one of the first women fliers in the Air Force?” “Have a seat and I'll tell you,” she smiled. "I entered training at Avenger's Field in Sweetwater, Texas on December 7, 1943. I'd never been away from home much, but soon became friends with Beverly Moses from Des Moines, Iowa. We were mid-western girls with a common dream – to fly aiding the war effort.” “Had you ever flown before joining the Air Force?” I asked. “Not by myself,” she answered, “My uncle in St. Louis had a plane and when we visited him he would take me for a ride. He taught me a little about the controls and the basics of flying. At Sweetwater we went through seventy hours of instruction, just like the male cadets. Sweetwater was very primitive, but we enjoyed every minute. Our dreams of flying for America were becoming a reality. There were no paved runways, no fire trucks, no ambulances, no electricity, no running water, just jackrabbits and rattlesnakes. When it got hot, we wore our flight suits with the pant legs rolled up and our Urban's Turbans.” “What was an Urban's Turban?” I asked. She smiled, “An Urban's Turban was a rolled scarf we used to cover our hair. The unit leader had to figure a way to make it an acceptable part of our uniform, so he named it an “Urban Turban” after the base commander, Major Urban.” “A smart man. Are you comfortable, Irene? Would you like another pillow?” “No, I'm fine,” she said. There was a short pause then she continued. “After graduation, Beverly and I were thrilled to find we'd be stationed together at Las Vegas Air Field in Nevada. It was modern compared to Avenger's Field. It was so nice to have electricity, running water, and indoor facilities again. We were there to test planes for “the boys” and to fly nightly rectangle patterned watches on the west coast. We were to watch for approaching enemy. Some of the planes were a challenge for me. I met the five foot two inch height requirement for a flier, but still couldn't see over the windshield or Click here to read the rest of this story (82 more lines)
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