By P. Berman K. Hecht & A. Hosack,
I can’t do too much for this bus. It needs a body shop but where is the money going to come from?
Ted was underneath the bus trying to repair damage caused by the driver ramming it into a tree; thank goodness it was old- it had the type of heavy metal bumper that could take a lot of impact. Ted had been keeping the old bus road worthy for the monks ever since his discharge from Afghanistan two years ago. He never drove it himself- that was Michael’s job; poor guy, Ted hoped he be alright. It had been Ted’s job to call the hospital and find out how Michael was doing; he had been hesitant to make the call; Michael was old, and a heart attack didn’t sound good.
Ted had loved driving cars when he was younger. But his tour driving trucks in a war zone had ended all that. He had been in several serious vehicles crashes due to roadside bombs and his best friend had been crushed when their vehicle had flipped over and landed on him in the road. Now, even small unexpected sounds could trigger his memories of his friend, ripped apart by the impact of the vehicle smashing into him.
Ted has come home, nervous and angry. His post-traumatic stress symptoms made him hard to employ. He had tried going back to his civilian job driving a grocery truck- but quickly found that the loud and erratic street noises of the city were intolerable to him now. In his second job, at a large auto mechanic shop, he would lose his temper if a manager told him to hurry up. After being fired from this job, Ted began to drink. His wife Marcy recognized he was on a downward spiral and tried hard to get him to go to the VA for help.
Ted refused- nothing was wrong, except everything was. Ted had never been a church going but his wife and children were regular attendees at Catholic services. It was his wife’s confessor who had heard of this job at the monastery and had started the process of helping Ted gain this job. It had been exactly what he needed. The monastery had the kind of peace and quiet Ted needed to be at his best. The monks were very kind to him and quickly treated him as part of their community. Working on the bus didn’t take up too much of Ted’s time. He also repaired the small equipment used by the monks and helped them cart away unneeded materials from their garden.
It was not Ted’s work on the car, but a monk accidentally dropping a garbage can that woke Larry up. Startled, he looked around him and for a moment couldn’t imagine where he was; then he remembered, he was at a monastery- full of monks! He jumped out of bed and opened the door, listening carefully for any signs of trouble but not hearing anything. Walking softly down the corridor, Larry began to hear some sounds he recognized.
Larry opened a side door that looked familiar and there he was in the courtyard where he had driven the bus last night; there were legs sticking out from under it. Curious, he put his head down under the car and saw Ted. “Sorry, I don’t mean to bother you, but I just got here last night (1-minute pause) I don’t really know what I should be doing with myself.” Ted smiled at him and said, “Well, you can help me with these repairs if you know anything about cars? (Larry nodded) This old bus had a lot of its bolts shaken hard during the accident. A lot needs to be cleaned, tightened, and oiled so it won’t fall off.”
Larry laughed and slid under the bus. Ted reached out his hand and said, “I’m Ted. Are you the man who drove the monks here last night?” “Yes,” Larry said cautiously, was he about to be blamed for the accident? “I just wanted to thank you for saving Michael yesterday, (Ted saw Larry’s brief look of confusion) Michael was the bus driver.” Larry blushed from embarrassment. He should have known the man’s name after all that time he had spent waiting at the hospital to hear how he was doing.
Larry had grown curious about Michael for some reason. Helping him to lie down. Driving his bus. Helping get him in the hospital. All these small actions had somehow made him feel connected to the man. Larry had been discouraged all his life from asking questions. His father didn’t like them and neither did the gang.
Can I ask how Michael is doing? Why do I need to know if he is alright?
“I know it’s not my business but… do you know how Michael is doing?” Larry asked. Ted started to laugh, “That guy is something else. I called the hospital to talk to him and all he could do was complain about the food.” “Is the food better here?” Larry asked, “I figured monks probably ate terrible stuff.” “Well, it depends on how well our garden is doing,” Ted said. “When the garden is growing well, our food is good,” Ted said smiling, “but, when the weather is bad, it can get a little grim here. The monks try to be completely self-sufficient. They have no money and the donations all go to keep the buildings in order.”
An hour later, considering the state of the front end, the bus looked in reasonable order. Ted said, “I will need someone to drive the bus down to a body shop to get the front end repaired. Do you think you could do it?” “I guess I could, if the monks don’t have some other plan for me,” Larry said. “Let me get you something to eat and then we can search for the Abbott and find out what the plan is.”
The plan for me. I wonder what that could be?
Larry was still suspicious about the monks but after all, no one had asked him to help repair the van- that had been his choice. The Abbott, who ever that was, couldn’t force him to do anything. Ted led Larry into the kitchen, “at dinner, you will eat with all the brothers but during the day, I often just make myself a small snack– they often don’t eat a mid-day meal.” Ted began taking bread, cheese and fruit out of the refrigerator. “Are you a monk,” Larry asked. Ted didn’t look or act like a monk to him but then, what did he know.
“No,” Ted said, “I just work here. But they treat me great, like I am a member of their community. I actually feel more comfortable here than at home with my wife and kids.”
It’s great that Ted has found a place where he can work without his post-traumatic stress symptoms standing in the way….but shouldn’t the VA be giving him the services he needs to recovery fully from his tour in Afganistan?
The VA does offer information and services for veterans with post-traumatic stress, other psychological disorders, and other problems in living. If you know military personnel who might benefit from receiving some of these services consider reading the following: