Gitmo Five

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

Describing my mother in this chapter, she was one of a kind.

Charley Five

Five Foot Two with Eyes of Blue


I never could understand how someone so small in size could pack such a wallop. I rather take a beating from Dad than get a switching by Mom. She could dish it out. I always wondered how she knew it was me.


“Don’t lie to me Boy. I’ll knock your teeth out.” I never doubted her for a minute.


Clara Christine, she was Christine or Chris to her friends and family. Like designer jeans, her name fit her perfectly. If I overheard someone mention the name Christine, I knew they were talking about my Mom.


She ruled the roost in our family. Not by physical force but by mental toughness and a calm demeanor. To her, patience was a virtue. If you thought you got one over on her, you were wrong. Not that she was above picking up whatever was handy to beat the daylights out of you because she would do that and there were plenty of times when she did, but what pleasured her the most was to turn the tables around to get to one over on you. While we played checkers, Mama played chess.


We were living in Key West when Dad made Chief in ’55. We lived off base in the Poinciana Trailer Park. I found out later that the trailer park was built on land that had once been a fuel depot for the Navy. I don’t know if that had anything to do with my brother Duane’s premature birth or not. Mom was only five and a half months pregnant when he was born. He was tiny. So small that Dad cut the toe out of his khaki sock to make him a cap.


Enlisted dependents didn’t get the best of medical care back in the fifties. She was sick most of the time while carrying Duane. The corpsmen that looked at her made a misdiagnosis. They would give her headache powders and send her home after she waited hours to see them. She never was the same physically again. She never regained her full strength.


Duane was born with cerebral palsy. We were never given a cause. Clouded by the polio scare, research and data in those days were centered around finding a vaccine for polio. Although she had little faith in the Navy corpsmen, Mom had plenty of trust and admiration for the Navy doctors.


The three years we spent in Guantanamo, Duane spent most of the time convalescing from one operation after the other. He endured three operations on each leg, three times. The surgeons would cut thin muscle tissue out of his thighs to reinforce his knees and ankles. They would let Duane heal for six to eight months, then repeat the procedure in the hopes that the new muscle tissue would grow and strengthen his joints.


At first, after each operation Duane spent the next few months in full length cast. After that he wore a set of cumbersome full-length braces. The last month or two he had to wear the short braces. High top shoes with metal bars that strapped six inches above the ankle.  He called them leg irons.


You would think that Duane would have been an invalid with all that he had to endure. He didn’t let it stop him, that wasn’t his way. After the first few months he would cut the cast off of his legs or he would get in a tub full of water and peel them off. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. That’s when Mom brought the braces out of the closet.


Gitmo was such a small, itty bitty place that Mom let us roam around like dogs off the leash. She made us take Duane wherever we went. It was either that or we weren’t allowed to go. Mom’s rules were that Duane was treated the same way as anybody else. When he fell he had to get up on his own. If we were tough on him. It made him tougher. The only person that could baby Duane was Mom.


She knew what she was doing all right. If Mom ever wanted to find out the truth behind one of our escapades all she had to do was get Duane to lay down with her for a nap. She would wrap both of her arms around him and say, “C’mon son, tell Mama all about it.”

Submitted: April 16, 2021

© Copyright 2022 mike frailey. All rights reserved.

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