Bernie Sattler is Missing in Action
I awoke the next day after the wedding and discovered that surprisingly most of my cousins and other relatives and friends from Chicago and elsewhere had already departed on their respective trips home. I’m very tired after a lengthy wedding weekend.
My parents are on the phone with someone and have a distressed tone in their voices. I hope no guests or relatives at the wedding were involved in a car accident. That would be horrible after such a great event in our small town of Monroe, Wisconsin. Concurrently, I receive a call from the Saint Clare Hospital requesting my services as quickly as reasonably possible (now). St. Clare Hospital has two C – Sections and a deluge of surgery, many active labors and assorted medical issues. I have three nursing uniforms and caps all waiting to be draped onto myself. Whatever happened to time off? Oh well, at least I’ve acquired a very good job and will always have an occupational skill with my BS/RN highly respected degree. And now with my head obstetric position (head OB nurse), I would be very difficult to remove or replace. I quickly dressed and placed some makeup and mascara upon myself. I’m complete and ready for work in seven minutes. This is a new world record for me or any young gal. Next, I placed my recently shined white nursing shoes upon my feet. However, I still felt like something was not quite right. Oh, I forgot my nursing cap. Therefore I grabbed one from the closet.
I don’t know what; but I’m feeling that something is wrong. I suddenly begin to cry thinking the awful thought of my military guy being wounded or (God forbid) killed. I’m not really ready for work emotionally. However, I must be ready because it is incredibly busy with our baby boom. I cannot fathom another loss within my life. I begin to say the rosary in my heart, however, anxiety disallowed me to remember the strict order of the prayers. I’m flustered and panic stricken. And, don’t even know why my emotions are being tested. Tears are welling in my eyes and I am fearful of another loss in my life.
My mother just hung up the phone. I just know that the telephone call was bad. Please God, allow the phone call to be something non-lethal. That’s all I’m asking to our Lord in heaven.
I slowly walk downstairs slowly and immediately see at the foot of the stairs both of my parents crying. I know what has happened. It is something really bad. It’s just a matter of who it is. I cannot take this! I then inquire who was injured or died. Mom states that the phone call was from Bernie Sattler’s mom. Bernie Sattler’s Mom has stated that the military has placed Bernie on MIA status while serving with the Marines in Asia. The Marines have no further details about Bernie. Bernie’s folks knew that Bernie and his Marine troop in South Korea were near the 38th Parallel. This is the area known for severe fighting I just stare at the wall and cry. I’m truly sorry for Bernie’s family and everyone that he touched.
I must now depart for the hospital. Dad says he’ll drive me as I hug both parents and cry like a running faucet. Now,I won’t sleep for a month. What a high from my sister’s recent wedding. Now, a true bummer with Bernie’s lost status and probable death overseas. I cannot brave much more of this war mongering in our world. There has to be much better solutions than an all out fight with no side really winning. I get in the car with Dad and everything just seems motionless. I need to regroup and become a fighter! That’s it; I’ll fight through all of my emotions and play strong! Few at the hospital were aware that I was writing considerably to Bernie Sattler. I’ll talk to his Mom later tonight. What will I say? She may know more than we know. Bernie’s Mom now realizes that he was probably delivered to God in heaven.
I arrive at the hospital and there are endless amounts of cars driving to the admissions and emergency departments. It’s obvious that today I will be very busy. Perhaps all this busyness will maintain my mind off Bernie Sattler That may work to a degree. I’ll just play cool and allow myself to freely work without emotions.
I enter the hospital and overhear immediately two families discussing Bernie Sattler’s missing in action status. This situation will not escape me. I will have to learn to deal and cope with this issue right now. As I walk up to the OB ward preparing myself for a Caesarean Section (surgical delivery), I cannot believe what an effect Bernie has upon myself in a short period of time. I know it will be very busy as the obstetric triage area is completely stuffed. I will just get lost in work. It’s tough when patients ask me how my day is going. I’ll just be professional and lie. The first Caesarean Section was quite easy and the Mom did very well. She lost minimal amounts of blood and her spinal block was perfect. She was very comfortable in the Recovery Room. The baby was quite happy and seemed normal. He was fed from the bottle within an hour after birth. I’m not certain what to instruct patients as there is considerable controversy in our nursing literature regarding breast feeding. I personally think it is a matter of choice and I’ll let it go at that.
The second Caesarean Section today was less than optimal. I could have taken a powder and left the arena. However, I did not and witnessed a near death of both the Mom and baby. The mother was a fairly large woman with zero prenatal care. She experienced a brief labor followed by a massive uterine bleeding (placental abruption) during birth. The baby was very blue following delivery. The Mom had a difficult time with anesthesia because she was difficult to intubate (breathing tube placement for surgery). Admittedly there was some dark blood from her blood vessels also, After the baby was extracted with forceps from the abdomen, the bleeding became worse. Our primitive blood bank was able to give her O negative blood type (universal donor). Though we administered blood, it was frightful and we couldn’t for a long period maintain her blood pressure. Unfortunately, she nearly bled to death until we administered some anti-shock maneuvers (tight fitting leg trousers), removed her uterus and gave her the entire blood bank through her small intravenous line. She lived after a few hours of seemingly torture within her body. I will credit the operation room staff immensely, Thankfully, now both the Mom and baby are in good health. She won’t have any further kids herself; but she’s alive for her new baby.
It was a long shift and I’ve begun to carefully get my head back to non medical related items I think of my sister and her wedding recently. I’m tired but quite happy for Mary and Rolly – the newlyweds. They are on their honeymoon to the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior (near Bayfield, Wisconsin). The weather appears awesome. I’m on my way to find some solace as I write more in my diary. I was picked up by Mom after work. She appears exhausted but happy after my day of work. She’s feeling a touch more empty nest syndrome. I recall that Mom had been a child orphan from the East Coast. As a child Mom was placed on a train by foster parents who transferred her parenting to another foster parent couple in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. After years of living with varying foster parents, she finally met my Dad. What a grand union! They produced three children who are all doing well. I couldn’t be happier for her after what I felt was probable years of childhood torment (no real parents). My parents are very good people, prominent in the Monroe community and would do anything for friends and neighbors in need. People my parents don’t even know but hear of their plight will be rescued either financially, emotionally or spiritually. I’ve learned an immense amount from Mom and Dad. I can only hope to be the “salt of the earth” parent as they have become. Mom looks directly at me with a twinkle of a tear in her eye.I know she knows that Mary could move anywhere within a couple years due to Rolly’s engineering position with GE (General Electric). We’ll all get through that episode of our life in due time.
I fall asleep and wonder where my life is leaving me. My sister, Mary, has left our nest. We have a Jesuit brother in the making with my brother, James. He has entered the Jesuit ministry and is helping countless families and people in need. What a mission with the vows of poverty he recently was administered. Thus, he’s the ultimate in a God-like person on earth. Jim would have been a great father and husband, but he was absorbed by a higher calling in life. He will do well wherever the Jesuit’s plan placement for him. I wish him the best. Now, with myself discussing moving to an apartment, my mother will potentially decompensate. I want her to be happy. Perhaps, I should consider waiting for some time my move from home. In fact, it may make sense to defer my move for a few months. This is not a major issue for me as I will need a car for myself very soon. I need to be visiting all my friends who are still in Milwaukee. Many have moved to Chicago, Illinois. I must see them to retain what great friendship we experienced in college. We all promised within our dorm to stay together no matter what happens to any of us. We experienced a very strong bond between us that hopefully will never be busted apart. I want my college buddies back again. Unfortunately, I don’t see many of my big city buddies driving to small town Monroe, Wisconsin for a weekend of fun. Thus, I’ll go to their large city where they reside. I drift away as I set my pen down quietly. Suddenly, I’m lucid as my Mom rushes into the room!
Mom said to arise quickly and come downstairs. Mom commented that she was just informed of a horrible accident involving a close friend of Mary and Rolly. She didn’t know what to do or who to call. Hopefully, Mary was to call from the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior (Great Lakes) tomorrow if there is phone service where they are staying. That may be a stretch, since rural phone services in Wisconsin are inconsistent. I, too. want to actually discover what is happening here. I’ll call the bridesmaids. I’ve retained their numbers downstairs. I brush through the telephone numbers quickly as I empty my purse shaking. I dread what a car accident can actually do to a life. Accidents may kill or (worse yet) almost kill someone. I don’t want that for my sister’s wedding. Everyone was to drive home safely to wherever they were going. I certainly hope alcohol had nothing to do with the traffic accident. I’m left wondering if there is anything we can do. I finally am able to contact Bethany, a nurse in Chicago who is engaged to be married. She was Mary’s roommate at Marquette University. I didn’t know her well, however, when I called her she was very upset on the phone. In essence, after nearly arriving home, one of Mary’s other bridesmaids from the Chicago area was injured severely on the I 94 tollway. It is Bess. She’s been married for 2 years, is pregnant and now at Cook County hospital on a mechanical ventilator trying to survive. It appears Bess has incurred a brain injury. Mom and Dad are listening to the phone as I talk to Bethany. This situation is not good. I left it with Bethany that we would be down to visit in Chicago and to send any information you can by phone or letter. We need Bess’s family’s numbers so as to contact and console them.
I carefully place the cord phone back into the bracket on the wall. I knew the neighbor kid was listening at the end. I plead for Dad to obtain the more expensive non party or private line. He succumbs and says he’ll review the costs tomorrow. Mom says that the private phone line is a certainty with all the happenings at our house. We ponder our next step and decide to give Bess’s family a call. Unfortunately, there is no answer. Our next step is to write a letter which will at least be there in a couple days and plan a trip. We then call the hospital and are able to discuss the case with the ICU nurse manager. The injured bridesmaid, Bess, is also a nurse. At present, the baby within Bess is Ok with good fetal heart tones and movement. Bess is beginning to wake up and fight the breathing machine. Her physicians are encouraged. She incurred a small brain bleed which the neurosurgeon elected not to remove. This would allow a slower recovery and not risk neurosurgery on the brain with its attendant swelling and surrounding clinical issues. The medical staff is being quite cautious with Bess. I instructed the head nurse that we were the cause of this accident due to Mary’s wedding. The head nurse explained that was a mighty stretch since Bess was involved in a head on collision by a drunk driver shortly before arriving home. Therefore, don’t carry the guilt complex with yourself because of a chance happening. Our family still feels a touch guilty for having Bess at the wedding pregnant and now having a difficult accident with herself and a baby in jeopardy.
The phone rings again. It is Mary and Rollie. Mom has explained everything regarding Bess to them. We know little, but it is helpful. Mary and Rollie have decided to come home a couple days earlier on their way to their home in Aurora, Illinois. They will stop in downtown Chicago, Illinois and visit Beth and her family. What a tragedy. Hopefully, Beth will pull out of this injury, deliver the baby and all will be a passing memory. I don’t know if the rest of our family should travel to downtown Chicago at present because we may be more in the way more than helpful. Mom and Dad say they only knew Bess from the wedding; and that her family couldn’t make the occasion. Thus, we’d really know none of her family from Chicago. However, it is still nice and respectful to attend to a family in needs when our family was indirectly the cause of the accident. Bess wouldn’t have been driving home on that Illinois freeway but for Mary’s wedding. It’s that simple. Though we did nothing wrong, we still had considerable to do with the chain of events that caused the accident. Had it not been for Mary’s wedding none of this accident would have occurred. I can’t fathom being pregnant and then being involved in an accident that nearly kills oneself. How awful! What can we do from Monroe, Wisconsin? We can offer support, but little else. Mom and Dad are somewhat leaning towards visiting Bess in the hospital soon. Dad, as bank president, can request time away from work for personal reasons per the company policy. I don’t know what my hospital policy is towards non-family emergencies. Tomorrow’s return to work I’ll soon discover a few things regarding my ability to take time-off from my employer.
I’m helping Mom and Mary with thank you notes and cards much of the day. We agreed to assist where we could best place our time. We had so many thoughtful gifts that everyone deserves a personal card. We elected to do this as a family. The return “Thank You” cards were specifically addressed to each party that attended the wedding – whether a gift was purchased or not. Mary and Rollie invited people they had known for years who had little means and essentially no money to spend on a wedding. Specifically, the janitor for years at the Goetz theater in downtown Monroe was included with his family. They have experienced extensive illness and grief within their family. Mary specifically instructed them to avoid purchasing another toaster since she’ll probably obtain eight of them through the wedding anyway. The duplicative gifts are being sent to identified needy families in Green County, Wisconsin. I have recorded many families through the hospital that have far greater needs than most people. They will be appreciative of the gifts they receive. Many young single Moms have little means. I’ve kept a register to allow myself to send or deliver these duplicative wedding gifts to them. Some of the Moms I’ve already told after their delivery that I may be sending over non-needed gifts from Mary’s wedding. Our family wants these gifts used; and there is no better way of helping than providing a needed gift to the poverty-stricken family in our very own county.
I’m on my way back to the hospital for an emergency. The nursing staff is overwhelmed. We have three emergency Caesarean Sections (surgical deliveries). All of our operating rooms will be full in our small rural, but growing, Green County, Wisconsin hospital. Thus, based on my experience with the ever increasing numbers of surgical deliveries, women have a far better chance of living post delivery.The offspring also have a much higher rate of living compared to a vaginal delivery when a Mom and baby are in distress. In 1900 10% of Moms and 10% of babies died during the delivery process for varying reasons. Modernly it is down to nearly 1% and growing less every year due to medical advances. Thankfully, most people are accepting of a surgical delivery after suffering for hours with labor pains and incomplete analgesia. Intravenous narcotics and sedatives only do so much to curtail the pain of labor. Most women just want to be placed asleep with a general anesthetic at this point with a struggling baby. We have very few stillbirths nowadays, but it still happens. Occasionally, a baby gets trapped and it is a very difficult forceps delivery with some issues dealing with nerve impairments following a rough ride through the birth canal. Our rural OB-GYN physicians as well as general practice docs really do practice great medicine. I’m impressed that many in private practice have the ability to cover so much call and maintain a family life. Our physicians spend considerable amounts of time in the hospital with laboring women because of the baby boom. Overall, compared to nursing school, the care women receive in our Monroe, Wisconsin hospital is second to none. It is equivalent or better than Marquette University Hospital, my training ground.
I arrive at the hospital and hurriedly I’m told by the staff to go to the OR (Operating Room) stat (immediately). I’m confronted with a drastic emergency of major blood loss and the nurse anesthetist is in deep trouble. The patient is intubated (breathing tube) and the baby is just being delivered with massive blood loss. Pediatrics has the newborn and are administering CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation). CPR is relatively new. Chest compressions and breathing for the baby are occurring and the baby itself is intubated (plastic tube in the trachea for breathing assistance). Mom is struggling to live with a blood pressure of 40/20. I’m encouraging our anesthesia personnel to provide fluids, O negative non cross matched blood and some epinephrine. Mom is still swallowing so there is some cerebral perfusion (oxygen and blood getting to the brain). She should be clinically improved with time if she would just quit bleeding. Somehow she won’t stop bleeding and we’re administering whole blood products to encourage her coagulation to advance. Finally after a few frightening moments surgery is finished and Mom’s blood pressure has arisen to 80/60. It’s not great, but it is improved. She’ll most likely live; and potentially be able to have more children. I’m not certain about her wanting more kids after enduring this experience.
The baby is really struggling; but finally makes a few gasps of air while struggling with a breathing tube in his windpipe. The blue color of the baby turns to a more reddish hue. This signifies a much better circulation. Life may occur for this little guy with hair. He was trapped in Mom’s pelvis and a forceps delivery couldn’t bring him down. The womb (uterus) was torn and other problems occurred. The baby’s ear was torn and will need a surgical repair (a small price to pay for life). Mom is alive, so we’re very good with all clinical matters considered. I’m tired from pumping blood into this gal. Hopefully she won’t have a reaction and suffer from a tremendous insult from foreign blood.
Our local blood drives here helped immensely. The blood typing and analysis we learned from the war has also helped pathology and the blood bank immensely avoid major problems. Life is precious. I’ll never not be reminded of how wonderful God’s gift (life) really is. I want to maintain my idealistic nursing practice and allow for everyone to live. Part of this belief is my Roman Catholic upbringing that life in any form is to be spared and allowed to thrive. Thankfully, we all need to thrive on our own beliefs and carry these thoughts into positive action. I dwell a bit on these facts as the head OB-GYN nurse. I saunter into the next OR with a limited crew and am asked to scrub immediately. The obstetrician is quite concerned because he cannot deliver this large infant. He has made a classical uterine incision (up and down) but the baby is stuck to the side wall. He is considering removing the baby with the uterus. I reach underneath the baby with my much smaller hands and tease the placenta away from the uterine wall. The rest of the baby’s cord is wrapped around his neck twice. I’m surprised this little girl can breathe, but she can. She cries as we tease the baby away from the uterus. The general practitioner takes the baby and immediately performs a frenectomy (under the tongue cut to free the tongue (common). A bottle of formula is placed in the baby’s mouth and she is on her way to life. Mom bleeds briskly and with pressure and massage the uterus comes together firm, quits bleeding and I’m on my way to room 3 for another surgical delivery.
Thankfully, this next delivery is an uncomplicated breech delivery that was unable to be delivered after several hours of stage 2 labor (dilated 10 centimeters but unable to push the baby out of the birth canal). This delivery went well and was totally uncomplicated. The little guy essentially was smiling coming out of Mom. Mom was successfully treated under a spinal block and was able to breastfeed immediately.
I quickly head back to the OB unit and I’m confronted by a distant friend. He was very nice with his greeting to me.. I told him I apologized for my appearance. I needed to change because I had three babies and three Mom’s blood and fluids all over myself. And I actually need a quick shower. I may go home if not needed further as I am technically still on vacation. Suddenly, Bernie Sattler’s family enters the waiting area and wants to talk to me also. This situation is not optimal. Basically, we are heading to a family consulting area for privacy. Generally, it is myself that talks to families about the delivery situation (Mom and baby). Now it appears I’m talking to a large group of adults who are to console me. What a day! Suddenly it hits me that Bernie Sattler may be dead! I cry. As I’m walking over to the privacy room, I notice the head obstetrician look at me with a dreary appearance. Something big is occurring, or has already occurred. I can handle negativity because I’ve been through this before while in nursing school. I want to know right now so I sit down with these people. The distant friend was a childhood friend of Bernie Sattler. He was elected to inform me that Bernie is still missing in action. In summary, the United States military in Korea was attacked. His unit was bombed and few escaped. Some Marines may have been captured. It is unclear; but most likely Bernie Sattler was killed in action. We don’t know; and since hostilities are at a fever pitch on that battlefront, the outcome of Bernie Sattler may not occur for some time. The family was here to console me; because their news was provided by the military this morning. It was not good. The reports from the commanders was that there were probably no prisoners taken, a few escaped (not Bernie Sattler) and the entire area was bombed heavily with essentially no remains. The area in Korea where Bernie Sattler’s battalion resided is presently in enemy hands.
I sit and listen, don’t say anything and finally place my head between my hands bent forward. I cry like a faucet as Bernie’s Mom consoles me. I’m in no shape to work further. Obviously, the head obstetrician wanted to finish these three Caesarean Sections and allow me to weather the storm of the bad news. I’m very tired and totally exhausted with this news. Mrs. Sattler and I collapse around each other. We don’t say one thing. Everyone else realizes that it does take a whopping seven years for a non-claimed death to be a certainty. It appears, however, that we’ll never see Bernie Sattler again. I’m speechless and am suffering. This is my second occurrence of a military boyfriend being killed in action. Here, it is worse because the situation is not totally known nor clear. Bernie could be a prisoner of war for years and we’d never know. He could be in what is now Communist China. That is doubtful. Then again, he’s strong and could be in a labor camp making a railway in North Korea or Mongolia. Bernie also could be in a factory making more bombs for war in North Korea or China. I may never know the answer. Bernie may be brainwashed and never return. Brainwashing happens to the most stoic due to survival needs. War is terrible.
The other nurses on the obstetric floor realize what has happened. They instruct me to go home. I’m walking (about a half hour walk). I’m still crying with a red face. I want my family now. I’m sure my parents have been told. We pay a very high price for the freedom of our country. We spend millions and protect many other less fortunate countries about the globe. I’m just not certain we take care of our own people. Are we extending a democratic freedom hand far too extensively? I’ll never know this answer because this is the course that President Truman has embarked upon. I will just be strong and live on. This will take some doing on my part to deal with this grief. Bernie and I actually never went on a date; however, we had strong feeling towards one another. Would we have married? I don’t know, but probably there would have been matrimony similar to my sister Mary and now brother in law, Rollie. My dad will be frustrated considerably. Mom will be crying. And my friends not at the hospital will all be over to our house tonight. I feel like just being alone. I need to think of positives within my life. I cannot dwell on negatives after today. I need to move on. Everyone else has had to deal with these wars and lost lives and limbs. Thus, I want to move to a bigger more positive image of myself. I cannot be the person who wants others grieving for me and both sides enjoying the sympathy. I resolve for myself to move on by the time I arrive back home. I want it all; and though it has been up and down, I have it all back home in Monroe, Wisconsin. I love it here with my family. I resolve to move to my own apartment in a couple months after the Bernie Sattler issue has resolved itself. In my mind, it already has resolved with the news that the military provided. I’m not a widow, will obtain no benefits and will console Bernie’s family as much as needed. Bernie Sattler’s family also needs to move on after the grief they’ve experienced.
I arrive home and not only my parents are there, but all my friends since I was a toddler are at the house. I don’t know what to say. Many of these now adults I’ve not seen since kindergarten. News spreads like a raging forest fire in a small town. Everyone knows everything about everyone. Unfortunately, there are no secrets in Monroe, Wisconsin. Everyone at our house is acting as if Bernie Sattler and I were engaged and had an actual ceremonial date set. We never performed one boy/girl date! The situation at home now is what it is. I’ll never get away from people feeling there was such a strong relationship between Bernie and myself. It is okay because the relationship simply is over no matter how one views Bernie’s probable death in the context of me or us as a formal couple. Therefore, I’ll under react to the situation and plead for no sympathy. Prayers, silent moments and remembrances of Bernie Sattler will be sought amongst the mini crowd assembled at our house. It seems that I’m a fallen de facto widow. I don’t know what to say or do in reality. Again, I’ll just react and hopefully this situation will resolve itself over the next hour. I still feel awful for Bernie and his family. However, my sorrow shouldn’t be shared with people I’ve not seen in nearly 15 years. After living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for years I’ve come to discover that life in a small town is immeasurably different in so many ways. It’s great to be back home, however, there is no privacy word in the Monroe, Wisconsin dictionary. I will just deal with my parents, family and friends. I wanted it all when I finished college. And now I’ve got it all and more right here in my hometown. We’re all one big union. My personal problems are the entire town’s problems now also.
I’ve fielded questions from how big was the wedding planned regarding number of invites. Where was the honeymoon? What if Bernie comes back 6 years from now as POW and wants me back though I’ve married and have 3 children? How many kids were you planning? The questions continue and I’m attempting never to be upset. I need to look way beyond the questions and review the sincerity of these Monroe, Wisconsin folks. All these questions are in good form and meaning. People actually care; and it doesn’t really matter what my relationship with Bernie was or could have potentially represented. Though I’m tired, I enjoyed the friendship. The questions regarding will you ever date again would have most folks strangling the asker. This is gobbledygook. I won’t snap my cap over some of these remarks. Maybe the dialogue is unprofessional or delving into privacy; but if I lived in Chicago (a possibility) and the same situation occurred, I would have zero people at my dwelling under these circumstances. I turned away jobs at Rush and Northwestern Hospitals. The University of Chicago tried to recruit myself as an instructor out of nursing school at the recommendation of my former nursing professor. She always felt I was an academic nurse in the making. She didn’t know I longed to return to a working position in Green County, Wisconsin. Thus, after all these questions are fielded I’m finally left at home with Mom and Dad.
As always, Mom has cooked up a storm of food for supper. We have baked vegetables, chicken and lasagna. Desert had fresh baked fudge brownies with ice cream (homemade). I’ll work it off tomorrow by playing tennis at Recreation Park. Our tennis courts there are wonderful. I love both the swimming and tennis combo that you can do locally by just riding a bike 10 minutes to the park. Mom and Dad laugh when I inform them I’m heading to the park tomorrow. They inform me that Labor Day is the very last day the outdoor pool is open. Mary, my dear now married sister, and I always made it a point to be the last to get out of the water at the end of the season. It has been a joke in our family for many years. We obtain the most from our family season pass. Tennis is good at the park until the first winter storm arrives (November). I want it all. And I’ve got it all back home in Green County, Wisconsin. I just keep saying this in my mind as a sort of tutoring technique. Mom and Dad were ultimately nice tonight and actually get that Bernie and me were not really a couple yet. It is so strange how all this happens; and besides there is a slim chance he’ll be found alive. That is doubtful; and his family is planning some type of remembrance for him. This is not a formal funeral. The evidence the military has provided was assuredly that Bernie was not just missing in action. Bernie’s battalion was crippled, and few survived. It was far too dangerous to return to the area where he was stationed in Korea. Most of the infantry and Marines that survived were substantially wounded. The survivors of this brutal attack informed the United States military that somehow they escaped and most others were shelled without a chance of finding remains. Bernie most probably died immediately.
I rest and head back to the family room after the fabulous supper. This is something I’ll miss when I move to my own apartment. I’m turning on the TV set and see not much of anything but news of how the war in Korea is beginning to rage. They discuss many Americans wounded or killed in action. These facts are difficult to accept because after two great world wars we have entered into another big war. The price we pay for freedom is extraordinarily high. Most of the United States public have little room for more wars. I certainly don’t after attending nursing school during the war. I experienced VE and VJ days with everyone else. Now it appears I need to experience a VK day for Korea. I’m longing to get into a great book and will check out a new read at the library tonight. The building closes at 9 PM. I’ll walk over to the library and renew my card and discover a new life through reading. Since college, I’ve read little due to having textbook after text book forced down my throat from nursing instructors. I’ve never read for just fun in many years.
I wander over the library and the librarian begins asking me personal questions about Bernie Sattler. It appears she knows more than I do regarding Bernie. I don’t interrupt and let her talk. She informs me that she was a former girlfriend of Bernie in high school. They almost married; but she was Protestant. Disparate religions upset both sets of parents. Thus, the wedding never happened. I felt truly sorrowful as to how a mixed marriage easily could be nixed. In time (next generation), that ideal of same church in every marriage will sliver away. Many mixed marriages occurred in Milwaukee when I left. Many Catholic gals in my nursing dorm married other religions. The common rule was that the children had to be raised Catholic (no matter what) for a Catholic to marry a non-Catholic. I don’t know how or where that rule evolved; but it is the rule. Most people are accepting; and the generally the non-Catholic person then becomes a Catholic by taking classes and obtaining the sacraments. It seems rather a killer-diller for the Catholic religion. It nearly seems that the Catholic religion is somehow empowered to deny other religions respect. That was what was taught through our Baltimore Catechism in Catholic theology. Other religions were essentially fake. My aunts in Brodhead, Wisconsin through instructing religious classes formally honored the Roman Catholic Church as the only church. I didn’t know any different until attending college at a Catholic University. There was no wiggle room for other religions apparently until now.
I just allowed the librarian to speak since she was seemingly a long term single woman in the making. I honestly didn’t know what to say after this day. And then I just mumbled something like, “I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you and Bernie Sattler.” She then gave me a tip that I’ll never forget. She said that she was deeply in love with Bernie Sattler. Nothing could ever get in their way except religion. Both parents disapproved of the relationship because of differing religions. Thus, the marriage was never to occur short of eloping or pregnancy. They both considered these options; but either was brave enough to actually do these things out of the reverence of the families. The librarian left me with one thought, however. If she said she could do it all again, she would have eloped and become pregnant. The love she had for Bernie Sattler was second to none. Love for her she felt will never occur again.
I confided in the librarian that we had not dated. We had just met, and this community was already planning a wedding. The librarian retorted that this was the Catholic Church working. She admitted that her Methodist Church was similar in promoting all Methodist weddings. Methodists also to a degree respected other religions. These crazy ideas over religions and stealing away happiness from couples were ridiculous according to her. I said that people should have been over to her house instead of ours because my feelings towards Bernie were never that powerful yet. She mentioned in time they would have been because he was such a wonderful human being in all ways. She and I all of a sudden seemed to get along. The librarian (Dorothy (Dot) Aspers) was already getting me the book, “I Capture the Castle,” by Dotie Smith. The author’s name and the librarian were similar; and this was part of the attraction and fondness for this book. She stated the book, I Capture the Castle, was recently published. You’ll find out what true love is by reading this book. Dot asked if we could meet some early evening at Baumgartner’s for a cheese sandwich and Huber beer. I replied that we easily could accomplish that endeavor. Dorothy then signed me up for the book club and gave me a free library card for a year. She then said I’ll have your must read books lined up for you when you return them.
When I initially met Dot I asked her to tell me her history and why she as a single gal is still living in Monroe, Wisconsin. She commented that she was an English major at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Her Mom died during childbirth with the family’s #9 baby. As the eldest offspring with many younger sisters and brothers it became imperative to help on the family farm. Dot then said, “Here I am. Instead of teaching English in Rhinelander (my personal goal), I’ve succumbed to the life of a single gal librarian in my hometown.”. She stated it gets old going to football and basketball games alone and watching your childhood friends bring their little ones everywhere (including the library). Dot Asper stated she was “asked out” a number of times for dates. However, she has not quite formally released Bernie Sattler in her mind. It is a small world, and I’m in the middle of a seeming love triangle over a highly probable dead Marine. It’s kind of a nightmare, but Dorothy (Dot) seems like a gal I could commiserate with when I’m down. She is terribly intelligent and knows books quite well. I feel she is someone I can confide in when I need to talk. We seem to understand one another. The Bernie Sattler deal is essentially nothing between us. Bernie is most probably dead (99.9%). I cannot dwell on this. Serendipitously, Dot Amber seems as if she could have been a good friend in my Marquette University dormitory. She is someone I could have easily together snuck out the back door at night to have some real fun on the town.
I take my free book and free library card and walk home. It is a late summer evening. Labor Day is nearly upon us. Mary and Rollie have arrived in Chicago at Cook County Hospital. They have phoned and say that Bess (bridesmaid) is still in a coma. Bethany (another bridesmaid) is with my sister and brother in law. She is distraught at the lack of progress of Bess. Bess is still pregnant and the baby is doing well. The medical staff is discussing performing a Caesarean Section early on Bess so the baby lives. What a nightmare!. My parents will travel to Chicago, Illinois this weekend to see Bess. There is little they can do, but want to offer support for Bess’s family. A lawsuit will not bring Bess back. Besides, the drunk driver that ran head-on into Bess was killed.
Maybe, somehow just maybe, Bess will recover. Her EEG (brain wave study) was normal. She is being treated by the very best neurosurgeon and neurologist in Chicago, Illinois. By all accounts, Bess’s outlook is good, but she still is in a coma. I wonder if there is some electrolyte, brain bleed or brain shear of her cells within her skull that will take time to normalize. I honestly hope that clinically all is well for her baby, her family and herself. Many things have happened recently. I’m seemingly in the middle of all the action. I’m not wanting to be within the midst of all this turmoil. I’ve met Dot Asper; and I’ve got considerable reading to do. I sit down and want quiet. Mom comes into our little study and asks what book I have checked out of the library. I inform her that it’s the Castle book – a top New York Times best seller. Mom says without reading the book that it was a great choice because the reviews are tremendous. I slump back into Dad’s recliner and begin reading about this 17 year old who has also written a diary. She reminds me of myself. It should be a great read! I’m lost in the book forever. I need this!