He would often be greeted by one or all five of the O’Toole kids waiting at the mailbox to get the mail. I was the oldest and often led the charge to retrieve the mail. Little did he know I would one day be asking for the hand of his daughter in marriage.
My mother nicknamed him “the half-baked mailman” and would on occasion bake cookies for him. I think he would have preferred a cold drink of water.
Linda loved her father and could affectionately be described in a kind and loving way as “daddy’s girl.”
When I returned home from Thailand and as Linda and I were readjusting to once again being a couple, Linda remarked to me: “You’ve changed!” At first, I did not know how to take this. She did not say whether she approved of the change one way or another.
I suppose I had changed to some degree. I had seen and experienced things in Thailand I would not have experienced in any other place.
The Thai people were very welcoming and gentle, but their cleanliness was of a much lower standard than I was accustomed.
One of my jobs in Thailand was to pay F-105 pilots, and I was able to make friends with several of them. Their job was to fly bombing missions over North Viet Nam.
Unfortunately, several of these pilots were killed in action.
I had never been around death before. My job included closing out the pay records of the deceased pilots and forwarding the records back to the states.
Our on-base living facilities were more like camping-out than accommodation.
Nevertheless, Linda was by my bedside the entire time.
Linda’s Shrine in Thailand
The local, civilian housing structures in Thailand were very simple. The Thais lived mostly in flimsy buildings consisting of a single room perched several feet up on stilts.
The Thai people ate some unusual food. Cows were sacred, so they did not eat them. Instead, they ate a combination of chickens, snakes, vegetables, and an assortment of bugs they would catch. To this day, I will not eat “Thai food.”
In the center of their town was a klong in which all their sewage flowed. The smell was horrendous.
For the first time in my life, I found myself hospitalized. I played softball in Thailand. My preferred position was outfield.
I was more than adequate and regularly patrolled centerfield. In one game, the batter hit a flyball to the outfield wall. I drifted back to the wall and put my arm up to brace for the encounter with the chain link fence. I caught the ball with my glove hand but managed to cut my other forearm on the fence. Within a few days, my arm swelled up to twice its normal size. As the arm swelled up, the blood circulation was pinched off. The pain became unbearable.
During the night, I became delirious and was wandering around the barracks banging into things. My friends corralled me and took me to the hospital. After several hours of prodding and testing, the doctors admitted me into the hospital. Their diagnosis was elephantiasis. I spent a week in the hospital. During the time I was in the hospital, I received thirty-two shots of a recently developed antibiotic. Fortunately, the treatment worked. Plan B would have been to send me to the Philippines for treatment.
Linda’s Shrine in Thailand
Every day at about 3:30 PM, the rain came and left about six inches of water on the ground. Within an hour or so, all the rain evaporated leaving extremely high humidity in its place.
Each month, ham radio operators allowed their radio equipment to be used allowing us to have a five-minute phone call home.
Barry Goldwater was one of those most generous ham operators.
Five minutes is an incredibly short time for a meaningful conversation. The most difficult aspect of the conversation was to remember to say “over” as we handed the conversation back and forth between Linda and me.
Yes, I am sure these experiences had an effect on me. Linda kept me anyway.
Linda was very much musically inclined. She was exposed through her father to music from an early age. Her father often performed in local musical stage productions in their hometown of Cheshire, Connecticut.
At some point, her family purchased a Hammond organ. Linda used the books provided with the organ and self-taught herself to play the organ. Her father was fond of the songs Edelweiss and Evergreen and Linda loved to play them on the organ for him.
Several years later, Linda asked me if she could have a recorder. I thought she meant a tape recorder. She then took me to a music store and showed me a real recorder. She did not need my permission but, of course, I said she could have one. As she had done with the organ, she self-taught herself to play the recorder.
For our first Christmas together, Linda bought a guitar for me. I suppose she hoped we could be a musical duet. We soon discovered I was tone deaf. Linda had to tune the guitar for me. We kept the guitar for the entire length of our marriage, but I never learned to play it. When our granddaughter, Emma, showed an interest in playing the guitar, I had the guitar restrung and tuned for her.
Several years later, I developed an interest in the drums. We had space in Yucaipa to have a set of drums. Not unexpectedly, Linda relegated me to the far end of the house. I learned to play a few basic songs, but nothing spectacular.
One day, as I was practicing, I did not realize Linda was in the doorway listening. I played the song quite well. When I was finished, I heard applause. Linda said she even knew the song I was playing. I think I was satisfied. I put down the drumsticks and ignored the drums until we moved to Queen Creek.
In Queen Creek, I purchased a new drum kit and began practicing once again. By then, Emma was big enough to sit behind the drums. She was far better at playing the drums than her grandpa.