Chapter 10 – Go Ask Alice

“You are going to tell me what happened after you got back to the states, over the past 17 years. Did you find your people when you got home? You talked about your people years ago. You said you’d catch up when you got home.”

“No. They were scattered all over the Northwest and most had gone to college and had no time for high school friends. I never did catch up. I called some girls I had dated but they weren’t interested. So really, I just had to start over from scratch. Plus the social rules were different. And a lot changed in the time I was gone. My brother became devout about that time and became a missionary and I never saw him much after that. And my father who was very conservative didn’t like my interpretations of the war and current events and pretty much cut me off.

“Plus, when I got back to Ft. Monmouth it was social disaster. Turned out to be a continuation of a process of rejection I hadn’t even recognized. Basically, it was over the morality of the war and began even before I left for Saigon. Then the events of 1970 made it so much worse. So there was a moral rift……..”

“Yes, I’m well aware of that,” Agnes interrupted.

“Well, it began way before that. And I was caught up in it within my family.”

“But you told me your father was a decorated officer. What was his moral problem?”

“It wasn’t him. He hadn’t changed. I had.

“But long before I ever went to argue with him, it was my cousins. They were the intellectuals in my family. And I had really liked them when we were kids but by ’68 it was all different.

“You know Arlo Guthrie and his talking rendition of Alice’s Restaurant?”

“I saw a rerun of the movie when I lived in Berkeley but the pop song came and went before I got to the states.”

“Well, my Aunt and Uncle and cousins lived just north of Boston, in the same part of the country as the movie and shared most of the same values as the characters in the movie. They marched against the war and nuclear plants and stuff like that. Well, one summer weekend, along with my aunt and uncle and family, we visited my eldest cousin who’d married a New England Yankee. He was a Yalie and was teaching high school physics. He showed us around the old farm buildings that had been in the family since the seventeenth century. No nails. Only pegs. But the visit was a bit strained and the subject of the war eventually came up. That revealed a deep rift in the family I hadn’t known about. My cousin and her husband, Max, were adamantly against the war and were none to pleased at hosting their father, a recently retired Air Force Colonel and his active duty nephew, me. My younger cousins were less vocal but sympathetic to their sister’s position. They stayed the weekend, while my aunt, uncle and I returned to their home. My uncle, always hale-fellow-well-met chatted me up about his military experiences that were alternately humorous and terrifying.”

“Is he the one you told me about who was in Air Force Intelligence? Borgman, was it?”

“Yes. Did I tell you his name was Borgman? Anyway next I have to admit that before I met you I had a girl friend in New York City that I saw several times a month.”

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