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Mary To The Contrary

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Veteran

Gordon Getty and My Red Skirt

To this very day I have no idea who the first Getty was, how many male Gettys there are in the world, how much money they have, etc… and I really don’t care.  But once, a Getty wanted to meet me, all because of a red linen skirt with pretty musical notes.

Several summers ago, my husband and I lived in Newport, Rhode Island, the site of the annual Newport Music Festival.  This particular festival was, at that time, held in several of the Newport mansions every summer, which attracted famous persons who enjoyed classical music.

Most of these visiting celebrities stayed for the duration of the festival at the homes of the more illustrious Newporters who occupied the many large mansions that dotted the Newport landscape.

We happened to have a friend, Carolyn Skelly, the mysteriously disfigured, often-robbed Skelly oil heiress who was wildly social and owned one of the smaller mansions.  

Skelly
One of very few images of Carolyn Skelly that you can find on the Internet. This one is of her and Mr. McMahon.

Carolyn invited Don and me to a dinner following a night of classical music where Carolyn was entertaining many of her society friends, one who was a man called Gordon Getty.  

Since we were not rich or famous (except my husband was more talented than anybody) to me, meeting a Getty sounded so exciting.  The problem was, I had nothing to wear! Plus, it was a last minute invitation, which was normal for summertime dinners back then.

After searching the few fashion stores in Newport, I hightailed it to Boston and to my favorite department store, Saks.

It was an exhaustive search, and I could not find a thing. On my way out I spotted some summer long skirts in the lingerie dept.  One was a ruby red linen, with white music notes all over it-beautiful..Next to the skirts were these filmy white peasant blouses-a perfect combination for a summer evening.

70_s_red_linen_alfred_shaheen_maxi_full_length_flower_skirt_8_1024x1024
My red skirt with musical notes looked almost exactly like this, except for the fact that it had musical notes on it.

Don and I joined the musical lovers at Carolyn’s house.  We are talking immense-including a gorgeous ballroom, complete with a vintage Wurlitzer jukebox and a diaz where all the important people sat.

908a41fc94bc0b869593d207c5ce1036--juke-box-deco-design

Our seats were right after the receiving line, far, far away from the VIPs.

When we were introduced to Carolyn’s guest, Mr. Getty, the gentleman made it a point to comment favorably on my ensemble, especially my skirt.  

We went to our seats in the nosebleed section.  After dinner, the jukebox was charged up, and everybody started to dance.  I noticed how intently Mr. Getty kept staring at our table. Slowly, Carolyn’s special friend inched his way toward us, moving slowly upward to the top of the ballroom.  He ended up at our table and sat across from us in one of the empty seats vacated by dancers. Then, little by little he started walking around the table toward me, until he was there, on my left asking me to dance.

My husband did not dance.  He liked to play jazz piano-he did not dance.  However, for the first time and almost last time, Don stood up on my right and announced that we would be dancing. Getty leaning over my left, Don pulling me up on the right, and I was shocked. My husband gave Getty such an impressive dismissal that Getty slunk back to his diaz seat, and I never saw him again.    

 

Gordon Getty

TEARS

During the Vietnam War, I was a 1st lieutenant nurse stationed at Clark AFB hospital in the Philippines. During my tour, more than 90 percent of Vietnam casualties were routed through Clark.  They were treated immediately or they were rerouted to other military establishments throughout the Continental United States to continue their care.

My first year at Clark was spent in charge of two operating rooms.  They were the most bloody of all the rooms; all of the surgeries done in these rooms were performed on multiple casualties on individual men.  Most days I was so glad to end my 12-hour shift,(my feet, back, hair, knuckles, brain hurt) except that this was the week before Christmas and all hands were on deck.

Christmas carols were blaring in the halls throughout the hospital. After my shift, I walked down to the huge recovery room to see if the staff needed extra help. At first, the recovery room looked empty.  It WAS  empty, except for one stretcher in a corner, with the sun still streaming on the face of the patient.   I walked over to the Marine Captain, (his chart was at the foot of the bed.)  All the recovery staff were at the nurses desk, singing White Christmas. Apparently, all The other patients were sent to the wards.

The staff had checked on my Captain within the last few minutes.  At first I thought they were taking the rest of their time on duty to relax from a very busy day.  As they had only one patient left, I wondered why they were all still there. They were softly singing White Christmas, all with tears in their eyes.  I thought they were homesick especially since it was a holiday… I went back to the only patient they had left.

clarkafb

Clark Air Force Base

The Captain was lying quietly, his young and handsome face bathed in the sunlight.  As I approached the head of his bed, I saw the tears.  The sheets were wet with tears. Apparently  the Captain had been weeping for quite a while. I read his chart.  It was easy to see why this veteran marine was crying. I too, cried unabashedly.

It’s not as though this was the first patient I wept over, and he would certainly not be the last.  War, disease, accidents- many reasons to cry  for any nurse during his or her career, and especially at a military hospital in the middle of a war. However, the Captain’s situation was heartbreaking.

My Captain, a Father of 2 little boys, had spent 4 years in the midst of the war in Vietnam. He spent those years in the middle of the severest fighting. He was being decorated for his bravery just prior to stepping onto the plane to take him home forever.

A stray bullet from a nearby firing range on base made the Captain a quadriplegic; he would be forever paralyzed from his neck down.                                                    

The Captain never said a word while I stayed by his side until he was transferred to the ward.  

And the holiday music played on…

 

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