Many things had changed in the four years I was gone. Those who didn’t go to war went to college instead. I was the evening charge nurse in the children’s unit before I left but now all those positions were Registered Nurses. Organizing a volleyball game was now the work of Recreational Therapist, drawing pictures or playing games was the responsibility of Creative Therapist, spiritual discussions were the work of the Chaplains, talking with someone about what they would do when they got out was the work of Social Workers and GOD forbid you talk to someone about a personal problem because that was the sole responsibility of the Psychologist and Psychiatrist. As an LPN my basic responsibility was to write observation notes on patients while they watched TV. While most of the staff was content to sit in the nursing station and do just that, I wanted to get to know the people.
Many of the patients, particularly the younger ones were there because of drug-related problems. I could not tell any of the staff about my drug usage in the military because I could lose my job and my license if they knew but the patients could tell immediately that I was or at least had been where they were at and as a result, many would ask to talk with me confidentially. Drug usage among patients was common but few of the staff could identify the signs and so it went unnoticed. The Professionals would discuss the effects of LSD and other drugs on occasions during staff meetings but they were so naive it made me laugh to think that these people were actually getting paid $50 to $100 an hour by insurance companies, to be a therapist. The whole thing was a joke to me and I guess it became apparent because I started getting bad vibrations from my supervisor.
He was an older Registered Nurse, married with children, and a leader in the Christian Reformed Church. He was pleasant to me in the beginning and I had heard that he was Miss DeWeerd’s right-hand man and so I felt honored to be his friend. Our relationship didn’t last too long, however; there was tension whenever I worked the day shift and so I asked for permanent evenings to stay out of his way. It also kept me from having to deal with the Professional Psychiatric Staff who I was becoming increasingly more disappointed in because of their attempts to play GOD with the patient’s life. I suppose they saw me in the same way but then, I didn’t have the education that they did.
A few months into my readjustment things were not going too well. It was obvious that I would be asked to leave as soon as my one-year was up. I saw no future there anyway but had no idea what else I would do. The depression returned and I began having bad dreams. One night I saw my sister Donna hanging upside down in her car and behind her there was death. I feared she would be killed in an accident but there was nothing I could do to stop it. A week later she left the house to go for a short distance to see one of her friends but several minutes later came running back in looking terrible. She had lost control of her car on a gravel road and flipped it over. She was hanging upside down for several minutes trying to undo the seat belt. Fortunately, she was not killed or injured seriously as my dream had foretold but I found it interesting that I had known it was going to happen, the same as the dream that foretold my being wounded in Vietnam.
Jerry was about the only real friend I had at the time. He worked as an Aide on the same unit as I did and we spent much of our off-duty hours discussing life, music, and spirituality but it wasn’t the same as before. We were not a part of the national scene anymore, just two long-haired weird people among the professionals. I had stopped drugs and gone back to drinking. Well, there was one occasion where I took a hit off of a joint in a Moody Blues concert at Detroit. They were so bad that I thought it would help make them sound better, but it didn’t.
Work became my escape from reality. I spent more time on duty than off and volunteered to work on all of the Holidays. On one weekend I worked night duty and was scheduled to work again Sunday afternoon. My relief called and said she had overslept and would be there in about half an hour. It was slow so I told her to take her time. I went down the hall and punched her time card so that no one would know. She came in and I gave my report and then we got to talking about something when all of a sudden I jumped up and told her I had to go but would see her in the afternoon. I started for home but when I got to the expressway, for some unknown reason I continued on the country road, which added at least another 15 minutes to the 40 miles journey. The skies were cloudy and grey with a slight drizzle at times, quite typical for Michigan; one of the reasons I often thought about leaving it. I couldn’t find anything good on the radio and so drove in pensive silence toward home. The country road ended at a rather confusing intersection in Grandville where a few months earlier a good friend of mine had been involved in an accident and totaled his car. I thought about him and wondered how he was doing. A station wagon was stopped for the light on my left-hand side and as I pulled up I could see that the children were dressed for church. It had been a while since I had gone; church and religion just didn’t seem that important to me, after returning from Vietnam. I smiled at the children as they waved at me and wished I could return to the carefree life of a child. The light turned green and I sped out, squealing the tires on the damp pavement.
“Are you okay?” one of the several bystanders said as he rushed past my car.
“Who…me?” I asked, somewhat confused, as I looked out and saw the twisted metal that had been the front of my car, protruding in different directions like some modern art sculpture. I got out but felt a pain in my left side. I went over to where the crowd was standing and saw a badly damaged Volkswagen Bug in the ditch; a young girl of about twenty years was lying in the front seat. She was unconscious and there was blood dripping from her ear, an almost sure sign of brain hemorrhage. I could hear the sound of sirens and soon the whole place was engulfed in a sea of red flashing lights.
I was stunned as I sat in the police car and answered their questions. The driver of the other car admitted he must have fallen asleep and ran the red light so there was nothing more they needed from me. The girl died a few hours later in the hospital and even though I was not at fault legally, I was devastated because the death could not have occurred without me and therefore I was just as responsible as the other driver. What confused me more however was the realization that the dream I had had of my sister’s accident and the death I saw behind her, now made sense. I had seen both accidents in one dream.
How does one explain the foretelling of events? Where does it fit in with reality, as most of us know it? Is it possible to actually see the future or do we somehow manipulate life to fit the dream? Are we just passengers in a vehicle that was set on automatic pilot sometime before birth, heading for some predetermined destination, with no possibility of altering the course?