I visited the Veterans Administration Hospital in Long Beach today. I have visited a few times over the last two years. VA hospitals are not happy places. I do not like visiting them. But some obligations cannot be avoided, like today's trip - a post op visit with my stepfather. We are not close. The visits are always awkward.
While trying to find a parking place, I was struck by how far visitor parking was from the hospital. My guess is that it is at least 600 to 800 feet from where I parked to the hospital's front door. As I walked past the old vets limping along toward the entrance, I realized that the parking would not seem as far away if the front half of it were not reserved for handicapped drivers. I am not exaggerating - the front half of the parking lot is off limits to able drivers. Each spot was taken.
I figured the enormous handicapped parking lot was for the older vets, many of whom were ambling around outside. I was wrong. Once inside, I passed dozens of amputees, most were in their early 20s. I was witnessing the aftermath of war. Specifically, the aftermath of our folly in Iraq. I spoke with an amputee in the elevator. I asked how he had lost his leg. He replied "In a fucking war".
I was braced for sad news today. I found myself melancholy before I even visited my stepfather. My sadness grew as I left - what a waste.