Most afternoons of the week, my Beloved leaves his office and drives the couple miles to the assisted living facility where his 92 year old mother resides. (I’ve posted previously about her here.) Some days, she’s able to converse a bit; most days, she tries to make sense but can’t. She sets her focus on things that appear wrong (a lost teacup someone must have stolen), but are often her perception (the teacup is in its place on an upper shelf in the cabinet).
The photo above shows my Beloved and his mom (Charlotte) during a Christmas dinner a couple years ago. When the picture was taken, she was still able to converse and interact with others. She has always been enthusiastic about holiday celebrations and decorations, but as her dementia has progressed, she seems uncertain about things that were once important to her.
In last week’s Veteran’s Day post, I wrote about my granddad’s service during World War I and noted the tragically short arc of Charles Frederick West’s life after being gassed on the battlefield. My brother-in-law reminded me of another Charles Frederick … Robson who also served in that war and who also suffered mustard gas poisoning during his service. Charles Frederick Robson was father to Charlotte (above) and grandfather to my Beloved (and his brothers). I would be terribly remiss in not recognizing the service of this veteran as well.
It’s difficult nailing down details for Charlotte’s father’s life and/or military service. What she could recall about him has been mercilessly buried in a hidden recess of her brain. I have a few photographs. From what I can determine, I’m amazed at the similarities between my grandfather and my Beloved’s grandfather (besides their given names)! But concentrating today on Charles Frederick Robson (known as Fred), he came from a large family. He had seven siblings and they appear to have been rooted in Kansas. (Fred’s father hailed from West Virginia but settled his family in Kansas where he was a highly-regarded physician.)
The records of Fred’s military service reflect a relatively short stint. He enlisted in late April 1918, and though the records are incomplete as to deployment, by mid-September of that year, he was “missing in action.” Eight days later, they determined he was “reported as having been admitted to B.H. #45.” I suppose the saving grace may have been the short period between the first report and the second – perhaps the military (with its slower communication channels in that day) didn’t have adequate time to notify his family about him being MIA? (One can hope.)
By January of 1919, Fred had returned to the United States. It’s not clear if this is when he was discharged. I was able to determine that B.H. #45 referred to a U.S. Army Base Hospital in Toul, France, a few miles from the front. BH #45 served as an evacuation center and triage unit when some 8,000 troops were brought there in September 1918, exactly when Fred was among those admitted.
Though Fred’s war injuries didn’t kill him, I’m told he suffered from them for the rest of his life. When Fred returned to his Kansas home, he appears to have returned to his job as a rural mail carrier. (The enlistment record shows this was his job when he enlisted.) He married a local (Mayetta KS) girl in 1921 and my mother-in-law was their eldest child coming along in October 1922. They had one other child, a son, born in 1926. Sadly, Fred’s son also became a casualty of war. Burt Amos Robson served in Korea where he was killed in the line of duty at the age of twenty-five.
As I mentioned in my post last week, I’m often reminded of the personal sacrifices so many families have made on behalf of our nation. Today, I honor the service of the Robson men and their women, including one left behind with a young daughter (who never got to meet her daddy). I know my mother-in-law spent much of her adult life with a “war-wound” unintentionally sustained when her brother died overseas. I honor her as well.