Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorials, Memories, and More

I had a rather odd - at least considering the source - email last weekend from my immediate boss and longtime co-worker which read,"Please, write something about your 'Memorial day memories''s for a radio station web project."

That was it.

It was a little unsettling.

I mean I write all the time...writing wasn't the issue. The topic didn't scare me...even though it sounded like an assignment you'd give some high school English class. I'll also confess my first thought was, "You mean Sean Elliot's 1999 Western Conference finals shot? The 'Memorial day Miracle?"

Honestly, I remember that Memorial day pretty vividly, but I assumed despite the cryptic nature of the email that 'the web project' was meant to pay homage to the men and women who have and continue to serve and defend our freedoms.

I'm asked to write or help other people write all sorts of things in other aspects of my life, but what I write at work - at least usually - is determined not by vagaries but by facts. I mean, the parameters at work are usually more definitive.

"Memories" are subject to any number of variables, not the least of which is my ability to recall them.

I wasn't intimidated by the idea, but it was as my friend Gordon once wrote like my "world's were colliding."

I got over it, knowing if someone wanted me to have more precise direction I would have received it to begin with so this 'project' was likely a rather last minute thing, and whatever I submitted was not going to be judged too harshly or judged by anything more than word count.

In any case, I found some old photos which provoked good memories, and when I had some time at work I treated the assignment like I do this blog...I wrote whatever came to mind.

A portion of it is included below and the basic theme is the same I suppose but I reworked it into a form I preferred.

I feel compelled to write something about Memorial day, but I also would be remiss if I didn't write about something else that's very important...and I don't think I can tie them together in any plausible segue, so I'm only going to mention that following the little essay is some other radio we call that a "tease."

"The world should know of those who give so much for liberty.
The dearest thing in all the world to a father and mother---their children."- Congressional Record 1917

My father was a member of what we now refer to as "The Greatest Generation" - a veteran of World War II - and like many such men, he never spoke of it, at least not to his sons. He wasn't a war hero, war wasn't something to tell "stories" about and I suppose he believed there were more important things to discuss with his sons because every day was precious.

"Combat" and "Hogan's Heroes" were on TV - it wasn't until many years later that war became a reality to me. Before then, it was a "game," albeit as the youngest of three boys I was rarely the victor in our make believe skirmishes.

Memorial Day Memories from those days were of parading and pretending and the only thing I have in common with them now is the same haircut. The pretending came to a sudden end for me in 1972 when I buried my father, and weeks later, my mother at a military cemetery and gazed upon what seemed to be a never ending sea of reality and sorrow.

Those days were "Memorial Day Memories" to me.

Heroes beneath dirt. The chapters of their lives condensed perhaps in long forgotten newspaper clippings or perhaps kept alive only by a few faint, but frail and failing memories. Some were already lost forever. The neatly organized non-ornate tombstones seemed to me to be a sad and somewhat pathetic attempt to somehow force uniformity on what was obviously an uncontrollable, uncomfortable and unavoidable truth...death.

Don't misinterpret me, there was an air of honor, of respect..but also a healthy dose of fear for a boy my age whose entire world had become uncertain. Especially since the rest of the world which I hadn't paid much attention to up to this point suddenly didn't appear to present much solid footing for wherever the heck I was headed next.

Remember it was 1972... there were an increasing number of bright white undeviating markers honoring men of service, but no matter how neatly arranged, uniformity failed to ease the feelings of loss...and of fear.

A lot of time has passed since then. I no longer fear death because I have come to understand that I will not always understand God's plan, but I have faith in it nonetheless.

Over the years, I have been to many military cemeteries to bury brave men and women, or to observe their burials.

Every one of those days is a "Memorial Day Memory" to me.

Our most recent next door neighbors are a family with three sons. I see the boys playing together all the time...they laugh, and "shoot hoops" and skateboard...but they don't "play war." I suspect not many kids do these days.
I'm sure they still enjoy parades and cookouts and family on Memorial day, but I also suspect they understand more about Memorial Day than I did at their age.
That's a hard thing.

However I'm not positive it's a "bad" thing.

I think we need more "Memorial Day Memories"...I think we should have them every day.


The other news? Yes, I made you read all of that to get to should be thanking me, reading is good for your brain...mental aerobics as my father-in-law is known to say...

Oh the news! Sorry, forgot my train of thought.

As the prior post implied our youngest daughter Lisa graduated from Baylor last week - one day I'll see the humor in how that day went for me and likely write about it, but suffice it to say I'm still walking with the use of a cane and apparently will be for the foreseeable future - I can't wait to see the DVD of the actual graduation ceremony.

No, that's not the news, that's me whining.

I also made passing mention in that post that Lisa is "in love."

She's in love with a good man, Joel, who is apparently also a decisive man.

Lisa graduated. She and Joel started the frenzied process of rearranging their lives, preparing for grad school for Joel...Lisa seeking a position worthy of her degree and talent...and somewhere in that process Joel managed to do one other thing...

He asked Lisa to allow him to love her and make memories with her for the rest of their lives.

She told me about it over the phone and when I wailed and moaned about how quickly she had become a young woman of 23, she was ready. Without missing a beat she said, "Michael, when Mom was 23 she already had three children! Number three was me!"

I think it was then that I let her go, she had other folks to call...and I had to find my cane.

I'm so very happy for her and Joel, and so delighted in their joy...but I must admit, there are some memories for which I will never be adequately prepared.

Dancing at Lisa's wedding however is one I think I'll start preparing for in advance.

Obviously some are bigger than others, but I think memorable moments come every day like so many of God's blessings...some we miss, too many we take for granted.

I think I need to remember that more often.

"Do you have any idea how powerful God is? Have you ever heard of a teacher like him? Has anyone ever had to tell him what to do, or correct him, saying, 'You did that all wrong!'? Remember, then, to praise his workmanship, which is so often celebrated in song. Everybody sees it; nobody is too far away to see it."
- Job 36:22 (MSG)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Daze Of Joy And Madness

It's been a long week...a long month or perhaps year, although this week the frenzy seems to have swallowed me. Of course the Spurs games starting so late (I had to cheer for the Lakers last night only because that means Monday's Spurs game will start at a decent hour) have wreaked havoc upon what little bit of a schedule I've tried to maintain. I'm not alone, most San Antonio residents are wobbling around somewhat like zombies who've taken too many rides on a roller coaster. I suppose I blend in.

There have been far more important things to deal with than the Spurs...yes, sometimes I have perspective.

Amy's Dad, Bernie, suffered what we now believe was very mild stroke. I swear Bernie will outlive me, he's far more energetic, his mind is sharper and were I to actually wager him on the prospects he'd likely stay "above room temperature" simply to prove a point. There's a slight (ahem) competitive streak which a number (read that all) of his descendants have inherited. Bernie's doing better, I'll see him in a month or so when he will bear witness to weddings of two of his of whom is my stepson.

Still the initial word sparked a great deal of worry and prayer...and some reflection.

This morning, Amy and I will drive up the road to Waco to see our youngest child, my step-daughter Lisa, graduate from Baylor. She's well on her way to becoming an Assistant Band Director, possibly for the high school from which she seemed to graduate only yesterday.

She's in love too.

Young, in love, a grown woman with a new world before her...and yet perhaps not often enough, I still see her as the little girl who giggled so much it made me giggle with delight.

Sadly, 90 or so miles north of Waco and only a few hours before Lisa walks the stage, my cousin, Michelle, will be laid to rest. I never really knew Michelle. She was a beauty and although I am only days older and we lived within miles of each other when I was a teen, her world was a different place than the one I inhabited. There's no judgment there, I didn't want to be part of the Dallas social scene, and it's a good bet Michelle didn't want to even be seen with the long-haired dreg I was at the time.

Still I remember a gorgeous young girl whose beauty obviously stayed with her.

She died at 50, missing out on something her sister tells me she was so looking forward to...seeing her 17 year old daughter graduate early from high school...a child I've never met.

So it was providential I suppose yesterday when Amy retrieved the mail and handed me the graduation announcement for my middle brother's daughter, Chelsea.

Yes, I'm struck by the resemblance too. I'm more struck by the realization that I don't know Chelsea as well as I should.

I plan to change that, and maybe get to know my cousin Michelle's daughter if I get the chance as well.

Life changes...sometimes too fast...but it's never too late to change with it.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever He does prospers.
Psalm 1:3

Thursday, May 01, 2008