Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Redux

** I wrote this some years ago...I was starting to write something else today, and decided maybe I shouldn't...I should just remember....(For folks on Facebook...I can never tell when blog entries will post. This post was for Memorial day at "")**

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.