We woke on Memorial Day thinking about the day ahead and what needed to be accomplished. My wife got out of bed while I started a list in my head with it still on the pillow. The boat needs painting, the grass needs mowing; the house has 101 projects in waiting so I make a decision. We’ll go to the parade, stall getting out of bed, wait for coffee being served and go back to sleep in the meantime. Perfect logic. And the lawn has a river running through it from the rain we’ve had and I might drown if I try mowing. ZZZZZZZZZZZzzzz.
The luxury of having a day off means time catch up on sleep as well as time playing with the kids on the living room floor before breakfast. Their favorite game is called: “Knock Down Daddy” where I sit on the floor and catch them running as fast as they can into my outstretched arms. They actually think they are knocking me over as I catch them. They love it. In the background freshly ground coffee brews in the kitchen and the smell of bacon fills the air. Barney the purple dinosaur is on TV adding to their sense of it being a special day adding to our mutual enjoyment. They laugh so hard in the sheer delight of me catching them that I laugh too. Like a little boy.
Our day’s events include a walk on the beach, playing catch and then chasing the dog when we miss (he runs away with the ball) and flying a kite. We go to a parade. Later we cut up watermelon and I think about washing the car. Its simple pleasures and we are grateful for being together today and for the prospect of a better tomorrow.
How hard the prospect of a better tomorrow must have been in 1943. Separated from family and at war, America’s tomorrow was uncertain. I think about my Uncle Elijah this day each year, having lived now twice as long as he did. I feel a little sad about the fact I’ve grown old and he never will. A bombardier shot down over Germany, I wish I knew him. His nieces and nephews have some of his features that my grandmother used to love pointing out to us when we thought she was just seeing things. She was right of course, I see them now myself.
At the parade I see senior citizens watching and soldiers walking, some still march in uniform while others ride in vintage convertibles and wave at people lining the streets. Some are World War II veterans and part of what’s agreed to be the greatest generation. They have witnessed a better tomorrow from their yesterdays of doubt. And at some point, if even for a fleeting moment, I am sure all veterans look at their kids, pat the dog or even mow their lawns and think – “This is why we had to go. This is why we had to fight. This is why I had to live.”
As a parent now myself, I can not imagine the dread of receiving a telegram about our son or daughter being killed, wounded or missing in action. I wonder if I would recover. I wonder if I could. The same questions are being asked today I’m sure, if only to themselves, by the relatives of those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today’s parade was brief, dignified and filled with red white and blue flags. A lone bugle played taps in the cemetery. The marching band was moving to watch. The brass horns, silver helmets and white chaps on black polished boots all marched in perfect unison. They played God Bless America and as the bass drum pounded past you could feel it beat deep in your chest. The kids laughed, people cheered and this one elderly woman standing all alone with a miniature flag in her hand smiled to herself. Like a little girl.
Curt Closcum can be reached at CurtSlocum4@aol.com.