A long time ago, I was scarred forever by the late 60's, rendered almost totally incapable of holding patriotic feelings. It's not that I don't love America or get blitzed by shiver of something akin to fervor when I hear "This is My Country"--I can and do. But it's hard for me to flash it, patriotism that is, because I keep hearing the tail end of the old saw, "last refuge of a fool." Way back in the late 60s, a ton of red-blooded patriots were, by my calculation, total fools.
I'm not so sure of all that as I was back then--I'm older now--but the basic sentiment is of significant substance when I weigh the question.
But then, I don't come from flag-waving patriots either. Both my parents, Republican to the core, didn't do much of that, despite the fact that my father spent several years in the South Pacific during WWII. Likewise, my father-in-law, like so many of his generation, followed the European front all across Europe, repairing tanks and jeeps and sending them back up to the line. He too was a patriot, but didn't wave that many flags.
I'll always remember Memorial Days as a kid because my father loved holidays. He worked in the office of a construction equipment place, eight to five, and holidays were holidays. All of his children remember an regularly scheduled holiday dance, performed like some dopey chorus girl, in his underwear, to some kind of ditty he made up himself, something about the glorious freedom of another great holiday.
He didn't march with the American Legion at the annual doings in the graveyard. I don't know why. Maybe it was because his three or four years in the service of his country didn't include any hand-to-hand fighting, like the local guys he used to talk about once in a while. Maybe it was because, aboard a Coast Guard tug, the closest thing to war he ever got was pushing battleships around strange harbors.
It wasn't patriotism that prompted him to go to the local "doings" on what my grandma used to call "Decoration Day," it was Grandma herself. She had a way of letting her son-in-law and daughter know about paying attention on Memorial Day, and I remember how my own parents, back then, used to grumble about having to get up and get over there, for fear of incurring Grandma's wrath.
And that's in me, too, this un-patriot. So this morning, like other Memorial Day mornings, I'll likely be the only one of my family to follow the little tiny parade to the cemetery, then listen to a Jeremiad, and hear a militia of old guys shoot blanks into the open prairie sky.
Grandma lost a brother, Edgar, in the last three months of "the war to end all wars." She couldn't forget, and she wouldn't let her kids sleep through. I caught a bit of the guilt she inflicted on them, and that's why I'm going.
And it's time. Grandma would be proud. Wouldn't miss it for the world.