Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day


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.

2 comments:

k said...

Living where you do, I can relate. Growing up in the 'burg' is the same. However, now that I live in a military town I'm more intuned to the immense sacrifice being made by our military and their families. We've had 254 Memorial days other than the prescribed one we celebrate since these 2 wars have begun. Whatever ones attitide toward these wars, those who serve in them-and especailly those who have given their lives-deserve our honor and respect. THe old Crosby. Stills annd Nash song always comes to my mind. "find the cost of freedom, buried in the grd."

Anonymous said...

Soldiers who place themself in the position of paying the supreme/ultimate sacrifice deserve our deepest respect and honor. k you got it right.

I often wondered, as a kid, why L. V. owner of Lewis's Shoe Store in the 'burg' sat so crooked on the stool when he test-fitted my new shoes. As an adult I found out why... he got shot in the Battle of the Bulge. I had a real hero putting shoes on my feet. I thank God for Lewis.

A Memorial Day reflection. No dry eyes for me...

When I attend Memorial Day parades I remember walking down the barracks aisle listening to young guys cry -out as they opened their envelopes with orders for Fort Polk-an infantry assignment.

A Memorial Day reflection. No dry eyes for me...

This Vietnam Era Vet thanks God for all who served and for the day set aside to honor all Veterans. Memorial Day.