I don’t remember a lot of things.
What time it is.
What side of the car my gas tank is on.
Did I turn off the faucet in the powder room?
How much milk is left in the half gallon nesting in the door of the fridge, or is that the world’s largest zucchini or a half pound of long lost deli Swiss cheese?
But I can conjure up a few memories from deep within my once limber childhood brain, even if the details seem a bit convoluted like black ice on some kind of cosmic lake. A vision that seems picture perfect clear at first but is a mere slick surface on layers and layers built upon tough times and uncontrollable events.
In particular, the time my brother and I spent at my grandparents’ house in Athens, GA during the summers. I cannot remember every detail. I was young and I had things to do, after all. There were grasshoppers to catch, balls to be thrown and/or kicked, ticks to be removed with a Bic lighter and a pointed tip pair of eyebrow tweezers as old as Woodward, Bernstein and all the president’s men.
There was the next-door neighbor’s goat to gawk at while it ate a car length of chain link fence to get to a single crabapple and a rusted-out watering can made of tin. There were pudding cups to slurp and General Hospitals to be watched, and Scrabble to be tiled and cards to be dealt.
That’s it. No tablets, pods, pads, phones or apps. The only Apple (product) was the crabapple kind we’d bite into, shake on salt and lick. Then tease the goat with.
So, yes, we were bored and evidently just shuffled thru drawers and stuff.
Everything thing we would find seemed larger than life. For me, grandma’s costume jewelry dresser drawer. It was like a life rendition of a Paul Cezanne. Faux grape clustered pearl earrings spilled from small demitasse cups and ropes of Lucite beads holding powder compacts and gold tubes of lipstick tinted in rose and lilac as far as the eye could see.
Our grandpa’s garage was different. For one, it was colorless; but tidy and neat. He was retired from decades of service in the Army, after all. Everything seemed to have a place. And again, larger than life. He had a sheathed Samurai sword, or Gunto, as they were called during the period that included World War II leaning against a wall. Every Japanese soldier was required to carry one. No one was really sure how he came to bring it home, much like the bullet shot Kamikaze pilot’s helmet that was stored there as well. With the surrender of Japan came the surrender of swords and who really knows why someone who was deployed to the South Pacific as an airplane mechanic after the bombing of Pearl Harbor held onto such things. He was barely 20, a rough and tumble naive farm kid from Georgia with a new bride, after all. The world was once again at war; what did the future hold? Hope?
But remembering was hard for my grandfather, or maybe he remembered too much and tried his best not to. He was never really the same. My father tells us the story of when my grandfather disappeared for days that stretched like months when my dad was only 15. No one, not even his own mother, knew where he had gone. He just left. Poof. Into the night only to show up later never to discuss where he had been. Until much later in his life, when he revealed he was strapped into an airplane loaded with bombs at the Florida’s most southern tip waiting, again, to go to war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He no doubt sat on the tarmac wondering if he would ever see his family again.
My own father joined the Army, just like his dad. Only, he was in medical school and later on surgical rotations and served at Beaumont, a VA hospital in El Paso, Texas performing reconstructive work on soldiers, mainly amputees who came back from Vietnam. He emphatically NEVER holds himself to the men and women who sacrificed their lives on the battle lines, but I respect him for the important work he did all the same.
Veteran’s day is held on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year honoring the anniversary of the armistice which ended WWI on November 11, 1918 and all veterans past and present across our country.
We, every single one of us, have been and are impacted and represented in some way, shape or form, whether we agree with the terms or not, by what is called the ultimate sacrifice - loss of limb, family, love and life.
As I sit here and reflect on the generations of veterans in my own family and those of the friends and people in the present that I care about the most, I can’t help but think about my sweet grandfather on that tarmac, scared but brave all at the same time.
And the reason he was there was never political or self-serving or demanded or coerced; he was there because of one single thing we all hold dear above all else for the future:
Without hope, where would we be?
I believe we can all remember that.