Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day and Memories

Memorial Day will always be the day we buried my father.  In 1978, when the parade was going through town, we stood at the end of the city, along the lonely highway, and watched as his casket was lowered into the ground.  A man, too young to be dead, had lived a life of dense experiences.  His childhood was marked by the Great Depression and when the United States called he joined the ranks of those who fought, first Europe,  then was on a ship to invade Japan, and later served in Korea, where he was injured and spent a while as a guest of the North Koreans and Chinese as a POW.  Decorated and a career man he stayed in the service of his country until after I was born, being discharged in 1966.  But what was important to me was the little things, teaching me about baseball and playing with us as much as he could.  Teaching me to fish and showing me how to gut and fillet our catch.   He also showed me what is right and wrong, not always in the most enlightened way, but my dad saw a clear line between right and wrong and made sure we knew it.  What I have of my father is the stories.  Some he told me, some I learned from family and some from my own research into his life.  It was last year I learned he had ancestors who were French Canadian who lived in Upper Canada.  I learned from my mom that my dad was on someone who wasn't the perfect soldier as I discovered his rank bounced around a little in his military records.  I learned from finding my own hoarded papers how much he cared about my education growing up as he wrote a note on my old elementary school report cards.  Those story bounce around my head and I tell them to Noah.  It helps him influence the grandson he never met.

Memorial Day is a holiday that is dedicated to those who died fighting for our country.  When my dad died it was more than 10 years since he was in active duty.  But I have always believed that his military career contributed to his early death so it was fitting that on the day we honor those that gave their all, we said our last goodbye.

I, and a few of my friends, grew up without fathers.  I am not sure how different we would be if they had lived and frankly I am not sure it worth a lot of energy thinking about it.  But what I do know is that I have taken from him a good bit that is part of me and for that I am thankful.  So this weekend I will remember him, more than a fallen soldier and perhaps that is how we should remember that for all those we remember today.  They are more than their service to the country and someone is missing them today.  Perhaps we should ask for them to tell their stories.

I Don't Wear My Kippah at WalMart

Several years ago I was sitting in a cafe with someone who suggested I take off my kippah.  The neighborhood we were in was a predominantly...