Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

This memorial day marked a new turn in my life.  For the first time, I had someone to visit.  My Dad, who passed away just a few months ago - though it seems forever - was a veteran from the Korean War era.  He served on the home front, and was in the 3rd Armored out of Fort Knox, and later Fort Hood, Texas.  He left when his discharge came up, and returned to spend the rest of his life working for the Railroad.  First the Erie Railroad, then later the Erie Lackawanna, and finally, the Consolidated Rail Corporation, or Conrail.  In those two institutions were much of what informed my Dad, and defined him as I knew him.

This Memorial Day then, was a chance for me to go for the first time and visit his grave.  It was a strange moment.  I had moved on in many ways, with only the occasional fleeting memory coming over me, or waking me at night as I realize he is gone.  But there, looking down at that plot of freshly seeded grass growing, I understood what death meant.  Possibly for the first time.  There he was, down there, under the ground.  The man who had taken me sledding, held me on his shoulders, taught me to hunt, to drive, to be responsible.  That same man was now separated from me for the rest of this life by all of that dirt and sod. 

My family was there, of course.  My wife and boys.  The boys took it at varying levels.  While there was a moment they all came to me and comforted me, they also went about their own ways, looking around and trying to find the best way to see this moment.  My 12 year old, noticing that his grave faced the old railroad yard in which he worked so many of his best years, commented that it was fitting.  The setting, near a small picturesque pond, was also mentioned. 

Then one of them noticed a flower vase on a nearby grave had fallen over.  First one, then all four, went over to fix it and set it up again.  They worked hard, but alas, it was broken and would not stay on that blustery day.  Still, I thought it was kind.  Nice that they would see the need of someone they didn't know, or would never know.  And out there, somewhere, was someone who would not know four young boys taking time away from their own family and its needs, to help a perfect stranger.  Somehow that made it all seem OK, like this is what we are made for. Not the fleeting and often superficial things we worry about, but for one another.  And if that's the case, then I am fully confident in my Dad's own well being, for he spent a lifetime helping and being there for those around him.  Even if he didn't know who they were.   And that seems to be the essence of what we remember about Memorial Day, if anything is.

The older two continue working to fix the broken vase, while our youngest prompts an impromptu run by our 10 year old

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