Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Veteran's Day 2015
The Veteran's Cemetery is a heavy place. I generally get out there to see Buck at least a couple of times a year. And I never get over the optics of white markers "row on row" to quote the famous poem as far as you can see.
They put American flags out throughout the grounds on Veteran's Day and on the Fourth of July.
On gray days like Veteran's Day 2015 and 2014, the colors literally pop in front of you. The stately white monuments seem to strain to reach up to the sky. At least that is the illusion my mind plays on me as it attempts to process the final resting places of Americans that are denoted by so many markers. The red, white and blue flags remind you that you are in a place of shared sacrifice. Sure, not every soul interred there was killed in action. Not all of them saw combat. But they all share the common bond of having worn the uniform.
Which I never did. My father and I never saw eye to eye about, well, anything. He was a very good man. And I would imagine that I wasn't exactly a day at the beach as a young person. He joined the Navy at 18 and went off to the Pacific Theatre with the Seabees. Can you imagine? The enormity of what he did, being the bookish and painfully shy man that he was, is overwhelming to me. And so I go pay my respects. Day late and dollar short at this point. But it's the best I can do.
Arkansas weather is by definition crazy and unpredictable. Last year was freezing cold. This year I played golf in my shorts the night before.
M and I were just getting to know each other by this time last year. I was standing out by Buck's grave when she called last Veteran's Day.
"Aren't you cold?" she asked.
"Yeah," I replied as I threw my scarf over my shoulder and turned my back to the howling wind. "It's cold."
"Don't stay too long."
"And you need to find somebody to hug."
"Anytime a person visits a loved one in a graveyard by themselves, they need to find somebody to hug."
"Never heard that one before."
"Well, you need to do it."
By the time I got out there today, an unseasonably clement gentle rain was falling. From my vantage point where Buck is buried, I could see out across the plain that serves as a huge columbarium. There are plaques in the ground to note the resting places.
There was a lone woman out there in the middle of the plain. She was sitting on the ground under an umbrella. She was wearing jeans and her legs were open, astraddle a plaque there on the ground. She sat there motionless for as long as I was there. Eventually, she got up and walked to her car, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.
I remembered last year's advice about going to the graveyard alone. If the lady had been closer to me I would have offered her a hug.
M and I are together now. It's hard to extrapolate from memories that are damn near over 40 years old at this point. Indeed, it's almost like he never existed at this point. But I think Buck would have liked her. I wouldn't call her shy. But she is a quiet sort who has her nose in a book whenever she gets the chance. Quiet people, like water, find their own level. But I'm making stuff up.
Maybe that's why I go visit my father a couple of times a year. It's proof he really existed.
And that he, along with other (mostly) boys, did this amazing thing.