Sunday, November 9th
Good christ, I think. A Veteran’s Day sale? How lame, tacky, gauche, rude, simply disturbing. I was ruffling through the Sunday fliers and these sales, they rankle me. I let it go.
Tuesday, Veteran’s Day
“Hey mom! Do you have a picture of Andrew? I want him to be in our slide show.”
Of course, the slide show is TODAY and it would have been more useful for Thing 2 to bring this up even yesterday. I said as much but he shrugged and then sat there.
“I didn’t know him, but I am still sad for his loss. Kandahar, right? He was in Kandahar. If someone asks, I want to get it right.”
“Yes,” I tell him, “it was Kandahar.”
And then I think if we all did the same, ask simple clarifying questions, we could get so much more right in this world. I have always been a bit of a dreamer and here is yet another thing I let go.
This is a big moment in my family, both kids engaging in a conversation about our family’s military history. Soon Thing 1 and Thing 2 are tossing around the family stories of who has served, who earned awards, who died, and how weird it is to have fundraisers for Veterans and why boy scouts send popcorn overseas. I mention that I always send popcorn overseas.
“How can we help them with popcorn?” asks Thing 2.
This is a good question.
He thinks some more and then says, “Well, there are parades and we make boxes to send overseas and then there are hospitals named Veteran’s Hospital. How much more help do they need?”
He’s not being rude or disrespectful. Quite the opposite. He is turning over what he sees and hears. From his eleven year old vantage point in middle America, we have parades and we have a specific area in our town park dedicated to Veterans. We make slide shows and we collect food and toiletries we send to service people around the world. There are hospitals just for Veterans and we say thank you to those we see in uniform. A former neighbor is now a 19 year old Marine and we explained what it means to go to “boot camp” and why are are grateful. And stores offer sales and discounts. A Veteran’s life doesn’t seem so bad.
I segue into a brief conversation about unemployment rates and mental and physical health needs, but I can see I am losing him so I stop.
I mention his cousin in Canada has the day off from school.The whole country shuts down on Veteran’s Day.Their appreciation of those who died while serving and of those who have or are currently serving appears just a bit deeper and wider than ours for the respectful attention they give this day.There is reverence in the silence maintained during little parades throughout Canadian villages and I am certain each child is well-schooled on the purpose of this day.
I feel like we try to teach the same, but commercialism seems to paint a garish picture for those seemingly untouched by military life.
My former neighbor was beaming when I saw him unloading bunches of radishes in the produce aisle that he manages in the local Hy-Vee.
“How was it?” I asked. I knew he had just returned from San Diego where he watched his second son graduate from Marine boot camp.
“It was awesome. I am so proud…so proud. But, you know, he still seems like a kid. I can’t quite get my brain around it. He’s grown, he’s changed, but his mom and I? We still see a little boy.”
I am quiet. I don’t know what to say.
“Congratulations,” I offer. I hope it he knows it’s as much for him and his wife as it is for his son’s achievements. They must let go with pride and fear. Weirdly, I suddenly wonder if he paid attention to the store flier about the Veteran’s Day sale. How does he feel about meat being an extra 15% off ? I don’t ask.
I send up a prayer asking that his son have a long and meaningful career. I hope he lives to become a Veteran. That would be a luxury. The image of a Purple Heart for bravery floats through my mind’s eye. I hear those Taps from that cold and windy March day and I see people crying and I feel Andrew’s spirit and I look at this father, his pride so large he seems almost unable to contain it.
I say good-bye and I recycle the flier and I hope what we can offer his son, after many years of service, is more than a discount on meat. I hope that his son’s service becomes an integral part of our story that ends with one about how our country takes care of those who care for us.
Didn’t I mention I was a dreamer?