Friday, November 12, 2004

A More Personal View

“In Flander's Fields"
By John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

My grandfather, who turned 98 years old this July, is a WWII vet, the last of his division. Those of you counting on your fingers, with a grasp of history, are probably shaking their heads about now.

“Pearl Harbor – the incident that caused America to involve itself in World War II—was December 17, 1941. Your grandfather would have been in his forties by the time America began drafting! Didn’t he have a family started by then? He should have been able to back out honorably due to age and familial obligations.”

Well, yes, but instead he chose to accept the responsibilities that accrue to adult males in America, and answered his draft summons. My mother, the youngest of his five children, was old enough to remember her father before he left for war.

And of course, she was old enough to remember when he came home, suffering from what would later be called “shell shock” and then “post-traumatic stress disorder.” He literally was not her father any more, and for some time, my grandparents lived apart in order to preserve the marriage.

Now, as mentioned, he is a 98 year old widower, and time has assumed a particular plasticity for him. Someone will say something that sparks a memory, and for the moment he’s back in whatever time it was, and relates to the speaker as if they were someone back there with him. Now, if you float along beside him, he’ll tell the stories that hurt too much when they had to go through conscious filters.

My father was lucky, he served time in the Navy just after Korea, and just before Viet Nam.

However, neither my husband nor brother have put in their hitch. Neither has children. Neither is over 35.

Do I worry? Yes.

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