A few Memorial Day’s back I picked up the phone to hear my sister Anna greet me cheerily with, “happy dead person’s day!”
The opener totally resonated with me and my macabre sense of humor. Anna, who has since passed, also had a no-nonsense, Charles Adams sensibility to life and death.
I don’t mean to dilute or insult the symbolism of Memorial Day. We have lost so many who have served our country on foreign soils and many who are serving still and wait at the ready if we need them.
I’ve been thinking of my dad today, a man who served in “the big one” WWII. His Army unit famously crossed the Bridge at Remagen before it collapsed into the Rhine in the closing weeks of that war.
Like most vets of that generation (and maybe most generations) he did not talk about his time there, but we all knew it impacted and chipped his psyche in a way we could never relate to. He came back from Germany to his Kentucky coal mining community a bit emotionally damaged but buried it underneath the constraints of the time. He married, fathered five children, and pioneered a better life in New England. Over the years and especially after retirement, his demons or whatever he had tamped down for decades, would surface and we would rally around to ensure he was safe until the episode passed.
My parents now lie in a veteran’s cemetery in Florida. My mom went first, and I remember her graveside ceremony clearly. There is a tower there that plays military-themed chimes on the beautiful cemetery property. As they lowered her into the ground, “Anchors Aweigh” chimed in the distance. I had smiled to myself over that. Again, that macabre sense of humor surfacing to rescue me from the mire of sadness such occasions bring.