I was watching the news this evening and there was quite a bit of coverage about Memorial Day. I think the President was at Arlington National Cemetery today. It made me start thinking about my dad and his military service and I realized I don’t know much.
We had my dad interred at Arlington. The thought never crossed my mind until we were sitting with the funeral director while his body was downstairs waiting to be cremated. The funeral director asked us a lot of questions and our answers led him to suggest Arlington. We immediately knew it was the right decision to put dad somewhere where future generations would be able to see him. But I’m not sure if I’ll ever stop wondering if it’s where he would want to be. It’s part of my growing questions and guilt about the things we decided for him as the end neared.
Here’s the thing…I don’t know much of anything about my dad’s service. I know he used the Air Force as a way to go to college. His mom was dying of melanoma and his relationship with his dad was strained. Money was not plentiful so entering the service made sense. I think he was a navigator. I have this image of him looking out the bottom of a plane and following a map and then barking directions at the pilot. I don’t know if I have this image because he told me that’s what he did or not. But I think I’ve told you before, he told me Edgar Allen Poe’s stories were actually about our relatives. Finding the kernels of truth in my dad’s stories was always a little difficult. And now, nearly impossible since he’s gone.
I know we went to visit the Air Force Academy when I was in junior high and my dad knew so much about the airplanes that people started following us around as he spouted his facts – facts according to Jim.
My kids think of Grandpa and think about his service to our country because they were with us when he was buried at Arlington. They heard the bugles and the gun salute. They saw the men and women thanking us for my father’s service to the United States of America. They know where I keep the flag that the soldiers folded up and gave to his wife. She wanted Alex to have it and I am saving it for him. To my kids, Grandpa was a soldier. To me, it is just one more mystery that belonged my dad.
We were driving today and passed dozens of flags at the entrances to some neighborhoods. Ethan saw them and said, “Memorial Day is a time to remember Grandpa…and Chippy.” Chippy was our seventeen year old dog that we had to put down last November. I’m not sure why we are supposed to remember Chippy today. Yes, it is a time to remember Grandpa. But for me it’s a just another day to realize how little I know and/or understand about this guy who loved me and inspired me. The list is getting so long which makes me believe the time to open the chest of his journals that sits behind me is near.