Remembering on Memorial Day
This Memorial Day, like nearly every since I've known him, my husband will buy a large bunch of flowers. He'll round up our entire, sleepy-eyed family, load us all in the van for a short drive across town to the park with four bridges and three volleyball courts.
In addition to the bridges and fun, there are several monuments at the park. One is a wall that bears the names of every soldier in the state who died or vanished in Vietnam.
There is a larger-than-life statue of a soldier cradling a fallen comrade, looking off into the distance, far beyond the plastic slides and picnic grounds. The sculptor did an amazing job, the soldier's gaze is one of determination, sadness, anger, pain and love all at the same time. It is haunting. Children can't take it for long and quickly run to the nearby swing set, adults force themselves to linger.
Then there is the new statute, a bronze sculpture of a flak helmet resting on the butt of a machine gun propped between a pair of combat boots, the memorial for area sons and daughters lost in Iraq. The landscaping here is brand new. Ground cover will cloaks the dirt, but nothing can smooth out, still sharp pain.
We'll disperse the flowers slowly among our four boys to distribute among the monuments because Memorial Day should be more than picnics and cook-outs. And like every other year, someone will look at my healthy, happy yet solemn boys and smile. I'm never sure if it's out of gratitude for a distraction, or a fleeting glimpse of what was or might have been, or just because someone seems to remember.
And I'll smile back, hoping my eyes say what my lips can't.
Did he leave your refrigerator door sticky with jam and slam the door too? Did you sometimes wonder if his very loudness might break your windows? Did it ever cross your mind that you might someday be the sad parent in the park? Had you any notion how high your part of the 'freedom isn't free' bill would be? I cannot fathom your loss and I know placing flowers and saying thanks can never be enough, but thank you for my family and my freedom. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Happy Memorial Day.