Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

On a rare tolerance for leaving the television on for the last 7 minutes of "60 Minutes" last night, I listened to Andy Rooney's thoughts on Memorial Day. Normally I don't listen to Andy--he's a whiner, in my opinion--but his thoughts on veterans are usually good, and he spent the time remembering some of our fallen with glimpses of their being. It wasn't tear-jerking, but it was touching.

Garrison Keillor stated in this morning's "Writer's Almanac" that Memorial Day was a day to remember those fallen in wars, which follows Rooney. Still, I remember Memorial Day as a kid visiting graves of any dead relative--more of an All Saints Day for Ohio Franco-Germans than Memorial Day. My father's brother died of Non-Hodgekins Lymphoma when I was only a baby and he was a truck driver who loved his rig so much they put an etching of it on his tombstone in Melrose, Ohio. My father's father died when my father was just twenty-one and was buried in the Stryker, Ohio cemetery, a small stretch of land framed on two sides by tangled woods and across the road from my friend Alison Chrismer's house. Later, my father's mother joined him there--I was sixteen.

I don't know what my father is doing for the day today...his children are a continent away from him, his immediate family is all dead, and the remains of his wife are in a square brass box in the living room, sitting on his mother's hope chest. He doesn't have a way to plant flowers for her specifically and he's drained the truck's gas tank and gets around by small electric things you can plug in--a golf cart, a scooter--because he hates to contribute to George Bush any more than he has to. My guess is that Melrose and Stryker are a bit out of range on the battery life of both of those vehicles. I hope that he is finding his own way to remember that doesn't involve wallowing. It's a big hope, but it's possible.

As for me, wrestling with what I am here, this is what I remember:

  • My mother's beans and franks recipe, which she called "Weinie Beanies"

  • My grandmother's love of Sanka and instant iced tea mix

  • My great uncle's surprising ability to be the cook in his family

  • My Aunt Kay's handwriting and decoration of the card-playing score with ornate designs

  • My grandmother, on my mother's side, need to impart tissues on snifflers

  • Bess's fetching of Q-Tips

And of the living, because someday none of us will be:

  • My brother's knowledge of alcohol concoctions, big cities, and construction techniques

  • My sister-in-law's love of NPR

  • Gary's hanging his head over the wall and quoting Kramer from Seinfeld

  • Emily giving me back "The Lonely Shepherd"

  • Mary teaching me chess

  • FG and his jazz

  • Dad and his love of Red Skelton

  • Peggy and Ivan kissing an exchange of saltwater taffy on the Sausalito ferry

  • Kathy and I calling each other to tag off

  • Beth and Tim and FINALLY a baby

  • Bob's singing and Bailey's tennis balls

  • Tina's nights at the Mint

  • Heleno's love of Madonna

  • Adam and Josey dancing to Alison Krauss

  • Dawn and I driving to Wagoner, Oklahoma to meet Darron.

  • Robin and the Mary J. Blige of "One"

  • DK and '68 debates

  • MH and statistics of SF

  • Jen and her "intermission"

My writing.

Someday, remembered for that.

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