Thursday, November 17, 2011

HONOR YOUR HEROES WHILE YOU CAN

I write today for my beloved Elisa, and especially for her beloved Zeke.






Memorial Day has come to mean back yard barbecues, picnics in the park, the opening of public pools, a day off from school.


But Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was actually created in 1868 as a day to decorate the graves of Civil War dead. Decoration Day evolved into Memorial Day, a time to honor armed services personnel killed in wartime.

Memorial Day has come to mean something even more to me. My dad died on Memorial Day 20 years ago.

My parents had just enjoyed a holiday cookout of their own. Daddy (he was always Daddy, never Dad or, heaven forbid, Father) got up from his chair at the kitchen table and that was the end. He fell. He was gone.

One of my sisters said, "He would have loved that -- dying on Memorial Day." She meant that he was a man who loved his country and who honored those who had given their lives for it.

He was also willing to serve his country. He mentioned to me -- only once -- that he had a deferment as a farm boy, but he enlisted during World War II anyway.
Because he had a degree in education, he spent the war as a flight instructor and never left the U.S. When it was over, he climbed out of his Army Air Corps cockpit, whole and happy, and went home to his wife and their baby boy, my only brother.

Then he spent the rest of his life being a plain ordinary guy. I didn't realize for a long time what a hero he was.

Every morning, he kissed my mom goodbye and went to work. He came back home every night. He didn't go to a bar or a sporting event. He spent his evenings and weekends teaching us to ride our bicycles, making popcorn for our snacks, and pitching in our baseball games.

If he left us in the evening, it was to take our mom out to dinner because he knew she worked hard taking care of a house and six kids.

When we were older, he helped us buy our first cars, and he watched us go out on our first dates. He got up at four in the morning on many Saturdays to take me to school, where I would climb on a bus headed to a debate tournament. If I came home with a medal, he didn't say anything. He'd just smile.

For a man who had been a debater himself at the University of Minnesota (where he also played basketball -- I have his Golden Gopher framed with his photo), he never said much. One of my sisters concluded he had given up on talking because he lived in a house full of women -- I have four sisters -- and he had lost all hope of controlling us.

In control or not, he and his wife of 50 years -- who passed away 15 years ago, a hero herself -- managed to raise the six of us. My brother, who died not long after my mom did, had a master's degree and taught at a college. My oldest sister owns and operates a large company, where another sister works. Two other sisters have excellent jobs. And then there's me, the writer. He called me "little one" because I was the runt of the litter.
My point is that we're all employed (though I'm on and off), we're all responsible parents (we gave our folks 11 grandchildren), we stay in touch with each other, and we don't argue. We definitely laugh a lot when we're together. Our parents must have done something right.

I do have some regrets, though. My greatest regret is that I didn't call my dad on that Memorial Day 20 years ago and tell him what a hero he was.

I don't know why I didn't call. I wanted to, but for some reason, I kept talking myself out of it. I decided to call in a few days.

I even picked up the phone at one point and put it back down without dialing the number and so I missed my opportunity to hear his voice one last time and to tell him what he meant to me.

My heart was trying to tell me something, but my mind wouldn't listen.

Whether it's Memorial Day or Veterans Day or a Tuesday or a Friday, I hope you'll take some time out from whatever you're enjoying and honor your heroes. First, think of those who were killed in the armed services. Then, think of a hero in your life who's still living and let that person know how you feel.

Honor your hero while you have the chance. I wish I had. Memorial Day is now a special reminder for me of the guy who was my hero.

26 comments:

  1. However we remember them is not important, the thing is we must remember them. And prayers for our dead love ones must never stop. As Christian, i believe that they become our personal angels in heaven.

    JJRod'z

    Ps. Thank you for visiting my blog and clicking the follow button... :-)

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  2. So true, does not matter what day it is as long as we don't forget to remember every now and then.

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  3. It was a little disconcerting, reading about Memorial Day this close to Veterans Day, but that didn't hurt the message of your post, of course. Besides, commemorative holidays like those two only serve to remind us to set time aside to honor those whom we can and should remember all year round.

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  4. What a beautiful tribute to both of your parents. Love ya Ms Lola and you have just as much to offer as your siblings. Your parents would be so proud.

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  5. touching tribute. you daddy forever lives through you and your siblings. having said that, no matter how long its been, its always hard.

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  6. This was such a wonderful post and a beautiful tribute to your father, mother and your family. To grow up with that love in your household...what a gift!

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  7. Good advice. Thanks so much for dropping in on THE TORMENTED SCRIBE.

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  8. I had a comment, but decided not to post it. Just let me say I wish I could have met your dad and shook his hand.

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  9. You have beautiful memories of your 'Daddy' and relayed what a wonderful man he was very well. He sounded very content with his life and his family so no need for regrets on your part...he knew :)

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  10. An excellent point - "My heart was trying to tell me something, but my mind wouldn't listen."

    Oh, dear, I've got to pay better attention.

    Thank you for stopping by Spots and Wrinkles. :) ...Marsha

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  11. JJRoa, Thank you and welcome.

    Beth, You are a sweetie. I'm sure he does, and he knows my son has grown up to look just like him.

    Pat, Yes, let's not forget to remember.

    Mr. Fox, I'm sure you can handle being a bit disconcerted.

    Melynda, Thank you so much. I know they're watching us.

    Jaya, Yes, it's hard, but he lives through his grandchildren too, especially my son.

    Stephanie, We always laughed -- a lot. I could have said a lot more about my dad, like he was incredibly funny, but the post would have gone on forever.

    mybabyjohn/Delores, You have a lovely blog. Thanks for being here today.

    Coffey, I wish you could have met him too. He was completely devoted to all of us - never thinking of himself.

    Princess, Thank you so much. I'm sure he knew he was loved.

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  12. Marsha, You're welcome. We really do need to pay attention to what our hearts (Christ) tell us to do.

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  13. The loved ones that we lose live forever in our memories. I'm sorry to hear about your regret. This piece was beautifully written. I'm sure that Elisa appreciates all of your support.

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  14. I know how difficult it is not having said that last goodbye, but our parents know (or knew) how much we love & honor them by the way we treat them daily.

    Thank you for a beautiful post.

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  15. Wow! So heartwarming. It's important to remember.

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  16. Hi Lola!
    Thanks for stopping in...I've enjoyed reading several of your postings and will be following you as well!
    I'm sure your Dad knows and feels your love. Who knows, he may have been heading to the phone to call you. It's not the last thing you did for someone that counts...it's how you treated each other in a lifetime.
    Loves~

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  17. I try to remember to grab opportunities to say good things to people - friends, family or strangers - when I have the chance. The opportunity may not come again and I'd hate to wish I had.
    Thanks for coming to my blog. I'm following you too!

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  18. What a beautiful thing for all of us to remember. :0)

    I agree with Beth though; I think he knows.

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  19. Thank you all so much for these kind comments.

    Love,
    Lola

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  20. Time to call my dad and say thank you. Thanks for the reminder.

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  21. What a wonderful tribute to your wonderful Dad.

    And a good reminder for all of us, not to take for granted the people that we love.

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