Monday, May 29, 2017

A DAY TO MEMORIALIZE MY FATHER

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

I've published this post before, and today I present it to you again because this is more than Memorial Day to me.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug




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. (Note: It's now been twenty-six years.)

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 (now twenty-one years), 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.

30 comments:

  1. Hi Janie - in some ways it's a lovely day to remember ... a good day to leave this world Memorial Day ... and it will always be - with thoughts - Hilary

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  2. Ahh, Janie. What a heartwarming story of your father, and of your family. Thank you for sharing it. We are the lucky ones, aren't we, who had dads like this.

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  3. What an awesome tribute to your Daddy. He sounds like a wonderful man: quiet, steadfast and strong. Thank you for sharing him with us. I can only imagine how much not making that phone call that day haunts you, but at least you can still "ring him up" and tell him how much of a hero is was - and is - to you: he'll hear you.

    Beautiful post.

    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. I'm sure he knows what's going on down here.

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  4. A beautiful tribute, Janie, thank you for sharing it with us.

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  5. Your beautiful, successful family is your father's legacy. He was obviously a great Dad and a wonderful man. You had no way of knowing that Memorial Day 26 years ago would be his last, but I understand your feelings of regret. ♥ This is a lovely tribute, Janie. Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us.

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  6. What a lovely tribute to your father and mother, Janie! I'm watching the Arlington Memorial Day ceremonies right now. It would be emotionally powerful to be there for real today. I spent a day at Arlington about a decade ago, one of the most moving days of my life. I always talked to my third graders about the sacrifices so many men and women made to give us the peace and freedom that we too often take for granted. It doesn't matter that this is an American holiday ~ I connect to it emotionally because of all the sacrifices Canadians made, and our allies made, so I could have this amazing, privileged, and blessed life.

    I often think that the real heroes are the ordinary people among us who daily do their duties and give love and security to those around them, like your parents and my parents. We all look back and think if only I'd.... I'm sure that your Daddy knew how much you loved him. Sending you a big hug!

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    1. We also spent a day at Arlington quite a few years ago and had the privilege of seeing the laying of a wreath.

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  7. Touching tribute.
    Read it all again. :)

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  8. Aww, Janie. I want to thank your Daddy and all the sacrifices he made for our country. He sounded like such a wonderful guy and such a hero to all.

    Sending you lots of love and light today and every day.

    Love,
    Jessica

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  9. So many of the WWII generation was the same way. Did their duty to the country and came home to raise a family. Many buried the horrors they saw and lived, not wanting to be reminded of them or to let the family know how ugly war can be. I love all those guys (including your daddy) who did that for us. Now days, the media and the advent of camera phones and instant family contact leaves nothing for the world to hide. But I still love those guys and gals who volunteer to do, as George Orwell said, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." Thanks for re-posting this about your daddy.

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    1. What a kind comment, Coffey. You're a keeper.

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  10. What a lovely tribute to your Daddy, Janie. Sounds like you had an idyllic upbringing. Your parents were no doubt very proud of you all; you turned out well.

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    1. Idyllic except it was a long wait to get in the bathroom.

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  11. This is such a heartwarming tribute to your father. He sounds like a very special man. This was so touching to read. Thanks for sharing it!

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  12. A beautiful tribute, Janie; you & I & many others were fortunate to have parents like that!!

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    1. Going to work everyday probably helped keep him calm. He wasn't around us all the time.

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  13. A truly lovely post, men like your father were amazing

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  14. My Dad was my hero too and I lost him 2 years ago.

    A lovely tribute to your Daddy.

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