Celebrating the Small Things – December 20, 2013


It is Friday again, and a time to stop and take stock of the small things we celebrate, often unknowingly.  Thanks to VikLit, who had the idea for this wonderful bl0g hop, we can remind ourselves of the beautiful things in life that make our days just that much more lovely.  You’re welcome to join – head on over to her blog!

Details are at the end of this post.

I remember, years ago, the first time I bought a condolence card for someone.  I write notes now, of course, but I was in 9th grade then (age 13 for non-USA folk) and I wanted to express to someone my regret at her father’s death.  The card showed white roses and it said ‘God gave us memory so that we could enjoy roses in winter’.

Roses in Winter


It was a nice sentiment and a pretty picture.  At that point I had all my grandparents, both my parents, and had never attended a funeral.


The card was well-received.  And it was true.


Memory allows us to enjoy roses on a snowy day.


I realized this anew over the past week.  Memories of happy times, of good parents, of laughter and caring and some scolding – all came back to me.  And (for those who read Proust) I didn’t have to dip a madeleine in my tea…

I was bored, recently, and found myself remembering travels, books, conversations with friends.  In some cases they were better the second (or twelfth) time around.

Relax – it’s just meatloaf with an onion at the ‘wrist’


What would we do without memory?  How would we know where to go?  How would we equip ourselves for each day’s endeavors?  savor a wonderful meal we enjoyed with others? Or avoid the wretched meatloaf served by the corner restaurant?

We wouldn’t even be able to sing along with our favorite songs on the radio.  For our passengers in the car, that might actually be a blessing.

So I am celebrating memory.


(And I am remembering that today is a Friday!  I hope you all have wonderful weekends.)




http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=179014

Things That Once Were


I wrote poetry, once upon a time.  I still do, actually, when the mood strikes me.  Generally, now, the mood that strikes me is puckish and what I write is humorous.

Grandpa at 90

I was remembering, recently, a time when my grandfather was sitting in my mother’s living room and mulling things over.  He was matter-of-fact.  He always was, with a puckish sense of humor.  I remember him laughing at some hobbling fellow who had told him that when Grandpa reached 60, as he had, he’d like to lean on a cane.  Grandpa was in his late 70s then. 

He was in his nineties that evening, a WWI veteran, a musician, a fly fisherman, gardener – my Grampa.  He was talking about life, and he said that young men think of all the things they want to do in the future, while an old man like him knows that the future contains his departure. 

Grandpa lived to be 100 years old plus a month.  His last words to me, when I hurried to the hospital to see him, were ‘I love you!’.  He died in his sleep.

On the evening I mentioned, I started thinking, and I ultimately wrote a poem.  I like the form of a sonnet, and that is what I wrote.  My grandfather loved it.  And I lost it in the course of many moves.  I didn’t have a computer at that time, just paper.

It was entered in a poetry contest of sorts (the kind where you ‘win’ and get to buy a volume of poetry that contains your effort.  I didn’t bother) and then it was lost.

Recently, I tried to find it.  My mother went through all her papers – no luck.  But she gave me a number of old poems, which I put away.  Last night I was sorting through them – and here it is, not lost forever and regretted, but complete, tying the past to the present.

 
                                                  Sonnet for my Grandfather 

                                Could I by some chance make you stay with me
                                Beyond the moments given you by time,
                                If I could somehow stay your destiny,
                                            Unravel fate’s thread and unsay life’s rhyme –
                                I’d spend a thousand summers by your side,
                                Distill them to the touch of one clear day
                                Within the stippled shade where brown trout hide,
                                Watching the water skimmers’ silent play
                                            Along the surface; I would stay with you
                                And hold your hand nor would I hurry on
                                As once I did, to matters fierce and new,
                                Whose call to me was brief, whose thrill is gone.
                                            But at your side I’d cheerfully remain,
                                            Knowing those times could never come again. 

                                                                    Diana Wilder  © 1979

They also serve… (thoughts on Memorial Day)


My mother phoned me, disgusted.  She had been talking with someone and my late father’s name came up.  Dad was a career Naval officer.  He was in the JAG (‘Judge Advocate General’) corps and retired as a judge running one of the Navy’s districts.  He went into the civilian practice of law after he retired, and rose in that arena.

“So,” the man said,  “He was just an attorney.”

Mom set him straight.  Dad was a combat veteran.  Not that he bragged about it.  There was a job to do and he did it, like many other veterans the world over.

Dad was an amazing man, and I could not have asked for a better father.  But when he retired, Dad decided to sit down and write his memoirs.  It was a double-spaced typewritten tome called Now I Come To Think Of It.  It contained some surprises.

Dad entered the Navy in 1942 as they were rolling out the top secret radio program.  He became, essentially, an Air Traffic Controller “MIGs coming in at nine o’clock high!”.  He saw fighting in the Pacific Theater of the war, participating in the battle of Midway and the big fight involving supply ships.  He was on a Destroyer, his ship was hit by Kamikaze fighters and he,  himself, was hurled to the deck by a wad of shrapnel.

He didn’t talk about it much.  Not that it haunted or horrified him, but because like a lot of WWII veterans, Dad did what he had to and came back to live the life of a citizen.  My first inkling was that memoir.  (I promised Dad, as he was dying, that I would type it up and publish it for him.  I’m working on that.)

Dad had ideas of duty and honor and I will never forget what he said once about something I witnessed.

I served as a docent for the Civil War Library and Museum in Philadelphia in the late ‘nineties.  I was interested, and I was able to do some research for a book I wrote set in the Georgia Theater.  (‘The Safeguard’)  I came back from a day there and told Dad what had happened.  It was told me by another docent.

“Hah! You should have seen the idiot!  He came in all puffed up about his great-great grandfather who served in the Union navy!    He had the name of the ship, and he was going on about how great his grandfather was!”

I asked what he had found.

“The ship was docked in Philadelphia through the whole war.  The man spent the entire American Civil War shoreside.  I told him so!”

I thought that was bad form, and I expressed that,  Then I told Dad.  His reply was characteristic.

“Why did he say that?  The man went where he was told to go and did what he was ordered.  So he didn’t go into battle – was that his fault?  He served where he was needed, and the fact that he was not discharged dishonorably says a lot.  He had the right to wear the campaign ribbon.  He was a war veteran, something to be proud of.”

He fulminated for a moment.  “What sort of fool was that fellow?  I imagine he never served!”

No, probably not.

I found myself remembering Milton’s poem:

WHEN I consider how my light is spent

E’re half my days, in this dark world and wide,

And that one Talent which is death to hide,

Lodg’d with me useless, though my Soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present

My true account, least he returning chide,

Doth God exact day-labour, light deny’d,

I fondly ask; But patience to prevent

That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need

Either man’s work or his own gifts, who best

Bear his milde yoke, they serve him best, his State

Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed

And post o’re Land and Ocean without rest:

They also serve who only stand and waite.
On Memorial day we honor those who served, men and women.  Some gave their lives, some gave their hearts.  All deserve our respect, admiration and gratitude.


Thanks, Dad (and Uncle Dick).