Saturday, November 28, 2009

The parade!

It was a hot summer day and I was actually feeling very good for once. I haven't got much time left. The doctors sent me home so I could be comfortable. My sons take turns visiting with me and making me smile. They are a welcome distraction to the monotony of being ill. I beg them to bring the little ones and let them ramshackle the house. They feel it would be too much for me. I miss life and the pounding feet and squeaky voices of the children remind me I still am here in it.

Today I feel like getting dressed and sitting for a bit. So I put on my best dress white shirt and roll up my sleeves. I slip into a pair of navy blue dress pants and don my favorite bow tie. Being 89 gives me the right to wear a bow tie and suspenders and be looked at as cute. I used to play that card at the buffet every Sunday with the ladies! I miss the ladies and I am sure they miss me!

I lost my lady and the love of my life 4 years ago. It was the day I was sure to stop breathing myself. My wife took my hand and told me that I needed to stay because my sons still needed a father and the grand kids a grandpa. She joked and said that she could only imagine the trouble I would stir up if I keep spoiling them all. I told her not to worry, I would spoil them for the both of us. She warned me not to eat so much pecan brittle. I still find brittle hidden in the house with hand drawn heart notes scented with the smell of my angel, it makes me smile and cry.

She left me aching and alone. My spouse of 57 years was the light of the world. There was no other love as strong as ours. I feel excited that I may be with her again soon. I miss the way she danced around the kitchen. She tried with all her might to be stern with me at times, but I could always get my way. She called me "evil " with a big wink when she spoiled me. She always spoiled me. I never felt I spoiled her enough, but oh how I tried.

Something in the house is odd today. My son is nowhere to be found and the nurse is not here. I have not been alone for so long it is kind of refreshing, but still strange. Walking toward the door I hear trumpets and drums. It sounds as if a parade is coming down our little street. How odd at this time of the year, down a little back road. I hear voices and laughter so I walk slowly to investigate and step out to my porch. People are crowded around the road. The image is in black and white. Balloons fly high in the air, although not in color, they are still a beautiful sight. The clothes are dated back and the faces seem familiarly strange. I walk toward the street following the spectacle. Looking back my house has faded out of sight.

People are rubbing my back and congratulating me on my life. The parade ambles by and the scenes are close to my heart. My childhood home, sturdy yet small brings a smile to my face. There is an image of my mother fawning over me at the dinner table with the vegetables she grew. Dad’s hands stained with muck and calloused holding a coffee mug and sipping slowly at the head of the table. The dinner is sparse but the laughter and stories many. I am 7 years old and wearing my pilots hat with goggles. Under the table I grasp my most prized possession. It is a hand painted replica of "The Spirit of St Louis" airplane. Charles Lindbergh inspired me to want to be a pilot. I lay dreaming of the day I would be alone in the cockpit of a plane doing loop-de-loops and feeling the wind on my face. It would be MY first solo flight and I would be highly celebrated.

A few years later things in the economy had gotten really bad. The great depression hit everyone hard. My dad was stressed and tried not to show us his worries. He still found time to play with us kids even after working for many days straight. Mom did the best she could throwing food together and she would not eat until she thought we were full. Rocks and sticks were toys for us and brought many adventures. Hard times can bring you together as a family or rip you apart. I tear up standing watching images of my mother and father. They worked so hard to not let us stumble.

In 1939 World War II began. I enlisted to be a pilot. I was 19 and could not wait to leave this small town. My dream of being a pilot had always stayed with me. Things didn't work that way for me as I was thrust into combat. The brotherhood there was amazing. One day I had to cover my mates by weapon while they escaped harms way. I lay a line of fire to the enemy and screamed at them to leave. They all got away, or so I thought. I tripped over my best mate Carl Armsely. His baby face staring up at me in shock was covered with dirt. Tears made clean trails down his shaking cheeks. His conversation led straight to his mom. He wanted me to take his tags personally to her. I cried as I tried to figure out a way to carry him to safety. We both knew the wounds were too severe and we were being surrounded. I thought carefully of his request and took the tags. When he slipped from me I placed the tags deeply in his boot. He would not be a John Doe soldier. I visited his mom first thing after returning from duty. I shakily told her of his request. We dropped to the floor of her stoop in a pile of tears together. It still haunts me to this day.

The scenes of my life flew by fast. My wedding day and the view of my beautiful bride was a welcome sight. The dancing, music and love was enveloping us. There was the honeymoon where we laughed like teenagers all night long holding and exploring each other.

The flight of the first US satellite "The Explorer 1" in 1958 amazed me to no end. A month after the launch my first son was born. How amazing this world is and how beautiful life was.

I was a factory worker and provided well for my family. It was not easy but we were contented with the simpler things in life. My hands were always dirty and this reminded me of my father with pride.

It was 5 years later that my second son was born, 1963 a year of turmoil. John F Kennedy was to be assassinated a few weeks before my son's due date. I questioned bringing a child into this world in such a state. I could have never known the extent and validity of that worry.

I met Jimmy Carter in 1978. It was the year he became our president. He personally thanked me for my service in World War II and presented me with a plaque. Tears of pride ran as I finally felt like the role model I had always wanted to be for my boys.

There was my last vacation bash in January 16, 2003 when my sons surprised me with a trip. We went to watch the final launch of the Columbia Space Shuttle. I wept in appreciation of a sight I never thought I would witness. The sky lit up in a grand display of achievement.

By this time the faces around me grew more familiar. Carl was there, still a baby faced hero, and he joked with me about our story filled nights. We cried as we remembered his last day, he thanked me for being there with him. We grew from boys to men in those months, strong and proud. His mother gushed at his side.

My wife came up beside me and held my hand tightly. I felt complete again. My mother and father both wept at the sight of me. I know what this is now. My time has come and this was my final celebration. What a wonderful and energy charged life I have lived.

I will dance into the light with my loved ones by my side, not afraid but deeply honored by the life and treasures I was given in this world. It was never about "things", it was always about the people around sharing them with me.

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