It was Memorial Day weekend. I was remembering things from long ago.
How long ago?
As I thought about it, I realized it was about 41 years ago this very month.
The emotions started to hit me Sunday morning. We were on our way to church and in my remembering the grief came on like a wall of flood water. It was all I could do to control myself and not just break down weeping right there as I was driving the van.
Control was achieved, but my wife could see I was on the emotional edge. We got to the church building and settled into the auditorium for the service. The waves of emotion started to come again as we were singing the hymns. The tears wanted to pour out, but once again I wrestled them under control, and as the service went on, the emotional assault subsided.
Late that afternoon we picked up my married daughter and her two boys, and headed down to the old home town to visit mom and dad. I thought about the cemetery down there where he was buried. I thought about swinging by and once again visiting the grave.
We got to mom and dads and settled in and caught up on things. I glanced at the bulletin from the local church mom and dad go to. In the list of announcements was mention of the early Memorial Day morning ceremony at the cemetery.
Well, why not? Dad wanted to go and we talked about how we'd have to get up a little earlier then we normally would have wanted to if we were indeed going. At 91 dad doesn't get around like he used to, and he mentioned how he used to go to the Memorial Day services but for a number of years had not been able to.
OK... Dad and I would go. I knew I needed to. Dad wanted to, and Lord knows how many more he'll be around for. I also knew Ron's family would probably be there, and... Yes... That would be a good time to see them. Maybe there would be opportunity so say some of the unspoken things to them that I've wanted to say but never could. We all went to bed, and I set the alarm on my cell phone for an early get up.
The wake up call came. I got out of bed, dressed, and went down to the kitchen. My 7 year old grandson Tyrel was already awake, and into the play of the day. It was then that I came up with the idea that Tyrel should go with us. He probably would not understand all that was going on, but in the future he would, and would have a memory of being with his grandpa and great-grandpa at a Memorial Day service.
I got the teakettle going for coffee and found the cereal box. Mom and dad came into the kitchen. I mentioned to Tyrel about him going to the cemetery with us. He was reluctant, but did go to talk to his mom about it. I told her I thought it would be good for him to go, and she agreed. We finished breakfast, and the three of us got ready to go.
As we drove up to the cemetery, we saw a number of people already gathered at the memorial rock. We found a place to park and walked over. The local high school band was assembled to provide the music. The VFW people were assembled, and off to the side a group of VFW men with rifles stood in line in preperation for the traditinal gun salute.
Gary and Bonnie came up and I gave them each a hug. Bonnie was Ron's sister. His brother Don was there also, as well as others of his siblings. We didn't have much time to talk as the ceremony was just beginning.
The band played the Star Spangled Banner. A high school student lead us in the pledge of allegiance, and then read an essay she had written about Memorial Day. A local pastor gave a brief Memorial Day devotion. Another student read the Gettysburg Address. Interspersed somewhere between those things were two other numbers by the band.
When that part was all done, the VFW went through their ceremonial Memorial Day ritual, ending with the gun salute. The VFW commander thanked everyone for coming out and the service concluded.
We didn't rush away. Several people came up to great dad, and I saw and met a few more people I had not seen in a very long time. Eventually we made our way back to the van.
There was just no way I could leave the cemetery without going by the grave. We settled into the van and I drove back in and around to the lane that went by Ron's grave. As I turned up the lane, I saw that Don was over in the general area too.
I had the window of the van rolled down. I drove up by the grave and stopped. There it was; that bronze metal marker, rank, name, branch of service, birth date and death date.
Don came walking over and stood by the van and looked too. The emotions started to roll in again.
"It hardly seems its been forty years.." He said.
" And it doesn't get any easier.." I replied.
"That's for sure..."
I stuck my hand out the window and Don grasped it with his... I gave his hand a good but gentle squeeze. He squeezed back.
I said, "I think about him too....."
We looked on silently for a minute, then bade each other adieu.
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