CHAPTER 67 Memorial Day

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copyright 2015 Chris Smith All rights reserved.

"Originally called Decoration Day, from the early tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, Memorial Day is a day for remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former Union sailors and soldiers. During that first national celebration, former Union Gen. and sitting Ohio Congressman James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there. This event was inspired by local observances of the day that had taken place in several towns throughout America in the three years after the Civil War. After World War I, it became an occasion for honoring those who died in all of America's wars and was then more widely established as a national holiday throughout the United States."

History of Memorial Day


"I think it would be good to do a couple energy exercises," I said to Dad.

They were getting ready to leave for Dad's interview at the local AM Radio Station for the Memorial Day Special.

"I don't have time," he replied.

I could tell by his tone he didn't want to hear from me.

"It would be really good for you and would only take a minute or two."

No reply. He wasn't interested in what I had to offer. I shrugged.

What else could I do?

Nothing. I sat in silence and watched him stew in the foul mood. Then I walked into the kitchen and heard them leave. I hoped it was a good show and he turned his attitude around.

I made the trip back upstairs, for the twelfth time already. It was time to do some therapy for my eye and body before I started my breakfast routine. The eye had me awake between 4 and 5 a.m. every morning, for about an hour as I did the hot compress, gargled salt water, massaged my chest and neck lymphatics.

Then I'd go back to sleep after the eye finished its draining and wake back up between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. I was lucky if I had breakfast before noon. But really I was lucky to be eating at all since I had very little interest in food. On good days I just forced the food down.

Breakfast consisted of eggs, a small piece of toast, and an orange. Lunch was a piece of bread with some peanut butter and plain lettuce on the side. I'd chew on the unflavored lettuce telling myself I need the roughage. I didn't care if it had no taste. The meals overall weren't anything to get excited about. But food wasn't appealing so that didn't help. We tried to scrounge up things for dinner from the freezers. Some nights I just repeated either breakfast or lunch.

"You're eating lunch late these days, huh?" Mom had said to me one day.

And I thought, "Listen lady, be glad I'm eating. Be glad I'm sleeping. Be less concerned about what the exact time those things are happening at. Who the hell cares what time it is?"

But I kept my mouth shut. I kept my mouth shut a lot these days about a whole ton of stuff. It was the best thing to do. I kept shoving it down and pretending it wasn't there. I kept lying to myself about how it was going to get better. I kept pretending I was "fine".

I finished the morning therapy and went downstairs to the kitchen. I started with some tea and sliced orange on a plate. It was a cold morning and the air thick with fog. The house was also pretty cold so I was bundled under lots of layers of undershirts, socks, a cap, and several layers of sweaters. If I counted, I was under four layers of clothing, trying to keep myself warm.

There was no heat to be found anywhere in the house. We didn't trust the fireplace, because the flue was so old and needed to be cleaned. But now it would be a question of finding the time to clean it, the desire, and finding our chimney flu cleaning equipment in the midst of the packing and moving frenzy that was going on. And the electrical wiring in this house was so iffy, the last thing we wanted was a fire, which meant using a space heater was a bad idea too.

I didn't like being cold. I didn't like being sick either. Nor did I like the constant stress. Hell the stress that we all were under. I managed it all the best I could. I didn't know what else to do.

I walked back upstairs and settled in to listen to my Dad on the radio. The AM station didn't come in very well. I had to turn it up a little to hear the people clearly above the background noise.

The room was dark with all the fog. I had been listening for about ten minutes or so when I thought I heard something outside. I thought it was one of my Mom's cats on the roof again. So I turned down the radio.

"Hello? Anyone home?" came a voice from outside.

A surge of fear hit my chest and my heart started beating faster and faster. I felt immobile as fear gripped my soul with a vice.

"Hello? Anyone home? I'm your neighbor," and the sound of someone knocking on the kitchen door downstairs pounded through every cell in my body.

My whole body vibrated with the one thought, "They've come for us!"

It was fight or flight mode. And given a choice, I'd chose flight every fucking time. Fuck talking. Fuck fighting. We'll run as fast as our poor bruised legs can carry us until we collapse in the forest and wait for all the pain and despair to swallow what's left of this pitiful existence.

I thought, "Fuck my neighbor."

They were probably another potential buyer wanting to pump me for information. I had no interest in speaking to anyone about the Farm. I was through.

I didn't answer. I didn't move. I waited upstairs until they left. Then I crept downstairs to see if anyone was still around. No one. Coast was clear!

I made my breakfast in peace and went back upstairs to catch the last of Dad's radio time. He was on with three other veterans plus the radio station's personality. They were talking about the meaning of Memorial Day for each of them. My Dad talked about the Memorial Day Event he was helping to hold at a local cemetery and encouraged the public to come out and support it to help remember our country's Veterans.

The radio personality, Willie, said he had done a Memorial Weekend Special several years ago when he was reminded about what Memorial Day was all about.

He had opened the Memorial Day show several years with, "Happy Memorial Day."

Then someone called in and told him, "I don't know what's so 'happy' about it. This is the time when we look back and remember and honor all of our U.S. Armed Forces who have given their lives."

It was a really good point. I think most of us celebrate holidays without spending a lot of time about the meaning behind the holiday. We go through the motions but forget the message.

"We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue."

James A. Garfield

May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery

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