Sunday, May 24, 2009

More than the start of summer

There are things we never forget. Some are generational: where you were when you heard President John F. Kennedy had been shot; what you were doing when the World Trade Center was attacked or when Chris was selected as the American Idol (that one was for EB). Other experiences, and to each his own, are more personal: where I was the first time I saw the woman I was to marry or what I was doing when our first-born told he'd gotten hired for his first full-time job or our daughter told me she'd been accepted into college. Life is actually millions of interconnected moments, each one linking and leading to the next from the previous and each of our lives is really what we do within those moments, together and alone.

This is the Memorial Day weekend and the above was my feeble attempt to try to make sense of the sacrifice of those who died in uniform in the defense of their country, because it's my country, too (those numbers are eleven months old, by the way). Until it got rolled into the great Monday Holiday Law to make More Three-Day Weekends (or whatever its official name is), we wouldn't celebrate Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as our parents called it, until this coming Saturday. Good thing we got it moved, eh?

Those hot dogs and burgers aren't going to grill themselves. And those BOGO sales at the strip malls will not last forever and what about the Indy 500? Yeah, everyone's a winner when we make things into three day holiday weekends. Sure, we lose sight eventually of what the holiday is about (some of us get Memorial Day and Veterans Day mixed up), but that's got as much to do with the rate and pace of change in our lives and society as well as of our inability to maintain our focus long enough to complete a thought. (Prediction: in less than a year there will be a service, ala Twitter, but that allows only much shorter messages-we can call it Blrtr (=blurter).)

Previous generations used to observe, not celebrate, Memorial Day, by visiting the graves of relatives and friends who'd died in uniform and placing flowers and little American flags. I saw someone the other day at the "old" cemetery in Norwich, the one off of Lafayette Street behind Backus Hospital, driving his Audi on the walking path between the grave markers while talking on his cell phone. Classy, clownie, real classy. And the sports radio on? Nice touch.

Between now and eight o'clock tonight (DST), before tuning into the PBS Memorial Day Concert (and no, it doesn't have the Beach Boys, or Springsteen or Josh Grobin), try to check out as much of the website in support of the event that the PBS folks have created. Every time I go there, I learn at least one new 'something' and I visit there a lot. Here in Norwich, and near where you live as well, there will be observances-ours is Monday and spans the city, starting in Taftville at 10 AM at Memorial Park followed later in the day, at 2 PM, with a parade that starts near St. Patrick's and concludes at Chelsea Parade.

There's speeching by a lot of folks who never served a day in uniform (sorry. My eight years in the Air Force makes me cranky sometimes at people who think because they have are entitled to their opinion, I, too, should be entitled to it) with small children scampering between the rows of metal folding chairs that the organizers so meticulously arranged and then all get rearranged as friends (every year, a few less than the time before) sit together and share their own memories while young men trapped in old men's bodies recall their wild youth and the school chum who didn't return from one of our far-off wars, and then there is a wreath laying at the (quite lovely) memorial on the north end. And before we know it, we're living and reliving Gunners Dream.
-bill kenny

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