I have written this, rewritten, edited, reedited it, and yet what I want to say just doesn’t appear.
Usually I post this on Memorial Day, but this year Mothers Day posts triggered this once again. My Dad was born on Mothers Day, and he told mom a little fib that it was the day after because he didn’t want to take away from a celebration of her. Most of my sisters were in on the ruse, but I wasn’t a party to it until much later.
Grief is just not something I can share, even among my best of friends and family I can share sickness, anger, hope and despair, but grief, no. I will not. I cannot. While busy with my parent’s death, I remained stoic and businesslike. There was not a tear, not a crack in my voice throughout the funeral and afterwards. I have little patience for histrionics and occasionally snapped at relatives for resorting to them.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t endear you to people, and I have seriously offended some with my curt replies. Grief can come years later, and it did with my parents.
They were both cremated and put into urns until I could arrange for a military burial. It took quite a while to get my Dad interred in a military cemetery because his military records from WWII were destroyed in a fire at the National Records Center. The Army created a special team to look for other sources of proof such as mess-hall passes, leave records, and such to verify service.
Also, my father was first enlisted and went over to Burma to serve in operations over the Burma-Ledo road that supplied China with arms and munitions. The transportation companies were all black enlistees, and apparently the Army was uncomfortable with them, so when the Army discovered my Dad was a southern boy, they felt that he would know how to deal with them. They sent him to Officer Candidate school at March Field at Riverside, California, and it was at that time I moved from a twinkle in Dad’s eye to an embryo.
The records did not reflect his promotion to Captain, but at least we got his Officer Candidate School papers and buried him as a Lieutenant. Mom’s name went on the reverse side as “wife”, and we buried their ashes together in the same grave. It was a bleak experience for me, and we are talking about a span of a few years between Dad’s death, Mom’s death, and final interment at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado. The site was a newly plated site, and sod had not been laid. The grave was a round hole dug by the burial crew with a powered auger.
The family went its separate ways, and I returned home to garden and write. Still my emotions were flat. Later that same year I went to check on their gravestone on Memorial Day. The sod had been installed, and many, many more gravestones had been set up on that new plat.
I stood there meditating when off in the distance I spied a group of about six Viet Nam vets going unerringly from gravestone to gravestone of their buried comrades. They were more familiar with that vast cemetery than most of us are with our own backyard, stopping for a time at each on to bow their heads and leave coins on the stones.
I remember the hate vets received from some of the people toward returning vets. Most of them went on with their lives, and never spoke of the war around civilians. But here they were, quietly and anonymously leaving their greeting in coins to their fallen comrades. I broke into painful tears of grief and staggered back to the car and sat there for a couple of hours until my emotions subsided.
Finally, I returned home, ate Dinner with Snookums before she left for work. I was back to my old stoic self, but something changed. I am not sure I like the change …
2 thoughts on “”
May 14, 2023 at 2:17 pm
Grief is intensely personal. There’s no right or wrong way to feel it, no timetable from beginning to end. When we visited Yorktown cemetery and I saw coins being placed on soldiers graves from the Revolutionary War? I wept. For them, and all those I’d lost.
May 14, 2023 at 10:56 pm
My dad was born on Mother’s Day, too…1945. He was a preemie and was put under ultraviolet lights for a month in the hospital. My grandfather was always proud to say that they had taken blood out of his arm and put it into my dad’s body. He came home on Father’s Day. He passed on Aug. 25, 2022, five days before my 56th birthday. I haven’t been to the grave, yet. We hadn’t spoken in six years…and I was left to clean up his 40 year old mess, along with my uncle & step-sister.
My grief was sporadic. Light tears came upon the news of his death. He was my dad and, as a child, I adored him. As a teen, I was largely ignored after he & my mother divorced. As an adult, we became “friends.” Christmas of 2016, I gave up dealing with him.
Grief, anger and rage came later. It is good to be rid of it, now.
How long ago did he pass?
I’d heard about the 1973 NPRC fire. I contacted them about some of Ken’s records and learned of it. Ken’s records were intact, he just didn’t have all of them.
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