Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

I don't suppose I can cheerily wish anyone a happy Memorial Day while mindful of the purpose of Memorial Day. Nevertheless, think happy thoughts about your lost ones on this day, or you'll never get out of bed.

I haven't lost anyone in any wars of the 20th Century whom I'd ever known. I believe there's a Marsh on that big stone plaque by the Paris Courthouse memorializing our Great War dead. My Grandfather Williams was a clerk in the army, and went to Europe, although he was too old to serve in the foxholes or with the artillery; he was a clerk. My Grandfather Chandler moved over to Norfolk, Virginia at some point to help build sheds and housing for the Naval base there. He was home before my mother came along in early 45, before the war ended, and my father is technically a Boomer, although my grandparents Williams had been married a fur piece before the war started.

My great-uncle James was a conscientious objector during the war, but they took him anyway and made him a stretcher-bearer and all-round medic in the Pacific. He never talked about what he'd seen there, after he came back from the war. He was a reticent and taciturn man who'd show up of a Sunday and sit in one chair, and not talk (although he was probably pretty deaf by that point), but I don't know what his personality was like before the war, so I can't say how it changed him.

My grandmother Chandler tried to make ends meet on the family farm, in the little house she still lives in at 91, with three small children in tow. My grandmother Williams had a job at the Avon army depot in Kentucky, repairing busted electronics for the army.

Isabel's grandfather Johnson was in the Navy, and taught sailors to read radar screens and other electronica at the University of Chicago. Her grandmother Johnson was a nurse; they got married near the end of the war, and Isabel's mom was the first of three children, born in 48.

Isabel's grandparents Pelech moved from the Ukraine to Germany in the 30's, escaping from the Soviets' purge of priests. Then her grandfather was involved in some unclear way in some resistance movement, and may have blown up a railroad. Her grandmother kept her head down, and somehow they came through the war, only to move to Peron's Argentina. They moved to the United States when Isabel's dad was little.

I have a toast here, for them all.

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