Thursday, November 11, 2004

Veterans Day

I was 5 years old on July 4th, 1976. My dad had a pig roast for Fourth that year. It was a special cookout that year not only because of the Bicentennial, but on account of so much of the far flung family would be coming together. My Uncle Jim was a Marine stationed in the UK, he and his family came -- I was excited to see the cousins I'd only met once before. (Matt & P.J. are in the service now, Adam served in the first Gulf War.) My Uncle Don and his family were there too, they all came in from Texas. Don was also a Marine who'd served in Vietnam. (It's only in the last few years I've heard about the trail of busted up bars he left up and down Main St. East Hartford when he got back ... funny stuff now, but it sounds like he's lucky the police were busy enough cleaning up the messes behind him that they didn't catch up to him that night.) My Uncle Robert was there too, he'd spent a long time in the hospital up in Springfield when he got back from Vietnam. I'd only seen pictures of him and don't really remember seeing him that day, he'd gone into the house and the kids were told not to bother him. I knew he'd been injured, but not how bad, nor how long he'd been in the hospital.

What I remember most about that day is playing army with my cousins, watching the fireworks, running around and jumping into somersaults and sprawling out on the ground after the giant booms and how my grandfather had to ask us to stop. The way he asked has stayed with me to this day. I never saw him look like that before, like he might cry. It scared the hell out of me. He told us how Robbie was having a hard time with the sound of the fireworks and now wasn't the right time to pretend to be blown up. Then, all I could think was how sad it was that fireworks (fun!) could make somebody feel so bad that it could make my grandfather look that worried for him.

That's almost thirty years ago (man, I feel old saying that) and even now I get a knot of Angry-Sad-It's-Not-Fair in my throat thinking about those fireworks, my grandfather, and my uncle. Rob has always had "Favorite Distant Uncle" status. He got me my first computer ... a VIC 20 with a tape drive and a modem. I played Shamus and read a Bulletin Board he posted to back then, The Democratic Secular Humanist Egg. He was (and is) the coolest.

My family is full of veterans and active duty ... but it's my Uncle Robert I choose to honor first and foremost.
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