It seems a bit inappropriate to wish you all a happy Memorial Day. Today is a day for remembering those who have gone before us, and while we should keep the happier memories of those people alive inside us, the day itself isn't filled with happiness in the same way as some holidays.
Surfing around the web this morning, I've seen a lot of people talking about the men in military service, the fallen heroes of our country, and the war-that's-not-a-war itself. Today is a day for remembering those men. They deserve it. (The WTNAW - whatever your opinion is of it - should have NO bearing on your thoughts of the men in the military.) I am, however, not going to talk about that today.
For me, Memorial Day is also a day for remembering those people who have made some difference to our lives, and who are now gone from it. It should be more than visiting a gravesite and placing gaudy decorations (and if you've ever seen some of the cemeteries in Utah on Memorial Day, you understand what I mean), or making today one of the few days of the year to raise our nation's flag. Memorial Day should be a day to take some time for quiet contemplation of the memories of our lost loved ones.
I remember when I was five, and my father took my fishing. It was a pretty special event, because Dad never took girls with him on any manly outing, and he took me. I was so proud.
The creek was only about a mile from the house, and I'm sure if it had been just me brothers fishing, they would have set off down the road like Tom Saywer and Huck Finn. Instead, we stowed all our gear into the old station wagon and piled in - Dad, both of my brothers and me.
After we arrived, all of us walked down to a bend in the creek and settled ourselves near the huge old willow with its branches draping gracefully into the slow moving waters. It was the perfect place to fish. The fat bass loved to hide in the shadows of that tree, and the men-folk of my family knew just how to coax a bass out into the light. I wasn't trying for bass that day, though. I was set up with a worm on my hook and a bobber on my line, waiting for the cute bluegills or pretty sunfish to strike.
It was a warm day, slightly overcast but with no smell of rain in the air, and the fishing was good. All morning, my brothers and my father would pull fish after fish from the dark waters. All morning, fish after fish ate my worms and went merrily on their way. My father didn't care much. He would just rebait my hook and go back to his own pole.
As lunch approached, my ravenous little five-year-old stomach was ready, and when my middle brother mentioned food, my attention immediately went elsewhere. I didn't see my bobber dip into the water; I didn't see it jerk up and down excitedly. I set my rod down and toddled off in search of my own food. My father saw it, though. Too late.
By the time he reached where I'd laid my pole, it was disappearing beneath the surface of the water, headed upstream--hook, line, bobber and all.
I could make up a story where my father just laughed and said 'things happen', but that would be incorrect. My father cursed a blue streak, and made me sit on the bank for the rest of the day while he continued fishing. (Who could blame him? It was his favorite rod.) I didn't know it at the time, but my father taught me a valuable lesson. (Like many he taught me over the years that I didn't fully appreciate until I was older.) He taught me to pay attention to the task at hand, and not to let anything distract me from that task or I may just lose something important or valuable along the way. Over the years, he taught me that actions have consequences, but that day he taught me that inaction has consequences, too.
On this day, I hold my memories of him close to me. We lost him 5 years ago May 6th, and his 71st birthday would have been next week. I don't need today to remind me of him, but today more than any other brings the good memories floating to the surface.
I miss you, Dad, but you will never be gone from me. Not as long as I remember.
PS. Just in case you think I was forgetting our veterans, Dad was a USAF veteran of Korea and Vietnam. Thank you, soldiers, for keeping us free.
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