Gratitude Sunday: A Memorial Day For All

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “Service is the rent you pay for room on this earth.”
Shirley Chisholm

Sunday Haiku

One freaky warm week
belies cooler spring days to
follow; shawl weather.

Sunday Musings
As we come to another Memorial Day weekend I want to extend a note of love and caution to all. Memorial Day acts as the semi-official start of summer though summer solstice is still a month away. Some folks get so overly enthusiastic they might be willing to take more risks to celebrate summer and summerish weather. Please enjoy yourselves but err on the side of caution. Be safe having fun!

On a more serious note, I don’t say Happy Memorial Day. It seems an oxymoron as we take some time to think about our forebears who served this country. Since they are gone I’m not happy, I’m grieving. This weekend we are supposed to honor people who served in the military who have left us behind. That’s where I start. Serving in the military is a special kind of service to the country. Not everybody is built for this kind of service, but everybody can serve, and everybody does serve their country; we just haven’t codified it or made it official like military service is. We could decide to have national service for everybody if we wanted to formalize a program of service; that’s about imagination and progress. I find the more people know about their country, the more people are asked or expected to take care of their country, to take stewardship of our communities and country, the more invested we are, and the stronger we are.

My dad served overseas in the Philippines in the late 1940s, not an “official” war. He’s been gone now since 2001 and I regret I don’t know his whole story. He didn’t talk about his years of military service much. In his day, a man was expected to serve unless there were extreme circumstances, and somehow men seemed more willing to serve, or perhaps it was a different kind of social pressure then. I find many people who served in the military don’t talk much about their service. Maybe they should. Those of us who haven’t served in the military might understand more about its rewards and horrors. Honesty is the best policy, right?

Dad was a rear tail gunner in the army air force. I know that sounds confusing: he served in the army on a plane. He got the job because he was thin as a rail and his tiny butt fit on the tiny seat at the rear of the plane. He never said what he shot or shot at. He developed an ulcer in his middle age and did not stay thin.

Dad didn’t talk about his army buddies and I don’t remember him being in touch with any of them. I remember only one story he told about sleeping in tents on the beach, how large the beach crabs were, and how the crabs would walk across the bodies of sleeping soldiers, waking them in the middle of the night. I’m not much of a rough sleeper as it is, but this would have given me screaming night terrors.

Besides the memories, Dad brought something home from the Philippines that remained with him the rest of his life. He called it “jungle rot” though I think it was some sort of fungal infection on his feet. He was constantly tending to his feet, making sure they were clean, the “rot” inspected and scrapped off daily, and he insisted on white cotton socks with everything he wore, which he sometimes changed several times a day depending on his comfort level. An unfortunate medal of honor to wear for your years of service that Dad blamed on many months of wet feet, wet socks, and wet boots during his time of service. One of my boyfriends was totally fascinated by Dad’s feet and would make sure I was home from our dates when Dad got home from his swing shift work schedule, easy to do with a midnight curfew. He loved to watch Dad tend his feet so much I was surprised he didn’t go into medicine as a career. I have sensitive feet and challenges with my feet make me more than average cranky. It was a relief to be able to solve my plantar fasciitis pain by switching from flip-flops to supportive sport shoes. I can only imagine Dad’s daily foot pain.

There is no one left to ask. All of his generation in my family are gone now. I would like to know if he used the GI Bill to finance the house he raised his family in. I’d like to know if he had any assistance from the Veteran’s Administration other than the one instance I know where he had a little occupational therapy. I would like to know more of his stories. The nurses in attendance to the men in the room during OT told the men they didn’t want to hear their stories. I pitched a fit and gave them a piece of my mind: that even if you’ve heard the story a million times, you listen again politely and patiently. I went to the supervisor as well. I’d love to hear one of his stories now. In his last years he had suffered a stroke and struggled with aphasia, so he couldn’t have told the stories again without the most exhausting effort.

I have a few pictures of the plane he served in. My sis located some of his military entrance and exit papers and the cap he wore while he served still survives. Our kids could not care less about family history, and I see this in so many families I’ve come to believe history might die completely with my generation.

I like to remind Americans though we may not have served in the military, we are in service to our country every day. Military service is complicated, and I would never belittle or denigrate people who have made that hard choice to serve our country in that way; military service people have served in a capacity I never could.

Every-day citizens are in service to our country every day, right here in our neighborhoods and communities; every-day service looks simpler but it’s complicated in its own way because we don’t always recognize it as service. We don’t exist in a vacuum. Everything we do and touch, touches other people when we live in a multi-generational household, a neighborhood, a community, a village, or a society.

When we drive down the road in a responsible manner, following the rules, resisting road rage even when surrounded by other inconsiderate drivers, we are in service to our country.

When we get up and go to work every day we are in service to our country, no matter the type of work.

When we pay taxes for our property, our income, our gasoline, our phones, our roads, our cars, airplane travel, our medicines, and for recreation we are in service to our country.

When we pay our bills, our rent and mortgages, and buy consumer goods we are in service to our country. When we take care of our homes and property we are in service to our country.

When we send our children to public schools we are in service to our country as we support both building/facility investment and human capital investment in teachers, and as we support children who are the future of our country.

When we invest ourselves in higher education whether it be academic or traditional skilled trades like electricians, plumbers, mechanics, and carpenters, we are in service to our country.

When we vote in every election we are in service to our country. When we run for office in school, at city and county and state and federal levels, whether we win or not, we are in service to our country.

When we shop at a farmers market and put our money directly into the hands of the people who grew and harvested and made our food we are acting in service to our country.

When we volunteer with a youth group, or a school, or a non-profit organization we are in service to our country.

When we donate to the local food bank, a community blessing box, a little free library, or a non-profit organization we are in service to our country.

When we offer the lady who was served before us at the food bank a ride home as we see her pack her food into a series of backpacks so she can carry it home if she can wait until we are done with our own food box selection because we have a car and she doesn’t, we are in service to our country. The poor helping the poorer.

When we walk the beaches, or trails, or parks, or city sidewalks and pick up other people’s trash we are in service to our country. When we leave no trace after our picnic or hike or camp-out we are in service to our country.

When we yell at neighbor kids to not bully each other we are in service to our country.

When we listen to the histories of our elders we are in service to our country.

When we listen to the struggles of our young people we are in service to our country.

When we mow the neighbor’s lawn because it needs to be done and we have a few extra minutes to do so without a thought that he will owe us something, we are in service to our country.

When we pay attention to local, national, and world news after a hard day’s work we are in service to our country.

When we stand up for what is right, for human rights, for the health and wealth of all of us we are in service to our country.

Like I told my dad as often as I could after we got older, thank you. I’m grateful for your service. If it weren’t for all we do, we wouldn’t be as good as we are. With all our service, I know we can get better, because we know we are better than the ugly American underbelly that is showing itself in plain sight now.

This Memorial Day spend a few minutes thinking about and remembering the people who have served who have already left this earth. Honor the people who made the tough choice of military service. And honor the rest of those who served every day, on home soil, the ones our soldiers came home to.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Wetlands lupines in Monet shades of pink and blue.

Photo by Sherri Mead

The O’Keefe view of a fully opened pink peony. A pink and orange sherbet rose, valley roses coming on strong right on schedule for the Portland Rose Festival. We called these flame colored spears Indian fire bush when I was a kid and we pretended they were weapons that would burn when tagged with them. So many patches of bright orange California poppies in hellstrips and road dividers.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Gigi (1958, rated G) with Maurice Chevalier, Leslie Caron, and Louis Jourdan, from the novel by Colette, directed by Vincente Minnelli. A period piece about 1890s Paris, I loved the Art Nouveau detailing of the sets, and the Victorian designs of the costumes. The novel was considered radical in its time (1944), the movie was innovative with new Technicolor technology. In 2019, viewed through the #metoo and #timesup lens, it’s creepy and disturbing that both grandma and great-auntie approve a mistress relationship for teen-aged Gigi in the name of money, as the mother is on-site yet vacant, while Gigi holds out for the real prize. 1890, 1944, and 1958 are all past now and indeed they were different times. I’m all about choice, my choice, your choice, without coercion and the only approval needed is mine, but I’m also about dignity. * Rim of the World (2019, rated TV-14), about a group of misfit teens who go to summer camp and the earth is invaded by extraterrestrial aliens. Formulaic and predictable, as the kids learn to work together MacGyver style to defeat the inevitable Hollywood scary version of an alien with spewing goo and millions of teeth and the ability to regenerate, and the good guys prevail in the end. I do like a happy ending. * Once again in need of nearly mindless viewing I find the British Baking shows to be the most calming; there are several versions out now. The garden shows are fun but they represent too much possible, real, and needed work. Baking shows are fun because I don’t eat a lot of sugar or pastry or bread, so when I do I have a better knowledge on which to judge the quality, and no pressure because I’m unlikely to make the treats they do. Since I don’t eat much I want the best for my treat when I do.

Currently ReadingThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (2017, fiction) by Taylor Jenkins Reid, just started, about an aging glamorous Hollywood star and a young New York writer, and so far seems like good summer reading. Off to a good reading start for the summer. * I am nothing if not persistent and I’m stubborn about finishing so I don’t miss anything. With Just Give Money to the Poor: The Development Revolution from the Global South (2010, world social development) by Armando Barrientos, David Hulme, and Joseph Hanlon, I feel like I’ve read the same dry statistical sentence hundreds of times. It all makes sense but it also feels like so much gobbledygook. Yargh, statistics and my crazy curiosity.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Persistence.
  • The abundance of cleaning. The more I clean the more I find to clean.
  • How comforting it is to hear birds tweeting outside my window every morning to make sure I know the light is changing. Yes, I know they are talking to themselves, but I eavesdrop.
  • The staff at my aquatic center who honor my “old-timers” status (12 plus years) and allow me to work around them and vice versa. More than once they have come to my rescue when I had a leg cramp or a coughing fit. Staff does this for everybody from the smallest crying baby to the least abled of us.
  • My aquatic center being funded through local property taxes so my tax investment stays in my community; that is a tax investment well spent.
  • The neighbor’s seal point Siamese cat who seems to be guarding Mister Kitty’s grave. He’s been sitting there the last couple weeks since Mister has been gone. They were pals, on territorial growling terms at any rate, so perhaps he’s grieving as well.
  • Listening to a heavy spring storm rain through from the coast and knowing my roof doesn’t leak.
  • The son getting some blackberry vines cut back. Such an abundance of vines, and they all need to go.
  • Not my favorite choice because the choices are limited, but when I need it having access to the local food bank sure is helpful to my family’s need to eat every day. At least I have that choice.
  • The hubster who asks before tossing pickle juice (saved for flavoring potato and macaroni salads!).
  • Little green scallions for salads and baked potatoes. I like green onions raw, chopped fine.
  • My first two pints of fresh Oregon strawberries for the season. Sweet Ann variety. Hoods aren’t quite ripe yet. These were picked a day too early but we’ve had rain and they are molding fast. Strawberries are such a delicate, fickle weather fruit. But I’ll take the slight tartness of picked too early to have berries grown within my local area. With them fresh I can afford to have a few more during the summer.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

This entry was posted in abundance, Aging, Careers, Education, Family, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Parenting, Photography, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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