When my father died my step-mother made sure that I, as an only child, got all of his belongings. For two nights I slept with his leather aviation jacket and cried myself to sleep. Not wanting to become crazy Miss Havisham, eventually I gave my oldest son, who loved his Papa almost as much as I, the jacket and gave most of my father’s clothes to Goodwill. I kept a bulky oatmeal tweed sweater that I can put on when the Autumn days turn crisp, shove my hands in the pockets, and go for a walk or snuggle near the pellet stove. I cannot put it on without thinking about the man who is my hero.
Conrad Frieze, Pearl Harbor, 1941
Although the wound of my father’s loss is always with me to varying degrees, there are certain days when the memory of him is more vivid. There’s his birthday in the waning days of Winter and Father’s Day of course. There’s December 7th, when I remember his and my uncle’s days in 1941 at Pearl Harbor. And this time of year, Veteran’s Day.
My father’s ashes are scattered in the Missouri Ozarks he loved with a portion buried between his parents and grandparents in a circle of love. Since his marker, provided by the U.S. Navy, is there, a thousand miles from me, I built him a memorial garden where I can honor his memory and where I will place a flag next week.
The Greatest Generation is passing into history and their Boomer children becoming the old folks. I hope that young parents will take their children to visit their great-grandparents or to visit Tahoma Cemetery in Kent and tell them how ever since Lexington and Concord Americans have served and fought and died to keep them free.
It irritates me that Veteran’s Day has devolved into a day of shopping. Perhaps this year, with the economy teetering on the edge of a recession similar to the Great Depression that shaped my father’s childhood and the holiday being celebrated on the real day instead of attached to a long weekend, maybe people will stay home from the Veteran’s Day sales and turn their minds toward the Americans who are serving and have served our country and offered their lives for the freedom we will enjoy on November 4th.
Thank you to all the men and women who are serving and have served the United States and her Allies. I salute you.