Memorial Monday

Fifteen years ago this weekend, I started to blog.  My first entries went out to the Small Firm Internet Group (SFIG) via email.  That listserve later morphed into a managed venue owned and operated by the Missouri Bar Association.  In 2008, it belonged to Karl Timmerman and Dave Browning, both lawyers, both friends, both rebels, and both since deceased.  Time passes.

In that first, timid entry, I sent out a reflection on my conflicted feelings.  My angst centered on  war, Memorial Day, and my father, who considered his two-year stint in combat on the Burma trail in WWII to have been the uncelebrated highlight of his life.  As a pacifist and one of his eight children born well after he came home from the Army, I found that unquestionable fact to be mildly disturbing at best and saddening most of the time.  On Memorial Day weekend 2008, I tendered a post to SFIG quoting from a volume of World War I poetry, including some probably maudlin sentiments long since lost in the transfer and crashing of servers.

Today I find myself in a remarkably different setting, having had coffee on a porch located 2300 miles west of the splendid porch on which I sat to write that first missive.  Cool breezes necessitated a shawl over my cotton kimono and Merino sleeping attire.  In 2008, I wrote from the perspective of a Midwestern mother whose son had just disembarked for Mexico and a wife whose husband had decamped to Iowa or perhaps Ohio, I’ve forgotten now to which one he went that year.  Now, with the son grown and walking his own path in Chicago and that husband — and a subsequent one — permanently gone from my life, I dwell in a tiny space on a levee road next to the San Joaquin River in the California Delta.  Time stops for no one.

On Saturday, I fully intended to make a quick tour of secondhand shops in nearby Lodi and Stockton looking for a suitable old rocker for my new deck.  As I headed east on Highway 12, the annoying, persistent GPS lady told me to take the Highway 4 exit for Stockton.  Before I quite realized what I had done, I accelerated into the subsequent fork headed eastward to the foothills and Angel’s Camp.  An hour later, I lunched on a weird dish that purported to be vegetarian pasta at a restaurant on Main Street before making my way to Nellie Lou’s Antiques.

The lady told me she had two rockers in stock.  One appealed for different reasons than would serve my objective.  A reproduction of Victorian ladies’ traveling rockers, it reminded me of one that I’d sold at a garage sale to a woman who wanted it for her daughter’s first apartment.    It’s very nice, I remarked.  And priced too low for what it is, I added, causing her eyebrow to twitch.  We chatted about its value for a few minutes, which I knew from research a few years back.  Then she said, And I have this blue one over here, and my heart skipped a beat.  Blue!  Perfection!  A half-hour later, after finding an old wicker and wooden log holder and some silver jewelry that I could not resist, I thanked her husband for carrying it all to my car.  Then I headed west.

Through small town and countryside, I made my way back to the Delta.  Occasionally I stopped for photos or to gaze at the spectacular scenery from the relative safety of my car’s front fender.  Eventually, I pulled into my lot and sat gazing at the willow tree’s rise above the meadow behind my house.   I closed my eyes and contemplated the holiday, its purported purpose, and the absence of an American flag which I used to regularly fly.  I thought about life with my father, who had suffered unimaginable horrors as he and his cohorts tried to clear the Burma Road to enable the safe passage of supplies. 

I realize that war impacted my father in ways that I cannot fathom.  If his service had been a few decades later, he might have gotten help for its devastating psychological impact.  I do not excuse his alcoholism or his violent and damaging behavior.  But on this Memorial Day, I find myself yearning for a conversation with the Richard Adrian Corley whose intelligent brain and poetic soul succumbed to the horrors of war.  What might he say to his future, youngest girl?  What cautionary tales might I impart to his teenage self?  I sat with my daughter’s grief for a few minutes, while the engine cooled and the sun began its slow descent on the distant horizon.

It’s the twenty-ninth day of the one-hundred and thirteenth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Spring in War-Time BY SARA TEASDALE

I feel the spring far off, far off,
The faint, far scent of bud and leaf—
Oh, how can spring take heart to come
To a world in grief,
Deep grief?

The sun turns north, the days grow long,
Later the evening star grows bright—
How can the daylight linger on
For men to fight,
Still fight?

The grass is waking in the ground,
Soon it will rise and blow in waves—
How can it have the heart to sway
Over the graves,
New graves?

Under the boughs where lovers walked
The apple-blooms will shed their breath—
But what of all the lovers now
Parted by Death,
Grey Death?

A few photos taken on the road.  The chair atop the RV identified the entrance to a wedding venue, also show within this small gallery.

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