Yesterday was my birthday. I had planned to sleep-in, but I didn’t. My body clock is very hard-wired to awake early so, even with concerted effort, a day rarely goes by that I’m not sliding my feet into slippers well before 5:30.
I didn’t begrudge the early start yesterday; I gladly welcomed it. Each day is a new day and, as a dear friend phrased it, yesterday marked another lap around the sun. For me, it is also marks the start of another year; it’s my personal “New Year’s Day.”
In keeping with that theme, I decided to spend a good part of my day thinking about what gift(s) I wanted to give myself this year. I’ll be sharing more details in a later post, but for this post I’ll share the first gift I gave myself: permission to use my opt out card. As I said at the start of NaBloPoMo, I jumped in again this year with the knowledge I could jump out anytime I wanted. Though I didn’t pack up my swim bag, I did decide to take a break from the water so I could focus on me, my family, and just being still.
And, at the end of the day, I realized I gave myself the very best gift I could, which was a great way to start my next lap around the sun.
A couple of years back, I wrote about my father. He was an amazing man who made amazing sacrifices for his family and his country. Each year, on Veteran’s Day, I called him specifically to thank him for his service and the sacrifices he made during WWII. Though he was a humble man and talked little of his service, I wanted him to know his service and sacrifices mattered.
His service did matter. And, though he is gone, his service still matters, as does the service of every man and woman that has answered the call to protect my freedom. I may not agree with every action taken by our military, but I will always stand in support of the men and women that wear a uniform in protection of my rights.
As a practice, I thank every man and woman I see in uniform, regardless of the date, but today, as a nation, we say our public and collective thanks. With our eyes set on the fact that each man and woman in uniform was a boy or a girl once and that each has a family that also makes sacrifices so their son, daughter, husband, father, wife, and/or mother may serve, my family and I once again offer our simple, humble, and deeply heartfelt gratitude for all the veterans that serve and have served.
And, in remembrance of my father, I again share the tribute I wrote in 2013:
A Veteran’s Legacy
He was a boy once, taught to ride ponies by his mama.
He had only one sister, no brothers, and a father who wasn’t present.
He was a boy who couldn’t breathe, lungs constricted by asthma.
He worked odd jobs to help support the family.
He was a boy who played saxophone and clarinet well.
He struggled in classes and was told he wasn’t bright.
He was a boy when he left school, not yet graduated, not yet 18.
He left school on the promise of a high school diploma.
He was too young to sign the papers.
He asked his mother for consent; she conceded, her only son would serve.
He was skinny, runt-like, at only 109 pounds, but they would take him.
He would play in the band and be trained as a medic.
He would serve in the name of his family, his friends, his country.
He served in the Navy, on the USS Yorktown, in the Pacific during WWII.
He played his saxophone and wheezed at night.
He saw action.
He saw death and pain and horror no boy of 16 or 17 should see.
He bonded with his shipmates, and they with him.
He mourned the loss of his best friend.
He swallowed his fear.
He rescued men when the ship was hit.
He was injured.
He earned medals.
He entered as a boy; he left as a man.
He said he simply did what he had to do, that they all did.
He lived in Paris after the war.
He played jazz and conversed with Jean-Paul Sartre.
He returned home to begin anew.
He went back to school on the GI bill.
He became a lawyer.
He met a woman and proposed 6 weeks later.
He married her in less than a year.
He started a family and he returned to school.
He became a psychologist.
He built a marriage, a family, and a private practice.
He became a writer.
He regularly challenged his mind; education mattered to the boy who left high school.
He teased with a dry sense of humor.
He encouraged and guided his children in their education and in life.
He traveled the world and inspired his children to do the same.
He woke with sick children, mourned the loss of a child, and assembled toys late on Christmas Eve.
He openly missed them when the last had left the nest.
He loved his children well.
He was a romantic.
He would buy her violets, the flowers she carried on their wedding day.
He called her “Doll”, and his eyes still sparkled each time he looked at her.
He would ask her, “Did I make you feel loved today?” at the end of the day.
He held her hand when they walked.
He celebrated their love.
He would share almost 50 years with her.
He loved her well.
He rarely spoke of the pain he had seen in the war or in life.
He served his country, his community, and his family.
He left a legacy of discipline, of humility, but most of all, of love.
He was a veteran, and I’m proud to say he was my father.
And, he is missed.
To all the men and women who serve and have served our country, my family and I thank you.