Monday, May 31, 2010

On This Memorial Day...

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This Memorial Day weekend I spent with my grandfather, who I love dearly.

Gramp lives with my aunt in a camper. My aunt is an official member of the working poor, so he resides with her to provide supplemental income and general support. At 87 years of age, however, it is difficult. The heater is going and was touch and go all winter so the temperature was kept at 65 degrees to limit stress on the system. Also, because they just moved to a new campground, cable television has been unavailable. The toilet leaks and the bathroom is too small for my grandfather to get in and out of the tub. My aunt works 50+ hours a week as a manager for a beauty supply store and had an hour commute to deal with throughout the winter, so, given the sparse winter population at the campground, Gramp had to tough out long, cold days alone in a camper without even television to keep him company. Yet, with family get-togethers over the holidays, there would not be a word of protest or complaint....he's doing just fine.

Why does Gramp do this?

Because my grandfather's life is about self-sacrificial love. He's a bona fide member of the "Greatest Generation". Following his family's struggle to survive on a diet of dug-up clams and "crackers and milk" during the Great Depression, he enlisted in the army and was sent off to Europe where he fought from the D-Day invasion at Normandy all the way to Munich, Germany where he helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp. The average lifespan for a tank support infantryman in combat was around eight minutes, yet he managed to survive three campaigns across Europe. The day before VE Day he was driving a colonel in a truck across a newly cleared minefield when his vehicle struck an overlooked mine killing the colonel and leaving him partially deaf and with a permanent piece of metal in his skull. After recovering in Paris, he was around town to celebrate the victory over Japan and end of the war and was caught in the following classic Time-Life photo:

After returning from the war, my grandfather married my grandmother who already had two daughters from an earlier failed marriage. But no social or economic constraints could get in the way of the unconditional, overwhelming love he had for Gram (who had inspired him with the words, "you come back to me", before he left for the war) and they married on New Year's Day in 1947 and began a life of simple but happy struggle to build the next generation of Americans who would come to know unprecedented plenty and well-being. He adopted my mother and her sister and raised them as his own, and then Gram and Gramp had a third daughter with whom he now lives.

On July 4th, 2004, my grandmother passed away, leaving my grandfather behind for a final campaign he fights to this day for love of his only begotten daughter. Upon Gram's passing, my brother and I put together the following tribute we shared at her funeral:

So on this Memorial Day I'd like to raise up my grandfather as a true American hero who even now in his waning years still humbly fights the good fight and sacrifices himself out of love without protest or despair. This, I believe, is godliness in true form which is tragically rare in modern society. Indeed, when the world comes crashing down around us in the trying times ahead, let it be clear that where we failed was in forgetting the pure genius of my grandfather and others like him from the Greatest Generation who have comprehended that life is not all about them. That's simply not the point.

A new commandment I give unto you,
That ye love one another;
as I have loved you,
that ye also love one another.

[John 13:34]

Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends.

[John 15:13]

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

- William Butler Yeats

The Final Battle
between Good and Evil,
humanity and inhumanity,
right and wrong,
truth and lies,
is set to begin.

Are you willing to 'fight'?

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