life story

Veteran’s Day

The following is from Writers in the Grove member Gretchen Keefer.

November 11 – Veterans’ Day

Michael’s number was low. He knew that sooner rather than later he would go. After careful deliberation he decided not to take the available alternatives. He felt they were cowardly excuses. Michael did not entirely agree with the politics; he only knew he had to defend the principles of freedom, choices and self-government.

It was in December of his junior year of collage that the expected letter arrived. When he left home on the appointed day his mother cried, his father solemnly shook his hand, his brother hugged him. His friends did not come to see him off because they were embarrassed, or in Canada.

In his letters home Michael told very little about his war experiences. He characterized the other men and related humorous events. He described the food and the lush green of the country – but never the illness or the duplicity of the natives. He completed his assignments, supported his companions, earned distinctions. He didn’t wear the medals he had earned, and didn’t tell his family how many buddies he had watched die.

When Michael came home, his service honorably completed, he was reviled by other young people and ignored by employers. Every time a car backfired or a door slammed, he jumped. His temper grew shorter, his focus diffused. Although the government would have paid, he did not complete his college education, and eventually took a mechanic’s job. He married, divorced, drank, drifted.

Today we say we have learned from those difficult lessons of the 1970’s, and we thank our veterans for their service. However, war has not changed; the experiences are still not describable, and vets still are startled by loud noises.

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Mourning

The following is by Writers in the Grove member, D.K. Lubarsky.

I cannot mourn in front of my children,
I cannot share the sorrows and tears of age and illness
Nor cry from the depth of my heart
Nor speak of the profound and lingering losses
I cannot tell them of the pain I feel at times
They do not want me to know

I cannot mourn with my children
They choose not to see the shriveled arms and shuffling gate
“You are fine,” they sing in their frantic dance of life
“You underestimate yourself,” they call over their shoulders
As they race through sunny fields, flying off to catch their young
Leaving me far behind in their wake

Confident full-fledged adults, with steam engine powered muscles
Their throttles smashed forward against infinity
They recognize on some transient level, I suppose
That I am something else
A specter of the mother they once had
Tho’ purposely not examined too closely
For then they might have to acknowledge their proximity of loss
In their world of distant horizons

So I cannot mourn my losses with my children
But I thank God for my friends
Equal in age and weariness
We sit around the table stacking our wounds like poker chips
Unashamed confessions
Tethered with nods and sighs, handclasps and hugs

Learning from one another how to step forward
How to keep laughing
In spite of it all
To appreciate simple pleasures
And each other

We grieve and giggle on the same breath
Then breathe, grieve, and giggle once more.

And at day’s end
I come away stronger for their strength
So that I can return to the children I adore and listen as they say
“See, I told you that you were okay.”
Never comprehending how close to the edge
I was when first awakening to morning’s light

But perhaps I am better off
Being able to glean from their perspective
Knowing that for now, this very moment,
I truly am okay.