Last year I wrote the following post about Memorial Day. Dealing with my own red, white, and blue childhood baggage while parenting small people pops the emotional seal on some long-packaged MREs.
Regardless of how I feel about war (especially those for oil, cough), my memories of that life aren’t diluted by third party accounts, or made-for-tv movies. My family lived this holiday, even if 2/3rd of us did so from the (secured) perimeter.
Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day– all of these armed service holidays end up with my emotions balanced between dock and rickety canoe.
A child of the eighties, I grew up in military towns, with a career Army father and his career Army wife.
Being fully conscious of my emotional response *waves hand in big circle* to All Things Patriotic and Military should– but doesn’t– make dealing with it easier.
Once a child, it never occurred to me to wonder about various patriotic chanting; my child questioned saying the Pledge of Allegiance on the first day of school.
Once a child, I didn’t know anything different from green uniforms and long separations; those few civilian families with dads that came home every night were the oddities.
Once a teenager, I simply didn’t care. Too busy reminding my parents that I had not enlisted. Too busy being the selfish little bitch that still causes a wince when I think of it, twenty-ish odd years later.
Once a barely-adult, finally old enough to be told, and I cared, but only in the romantic my-dad-got-shot-in-war-once-and-could-have-died-and-then-I-wouldn’t-be-here way.
Self absorbed are the young.
Once a young adult, I Cared. With a focused riotous anger that smoldered during my mom and I’s battle with the Veteran’s Administration. Idealistic and unprepared, I waded directly into the jungles of my father’s memories thanks to the internet and stories of other combat veterans. To see these men, their wives, and their children rip open those scars in search of healing altered my reality in a way that nothing would again until the birth of my first child.
Learning that many scars become a symbol of pride, a (insert expletive) at fate’s attempt to take you out. Realizing that the scar on my father’s shoulder went far deeper than skin and muscle.
Understanding that even the scars worn with pride are often tainted with grief and guilt.
Now a parent, a full-on adult, I can appreciate how arduous full disclosure can be with children not emotionally capable of understanding that right and wrong occur on a sliding scale. How carefully stepping around blades of sharp reality leaves a parent with bloody feet and confused kids.
As a mother, it’s my fervent hope that neither of my children ever wear a military uniform.
Not because of a lacking pride, but rather because I know exactly how much that pride costs and I’m too selfish to pay up.
But for those of you left with a tattered receipt and rough memories– I spend this weekend with you in memoriam.