Friday, May 23, 2014

Memorial Day

This is a repost of my Memorial Day 2009 publication. It resonates, as Grader Boob faces great struggles, and could give a hoot about tennis this year. I miss our annual Brother-Sister exchanges over the various Opens and Wimbledon, etc. But I look forward, as well, to renewing that old tradition next year, and starting some new ones this year.  

Turn, turn, my wheel!  All things must change
To something new, to something strange;
  Nothing that is can pause or stay;
The moon will wax, the moon will wane,
The mist and cloud will turn to rain,
The rain to mist and cloud again,

  To-morrow be to-day.
-- Longfellow, excerpted from "Kéramos"


[do you recognize the racket to the right? my first, my favorite!]
It's that time of year again, hooray!

Men's Singles Draw

Women's Singles Draw

The greatest joy, though, comes in the form of communication with the Brother-Unit known as Grader Boob. Some siblings talk every Thanksgiving Day, or on birthdays -- The Grader Boob and I arrange our lives around tennis Grand Slam events.

Of course, it is also Memorial Day. (Please to ignore the grinding sound of my shifting gears.) A day of remembrance "of those who died in their country's service."

There are so many ways of dying, but I won't belabor the obvious -- nor mention the scrambled grey matter of the walking brain-injured, the stress-disordered, the illusionless.

When I was in high school, the adults around me thought I was a phenomenal writer. No, I was a phenomenal people-pleaser, terribly hyphenated.

We had to write an essay for English class, and "the best" was to be submitted in the local VFW lodge's Memorial Day Essay Contest.

I wrote something that was very good, that was quite facile, as all discussions of war and death ought to be. It's not the most subtle of things.

Not Crispus Attucks, killed during the Boston Massacre -- not anyone whose name we know and parrot -- just someone -- that's who figured in my essay. SumDood. Killed -- and Killer -- in the Revolutionary War.

He's not "just a boy." He's not a white-haired geezer. He is intelligent and understands the theories and desires behind the idea of revolution (but not the red coats and ramrod-straight lines of his purported enemies).

Reality is a lot like a very bad movie.

He faces off, squares his body to the face and the body mirrored back at him -- though he has no bayonet, he is just as well-equipped for this ridiculous point-and-shoot exercise -- fish in a barrel.

There was a lot of lyrical writing at that point, ephemeral and awful.

I brought the boys, the men, to the moment of firing their guns. Muskets. Weapons.
Water Balloons. Slingshots. Whatever.

Not bullets, but balls.

The average soldier armed with a smoothbore flintlock musket was expected to fire off a shot every 20 seconds.

What was he doing in those 20 seconds? A lot.

According to the Continental army training manual, there were 13 steps to firing a musket. In short, a soldier had to get a cartridge, tear it open with his teeth, put a little bit of powder in the firing mechanism, put the rest of the powder and a gun ball down the barrel, ram the ball and powder home, cock the musket and fire.

The musket was not an accurate weapon, so even after all that work, the soldier didn’t have the greatest chance of shooting his intended target.

I've always loved the mathematical notion of The Limit, and felt it could find no better bastardized application than that of an ever-approaching, never-arriving bullet. Ball. Buckshot.


Death by some projectile or other, tossed about by generally nice young men, scared, but not scared enough. Those wise enough to not be found in front of a gun were safely closeted somewhere, designing the raids, envisioning the massacres, ordering the taking of a hill, a lane, a town, signing treaties, drawing up important documents, sometimes weeping and proud. Yes, but.

Yes, but probably more mindful than your average war-mongers, the cause being just and all.

We certainly are thankful for the sacrifice.

My essay did not so much end as fizzle, extinguish, tire of the wait. In it, the two shooters actually manage to see one another, to wonder -- a bit -- at the other's world. In my essay, one shot was enough to kill -- but the moment managed to stay an eternity.

In that same moment are men and women dying today -- and I am forever out of high school, undefeated on the tennis team, voted most improved at almost everything, french-kissing that enlisted boy with the cystic acne (in the park across from school, remember the smell of autumn leaves, a smokey sky, the unfiltered Camel), making out with the pitcher on the baseball team the very first night of Junior/Senior weekend (sloe gin fizz), happy as a clam, they tell me later, running running running into the surf, screaming because I always knew The Limit was just a construct for snotty kids hiding behind an education.

Please God, don't let it be my "way of life" or "freedoms" for which they fall.

Please don't allow that Crap Thought, that neat turn of phrase, to gain more of a hold.

I so look forward to speaking with The Grader Boob, to laughing, to bolstering my picks for the semis, for the championship. To forgetting the shrunken men at the VFW lodge, long dead now, who called me "honey," and gave me a $500 U. S. Savings Bond.

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