Monday, May 25
It’s Memorial Day, dedicated to the memory of U.S. veterans.
My father fought in World War II, the last American war that wasn’t an ill-conceived fiasco. He was part of the D-Day landing in France, amid the first wave on Omaha Beach, as my mother was always quick to point out. How anyone survived that, I cannot guess.
Anyway, he was a captain at the time, having enlisted in the army in 1941 when, as a high school dropout who wasn’t much interested in work, his job prospects must have seemed minimal. By the time he was demobilized in 1945, he’d risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel. But he still wasn’t interested in work: He tried a small cabinetmaking business, but that failed. He spent the rest of his life employed as a salesman at a lumber yard. That gave him access to what he really liked: wood that he could use in making everything from candlesticks to furniture. He died of a heart attack in 1962, at age 54.
Both he and my mother lived through some rotten times. Her life in particular was crap: She was born in 1914 and came of age just in time for the Great Depression. Her mother died when my mom was a teenager. Soon her father remarried, and she was required to help raise a set of step-siblings. After high school, she went to work as a sales clerk in a men’s clothing store, where she met my father. They delayed their marriage for several years, as they had to help their families through the Depression, finally marrying in 1942.
While he was off fighting the war, my sister was born, in 1944. Twelve years later, she died of polio.
As you can see, my mother’s wasn’t exactly a life of ease and privilege. Nevertheless, she was an optimistic, can-do sort who, after my father’s death, quickly went out and got a job in the public school system, where she worked as an elementary school secretary. She kept plugging away until she couldn’t take it anymore, retiring sometime in her 70s. Even then, she took on little gigs, working in a daycare center. She lived to age 91.
With all the hardships she encountered, I’m sure she could never have imagined the string of surreal horrors we’ve experienced in the 21st century: the terror attack on the World Trade Center, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the 2008 banking collapse and Great Recession, the election of the mentally ill television personality Trump as president, and now a global pandemic that has killed 100,000 Americans.
As climate change continues to worsen, I suspect we will experience ever more dramatic and fatal catastrophes in the years to come.
Happy days! as Samuel Beckett’s characters were wont to exclaim.
Here’s a joke to lighten the mood. Why did the little moron throw the clock out of the window? Answer: He wanted to see time fly.
Now, let’s look forward to dinner: spaghetti with goat cheese, roasted red peppers, and toasted walnuts plus a lettuce and cucumber salad.
Entertainment: More episodes of the Netflix production Safe.