The Real Memorial Day…

Memorial Day

For those born after the 1960s this little statement may come as a shock: Today is really Memorial Day. Yes, today. Once upon a time (before 1968) Memorial Day was always celebrated on May 30th (at least in northern states). This little factoid was drummed into my head because it was part of an inside family joke. My dad, the naval officer, knew he would forget his wedding anniversary and thus, chose (with the permission of his bride–aka Mom) Memorial Day as the day to get married. Unfortunately, for Dad, the U.S. government chose to make Memorial Day the last Monday of the month in 1968.

If Mom and Dad were alive today, they would be celebrating anniversary # 72. They made it to # 61 in 2003, but Mom passed away a short time after that final anniversary. They accomplished that despite the odds. Both of them grew up in the Great Depression. Mom became a war bride, marrying her handsome naval chaplain less than 6 months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Dad traveled the world at the behest of the U.S. Navy and was assigned to some significant posts–becoming the chaplain for an all-African American Seabee unit (a rarity for a white officer in those days) and ministering to those who were on troop transport ships going from Seattle to Korea in the Korean War. In the former post he discovered that many soldiers in the unit were unable to read. Dad, who always maintained that God loved everyone, took it upon himself to teach them to read.

Meanwhile back at home, Mom had more gas rationing stamps because of her husband’s status in the military. She took it upon herself to take people to the doctor, to the store, to church and for other errands just so they wouldn’t have to walk. Some of her “hitchhikers” were pregnant military wives themselves and in Washington, PA (where Mom lived in the beginning) where hills are frequent and steep, this was a real help.

When Dad finally made it into the reserves in the mid-1950s he resumed his studies and while working full-time, managed to acquire his Ph.D. in Christian education. This, too, was a feat, since Dad had grown up in a humble country home with no indoor plumbing. Mom was always his faithful, supportive wife and helped out at the churches he served in whatever way was needed. If the church needed a Sunday School teacher, she taught. If it needed a President for the women’s group, she served. If they needed an organist, she played. If they needed a choir director, she led. One of my earliest memories is of my mom (who would tell you readily that she had no artistic talent) painting a brightly colored-mural on the walls of an elementary classroom in our church. Such things were rather novel in those days. When it was time to pay for two boys to go to college, Mom returned to work part-time to help meet the additional financial need. But, home was not neglected–she taught me to cook and clean and always had a “menu” with instructions for dinner ready for me when I came home from school. She even got one of those new-fangled microwaves (Anyone remember Amana Radaranges with an actual dial?) to make the dinner preparations a little easier for me.

Even after Dad retired and they moved to San Antonio, Dad still preached at various churches when the minister was on vacation or had a family funeral to attend. He managed to pass the IRS tax preparer’s exam and helped people prepare their tax returns each year, often without any compensation. He converted the Navy Retirement Center’s newsletter to a computerized process–again, a rarity for retired military personnel at that time.

Mom always kept her home immaculately and one afternoon, late in the day, she was informed that a military couple needed to marry before the groom needed to “ship out” the next day. Mom quickly put away the Sunday paper, changed into dressy attire, lit some candles and created a nice ambiance for the couple in less than an hour. The couple was absolutely stunned at how Mom made her home special just for them.

In between these activities Mom and Dad still managed to spoil my three children as they grew up. Mom would “hide” toys around her house for my kiddos to find when they visited and made “napping nests” for them on her living room floor out of blankets and couch cushions. Dad was always willing to cart them off to museums, movies, Sea World and Fiesta Texas when they were around. A child’s wading pool was always in the back yard for the early years.

The examples of “servanthood” and sacrifice go on for “miles” for this couple and I am proud to call them my parents. So, if my eyes mist up a bit a few days after our nation celebrates Memorial Day, you’ll have to forgive me. May 30th will always be my Memorial Day. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Monday’s Post: What’s the definition of this week’s word?

You Might Also Like: The Anniversary; Eulogy for a Brother; We’re Still Losing this War; Why I Stopped Writing; and Another Kind of WOW

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 30th, 2014 at 10:50 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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