Grandpa New-A Personal Piece
Late & long overdue, but oh so needed...
Due to recent exploits in Mandozai, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, I am posting this a couple days after the fact.
Wednesday June 29, 2011 was the 91st anniversary of my Grandfather's birth. On that day, in 1920, Alvis W. New was born. He served bravely (in the true, non-cliché sense) in World War II, one of our nation’s most crucial and NEEDED wars. He went to glory just before his 86th birthday in June 2006, so I only got 27 years with him, less if you knock off those baby years. And those “away in the Army” years. And those “doing my own thing, not into my family” years, and so on. So, in reality, as age and time have taught me, I only had a few moments. That's it. A few breaths. That’s all...until I get to go home, where I truly belong.
I thought about him quite a bit on Wednesday. I do every year. But this year was a bit more unique. See, 67 years ago he was directly involved in some of the fiercest battles this country has ever seen in its fight for real Freedom. That was Omaha Beach. That was not a political exercise. That was no joke. THOUSANDS of men died in a single day then. In 10 years in Afghanistan, not enough have died yet to qualify as thousands. Only around 1,500 have so far…"only".
The war my grandfather fought in and the war I fight in are two VERY different animals. Though, now we share something special. He earned a Combat Infantry Badge for direct involvement in combat with an enemy. And I now have earned a Combat Action Badge for the same actions but as a non-infantryman. I’m not going to expound on this here. Maybe I will at some point in the future when I'm up to it and I’m able to maintain some semblance of objectivity. For today, I cannot.
I was in the middle of a 22 hour mission on his birthday when I began thinking of him. I probably would have thought of him sooner if it were not for the gunfights, missiles, RPGs, and attack helicopters keeping us busy in the 122 degree heat. Literally. It is what it is.
Know Your History...
I love my grandpa deeply. He was a flawed man. I relate to him. He made some people around him upset by some of his decisions. Again, I relate to him. Knowing how children can respond to the mistakes of their parents, and how unforgiving they can be when parents really do try their best but still fail at times, has given me insight and caution to not repeat this mistake in my own life. I do not know anything beyond what I know. Amazing, I know. But I do know people, a little bit anyway. And I know some people are unrelenting with their ability to hold a grudge…or two. I had ample opportunity to exercise this terribly ugly trait of humanity after I left my parents home to make my own way. And I did for a short time. Then…I fell. I fell far and hard. Harder than almost anyone I personally know. I’m not being a victim here. I understand everyone has problems and tragedies. I just know what I put myself, my bride, my kids, and everyone else in my life through. Here’s the point. Some held grudges, some didn’t, so what. Those who didn’t hold that grudge have a relationship with me now, which they probably didn’t believe could ever happen or if it could, probably wouldn’t.
"Harboring bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."
Anyway, death has an uncanny way of bringing out Truth. Truth about who you are, about how you’ve lived and loved, about how YOU’VE treated OTHERS, especially those closest to you. Facebook is NOT a valid source of Truth regarding your “friends” and relationships. There are people here who are “friends” who would rather give up a kidney than be in the same room with each other. I know this because I’ve been “friended” by some of those people. It’s a farce.
My grandfather and I became friends in the years before he went home. That’s all I have left. I cherish those times with all my heart. I’ve been told things like, “You didn’t know how your grandfather was.” Or, “You didn’t know him like we did.” I don’t pretend to know what occurred to produce those feelings in those individuals, but that’s not the point. I am not willing to let anyone steal my affection for him. Because guess what? I knew the man he became to me. What can the critic or grudge-holder say about that? I do know he worked hard all his life doing a job that probably wasn’t his Dream, driving a truck. But, he provided for his beautiful bride and children the best way he knew. Life is ironic. (That reminds me so much of my father as I write the words) Seeing this from the perspective of both an insider and an outsider (being the grandkid who was spoiled by grandpa is a bit different than being the kid who got whooped by dad), helped me grow to appreciate my parents that much more.
Plenty of people will have the opportunity to do the same thing to my kids one day. And they would be RIGHT! But here it is again, SO WHAT! The man I’ve become since those days and the man I’m becoming will easily enable my kids and grandkids to unleash the truth on them about their dad and grandpa. But not even that is my point. My point is to develop the kind of relationship with my bride and children, family and friends, and people I don’t even know yet but will become my friends, despite all my failings, that is completely indestructible. And guess what? I’m well on my way…thanks Grandpa. Here’s to a couple of war vets, brothers in arms. I love you and miss you tremendously.