Memorial Day Memories
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Buddy Poppy
A Daughter's Tribute to her Father
It's coming close to May and Memorial Day. One of the greatest memories I have of my father and family is VFW Poppy sales. For longer than I have been alive, my father made it his mission in life to give back to his comrades and country in the form of selling poppies for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Growing up, it became a family tradition involving mother, us kids and in time my children, his grandchildren, as well.
Every year, the title for most sold, most money collected would be his to his never ending embarassment. Even the last year of his life, he never missed a day.Sadly, Dad passed on 10 years ago this year. Even now, I avoid this shopping if I can during this time, it just isn't the same without him.
Right before Dad passed away from lung cancer I had to write a paper for english class. I found it on a back up disc the other day and decided to share my memories of a wonderful man with you.
The Old Man
I sat in my car on a cool spring day and watched the old man. I watched the children running to him and the smile he had for each and every one of them. I watched him as he teased housewives and old ladies and gravely greeted men, young and old. I watched the people react as he held out his battered basket containing a can and flowers and by watching them, I learned more about him.
The little children didn’t care that his clothes were worn and outdated. They saw a smiling grandpa, who had a special treat for them, even if they didn’t have a coin to put in the can. They could tell from the tone of his voice and the grin on his face they had nothing to fear. Harried parents took a break, for just a minute, to enjoy the sight of this old man delighting in the antics of their child. It was hard to tell who got more joy out of the meeting, the old man delighting in the happiness of a child or the child who felt that this old man had just given him or her a great treasure. One that must be attached to them immediately, before the mundane business of shopping could commence.
The older children and teenagers were shy and awkward. They weren’t quite sure of the stooped old man who wore a faded old hat and patches from a time they only knew about in history books and family folklore. But a smile and a tease would usually loosen them up a bit as their parents looked on watchfully, making sure that these half –grown adults behaved as was proper to an old man such as this. Many of these older children’s parents remembered a time when a cause such as this was unpopular. They admired and were, I think, a little in awe that this old man had kept his torch burning for so long.
The younger generation, just getting out in the world and still busy trying to find their place in it, would look at the old man in his faded hat and his patches and loose fitting clothes and try to quickly pass by. Perhaps, in hope, that his eyesight was failing, as it seemed the rest of his body might be. Maybe, because the sight of an old man standing for a cause that did not seem important anymore stirred feelings of pity or amusement that they feared he might still be able to see. The old man may have moved slowly, but his tongue was as quick as ever. These young adults usually got caught in his webs of tales and walked away holding their flower and smiling, as perhaps, memories of a long forgotten relative were revived.
The older folks saw him most clearly. They still saw a frail old man who moved slowly and sometimes in obvious pain even as he insisted it was just a twinge. They saw and knew the reason for the patches, the hat, and the flowers and they could also see the pride and dedication the old man still possessed. They could guess the reason for the shirt and pants hanging loosely on his frame. They could see how the hands were gnarled and scarred when he gripped his cane and most knew those reasons too. They could see in the old man’s eyes the spark that still clung and the determination to keep going. For these folks, he wasn’t a tragic or comic figure as younger generations might see him. For these folks, the old man was a reminder of times of great struggle and hardship and sacrifice, beaten and conquered. For this older generation, he was still a hero, to be admired, respected and honored, if only for that day.
I sat in my car on a cool spring day and watched an old man. I watched the people react and for that old man, I felt the greatest admiration. In spite of the pain, in spite of the rude brush-offs that occasionally came his way, he never faltered, he never gave in to despair, he lived each moment and treated each person he met as if it and they were something to be treasured. Treasured and stored for a time all too near, when all that would be left would be the memories, until that too slipped away.