My Pop: A Tribute
His Stories Live On
I lost my Pop to lung cancer 5 years ago. As different holidays come and go, it is not a difficult time, as I feared it might be. Pop left with us his stories. So the way I celebrate each year, as Father's Day, Veteran's Day, his birthday, and Christmas come and go, and other people are giving out ties, I have another kind of tie I pass out, a family tie, in the form of his stories.
I have several stories about him and other family members on Squidoo, but to really appreciate where these stories come from, I'd like to share a piece about my Pop.
Sometimes, memories fade, like the image of my Pop here, in this photo. But as long as we have their stories, their memories stay sharp and clear, and they are still with us.
The Flag Was Flown on Post at Half-Mast Today...
The flag was flown on Post at half-mast today, but I didn't notice the honor until after we left the Regimental Chapel at Ft. Eustis, and were following behind my Dad's car, on our way to the Veteran's Cemetery.
Growing up, I was an army kid. Army life, it folds a person in. It's a special thing to be an army brat, and I know that experience made me good at what I do today.
This whole week, I've been trying to do the thing my Dad always asked me to do: Be a Good Soldier. I've been strong. I met people yesterday for the viewing, though I never went in the room where Pop was. I wanted to remember him the way I knew him. I also knew that if I went in there and saw him, I would not be able to be the good soldier he'd always asked me to be. If I started crying, I might not be able to stop, and that wouldn't be dignified. With me, it was always "Be a good soldier, be dignified" and I've always tried to live up to that.
The crack came this morning, before the service, when the Limo pulled up to the house to pick us all up. Mom got in, my sister got in, and a brother, and then it finally hit me. This is it. This is really happening, and this is where I'm going, and here's the big black car taking me there. I took in such a deep breath and let it out, and with it, the first real cry- but my other brother, in full Dress Blues (He is also a soldier, recently home from Iraq) tells me "pull it together for mom" and I swallow the cry back down. He's right. I'm Determined. I can do this.
We pulled up, and there was the car, holding the flag-draped, wooden casket. That got me, too. Then here come the men and women, the honor guard, who slowly saluted the old man, and carefully and slowly took him out and brought him in the church. I touched the flag as they walked past me. I don't remember much of the service. It was a Catholic Mass. Very nice. Lots of incense. And then we were on our way to the Veteran's Cemetery in Suffolk. There was a several week waiting list for Arlington National which we didn't want to have to go through, and besides, my dad loved this area, loved the history, wrote books about the history and the people, did archaeological digs around the grounds of where this new Cemetery in Suffolk lies. He'd like it. And it's closer to visit than Arlington.
The Priest said a prayer, and the guard came again. Lifted the flag. As they lifted it, the gunshots rang out from the twenty-one gun salute. And that's when I cried. I folded over like a rag doll in my chair. But then Taps started playing, and I was the good soldier again. My brother had risen to salute, as is custom. And I stood and put my hand on my heart at the flag, also at half-mast at the cemetery. Often, as a kid, we'd arrive on base to pick up my dad from work to bring him home, when they took the flag down at 5:00. If we were there at that time, we'd get out of our cars, and soldiers would salute, everyone else would stand at attention with hands on their hearts until the flag was down. It's just something that stays. And I was that kid again, my father's daughter doing the usual routine, but this time we weren't picking my dad up to take him home. Taps ended. They folded the flag, carefully. Presented it to the Colonel. The Colonel knelt and gave it to my mother. "On behalf of a grateful nation". And the service was over. I didn't want to know it was over. I wanted one more thing. As long as there was one more thing, it wasn't over. Just like at bedtime, pleading, "One more song, one more story!" to prolong the inevitable. "Please, one more story."
My Pop was a story teller, historian, archaeologist. He used to take me with him on his digs. I'd put my hands in the dirt and pull out artifacts- delicate work-taking care for the glass bottles, clay pipes, old dishes, combs made of bone, bits and pieces of people's lives, when put all together gives a good picture of a people and a place in time. I do the same thing now, pulling out bits and pieces of people's lives, digging in their stories, and the work is just as delicate.
He knew so much. He knew how to do so many things. Whenever I needed to know something, I'd just call him. He was that way with most people, just a fount of information and stories. My favorite story about him is when an historian from the area called on my dad with a question about local Civil War history. My dad, surprisingly, didn't have the answer, so he called the National Civil War Museum in Richmond. He asked the curator there the same question, and she said "You know, I don't have that answer, but if there is anyone who would know that, it's a man named Col. John Curry, you should call him, I've got his number". And my dad said "Speaking." And they both laughed. He was like that. He loved stories, and history. I'm going to miss him. I don't even know yet how much I'm going to miss him. And that's about it.
A Play Featuring One of My Pop's Stories from Vietnam - A Different Kind of Christmas Story
Available in soft cover or hardback. Also now available in e-download.
- Tidewater Holiday
It's Christmas Eve, 1968, and Curt the paperboy is delivering more than just news on this night. Follow Curt's adventures in this new One-Act Holiday Play, sure to please young and old, alike. Based on real-life stories from the people of the histo