How I Spent My Memorial Day Weekend (or part of it).Posted: May 26, 2013
My parents’ home is in east central Minnesota, about 120 miles due north of Minneapolis. The home is on a small lake, about ten miles away from a town of around 400 people. This is the town Dad and Mom grew up in, and became high-school sweethearts there.
About a half-mile from the lake home is a Presbyterian church with a small cemetery. Dad rests there, and so do my paternal grandparents.
For several years now I spend the Friday of Memorial Day weekend setting out flags for the veterans in that cemetery.
My dad was a Korean War-era vet, a Navy man. Dad was quietly but fiercely proud of his service. He was active with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and eventually rose to the rank of Chaplain in his local post. This never failed to amuse the rest of the family, because Dad swore like.. well.. like a sailor. Go figure.
As part of his duties as chaplain, and because it was the right thing to do, Dad took responsibility for setting out US flags for Memorial Day on the grave sites of the veterans at rest in that cemetery. Some of these grave sites date back to the Civil War. For many years I would take that Friday off from work, drive up to the lake, and he and I would spend our day honoring the vets. It was important to Dad that somebody cared.
Growing up in this town, Dad knew a great many of the veterans and their families. And Dad was a great story-teller. We’d take several breaks and he would regale me with tale after tale of the exploits of the people he grew up with.
The cemetery was bigger than it looked. It made for a long day. Lots of walking. Lots of breaks. And when the day was done, naturally there’d be burgers and beer and more stories at one of the local roadhouses.
For the past few Memorial Days I’ve taken this up without Dad there. A few years back, health concerns caused Dad and Mom to stay longer into the spring at their “snowbird” home in Kentucky. And Dad passed away the January before last. I missed him on Friday: I wished we could have stopped awhile for a story about his high-school pals and an ice-cold Grain Belt.
The headstone marker was installed on Dad’s grave just this past week. I didn’t realize how long it takes for one of those to be made. But it looks good. Dad and Mom had decided to put “Parents Of..” and the names of all six of us “kids” at the bottom of the marker, something I’d never seen before. Kinship.
I’m proud that I am his son, and that I could do my small part to honor him and the other vets in this small community. There’s something stirring in looking at the expanse of grave markers, and at a sea of American flags. I realize it’s not a lot to give up, one day of a three-day holiday weekend. But whether or not the other grave sites have visitors this Memorial Day, it will show that someone cared.
Do what you can this Memorial Day to honor those who went before us. It doesn’t have to be a lot. It will be enough.