September 26, 2007

The Biggest Event: Epilogue

On August 30, 2006, months after the ceremony in Congressman Peter King's office honoring my father and his WWII service, my mother passed away after a long battle with cancer and Lupus. The sorrow my father experienced after losing his wife of fifty two years was enormous. To this day, he honors her by having masses said in her name at church and finishing all of the projects around the house which both he and my mother planned to do before she became sick. With his wife gone, and with his own lingering health issues, dad has moved on with his life with his children to watch over him.

Back in June of 2007, my wife and I took dad with us to my sister's house as we were all invited to a family event. On the way home that Saturday night, it was dark, our children were dozing in the rear seats of our very large Trailblazer, and my wife sat in the back to accommodate my father as he needed the comfort of the front, bucket seat. As we drove home, dad talked about how both he and my mother both managed to take several trips together and had seen much of Europe and even Hawaii. While speaking of Europe, he paused and looked at me. Then, he said that he hoped to go back to Italy, because the one place he needed to see again was Rome. I said nothing, as I knew that the only time he ever went there was right after he was wounded in combat.

Both my wife and I were somewhat uncomfortable as we didn't want to ask him questions and get him upset, but we wanted to make sure that he knew that he could tell us anything and that we would listen to him. He stopped talking, and I drove along without bringing the subject up again.

A few days later I was at work and a woman co-worker of mine who usually asks how my father is doing stopped by my desk to chat. She's a wonderful person, very spiritual, dedicated to family, and with a genuine concern for others. I told her about my father mentioning Rome that night and his desire to return there. I also mentioned that he'd been bringing up the war a lot of late, just skirting around about exactly when and where in Italy he was wounded. I marveled at how he could remain silent about his experiences for so long, most of his adult life, and in the last year or so he talked the war often and at unexpected moments.

My co-worker said "Of course he's talking about it. This was the biggest event in his life. He's reconnecting with his youth." That sounded simple enough to me, but when I thought about it some more, I understood that he was trying to work out how he felt about the things he did over there. My mother was gone, and he no longer had to care for her every day and his energies could be spent elsewhere. Also, he had more time to think. It is possible now for him to reflect on his youth and come to terms with his pain and anguish over lost friends and months spent in a makeshift Army hospital in Rome.

Only recently, my father asked me to write a thank you letter to Congressman King for the ceremony in his office. Although it was over a year ago, and in spite of the fact that I thanked both him and his staff profusely for their kindness, dad still felt the desire to tell him something, however late it was. The inspiration of his desire to write the letter was the anniversary of my mother's passing.

A while ago, I suspected that dad wanted to get his medals for other reasons than just for the sake of his grandchildren. When he asked me to write a thank you letter to the congressman, he wanted me to include that "it was one of the last moments in my mother's life when she was able to attend a special event." My mother's health took a sharp turn for the worse soon the medal ceremony. There were many visits to doctors, a stay in the hospital for emergency surgery, and then, home again with help from those special folks from hospice who enabled our family to comfort our beloved mother at the end of her life.

Such is the unselfish nature of my father. One additional person benefited from that day than I originally believed. We made the medals and the honors bestowed upon him by the Congressman to be all about him. But, in reality, my father wanted to do something for his wife, the woman he devoted himself to completely. She was ill, and he wanted to show her that he was still strong for her and that there was something else for both of them to look forward to, this ceremony, where the two of them could perhaps share a special moment alone together afterward, without us kids, and feel young again.

The youthful soldier would hold his bride and show her something which would make her proud. The ribbons and medals were for his wife, his grandchildren, and in a small way for himself. This man, this father, husband, and person of deep religious faith kept his secrets to himself and used the biggest event of his life which caused him nothing but pain and grief to leave a legacy for his grandchildren and to see them smile, and to give him and his wife one more day where they could feel like newlyweds again. That man is my father, and that is what I will tell the good Congressman in my letter to him.

September 21, 2007

The Biggest Event: Part III

With my father's blessing, and at his request, I ventured into new territory as I went about getting his war medals for him. I allowed my computer to remain powered off this time as I figured that the internet would be of little use to me. With my phone book in hand, I dialed up the office of Congressman Tim Bishop from my district for assistance. A gentleman on his staff was eager to help me, but was unable to because while I lived in Rep. Bishop's district, my father did not. He suggested, rather reluctantly, that I call the office of Congressman Peter King who represents the area my dad lives in. This kind gentleman added that he'd be more than willing to help if "for some bizarre reason" as he termed it, Rep. King's office "wouldn't do anything for me." But, he stated that he believed that they would jump at the chance to get my father the recognition he deserved.

When I called Congressman King's office, I was met with the same friendly, enthusiasm as I was when I called Rep. Bishop's office. This time, I was calling the right place. All they needed was a letter from my father authorizing them to act on his behalf with the Dept. of Veteran's Affairs, and a copy of his discharge papers which I finally pried away from dad after nearly a decade of asking for them. The gentleman from Rep. Bishop's office called me back a couple of days later to ask how things were going, a very kind gesture, and I told him of the generous cooperation I was receiving from Congressman King's staff. This man wanted to hear more about my father, his service, and to find out how he was doing in general. This was more than a service call, this man cared. So did everyone in Rep. King's office.

About a month later, the medals arrived in Rep. King's office. All we had to do was select a date when the Congressman wasn't in Washington, and when the entire family could meet together for this wonderful ceremony with Mr. King. Dad was happy, almost relieved it seemed, to finally get this over with. Really, I think this is something he always wanted to do, but only if it would benefit someone else. In this case, his grandchildren and his own kids would get to see a side of him we hardly knew. This was our father, a grandfather, who was a soldier in the United States Army during wartime. With wounds he received in battle which still affect him today, he was finally to be recognized for his service to his country, even though, as he insists on stating, they weren't for "valor." There was someone else he was doing this for, though I wouldn't find out until much later who it was.

On February 3, 2006, members of my family drove through a torrential downpour to the office of Rep. Peter King in Massapequa Park on Long Island in New York. Mom was in a wheelchair by then, and getting her out of our giant Trailblazer and across the parking lot in the teeming rain was a bit of an adventure. However, it was worth getting wet to witness this event which was almost sixty-two years in the making. I couldn't believe that this day arrived. Dad was finally going to get his medals. My wife and I took the kids out of school and sent notes to their excited teachers explaining their absences, and told our kids what this day was all about. It turns out that there was no need for an explanation as my daughter who was ten years old at the time, and my son was six, both had an appreciation of what was going on and were proud of their grandpa.

Clad in our Sunday best, we rode the elevator to the office to anxiously await our turn with the Congressman. A reporter from The Amityville Record was invited to interview my father and write a story. While waiting for Rep. King, the young woman reporter interviewed dad, my kids, and I, and eventually the Congressman who offered a kind quote. Everything was set for this momentous occasion, and a few moments later, Rep. King appeared and welcomed us in.

We took plenty of photos, videotaped everything, and sat and listened to Mr. King as he spent almost an hour with us, telling stories about his meetings with president Bush, his visit to Rome for Pope Benedict XVI's inaugural mass and other stories of a personal nature. This affable gentleman created for our family a wonderful memory which my wife recorded on our video camera for posterity.

Dad was presented with a Purple Heart, WWII Victory Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal and the Honorable Discharge Pin.

Then, I delivered a speech for my father which took me some time to write. This is a piece I had rattling around in my head for over a decade as I envisioned this award ceremony taking place. You can read the full text below:

One of my earliest memories was of a time when we were all at the beach as a family. I was about five or six years old; and I remember Dad watching me as I played at the waters edge. A wave came along and toppled me over and I fell beneath the water. To this day, I can recall the fear which I felt as I rolled about in the surf. At one point, I was on my back, and I was able to see sunlight above me and the distorted shapes of others splashing nearby. And then, from above appeared a giant form of a man; a man I immediately recognized as Dad. His massive hand reached down for me, and he pulled me to safety. Dad was my hero.

The entire incident took place in a time span of about ten seconds, yet the scene plays out in my head like an episode of Superman. My fright lasted the appropriate amount of time until the inevitable moment when my Father came to my rescue. That was the natural course of events according to my young mind. Dad was there to protect us; and he did so with ease. I was proud of my father. He was strong, really tall, and had a commanding, deep voice. My friends were afraid of him, and I got a bit of a thrill from that. Yet, the one attribute about him that added to his aura was that Dad used to be a soldier.

There are two photographs of Daddy stashed in Mom and Dad’s house which show him in his army uniform. Both pictures were taken by Grandma on the roof of their home in Brooklyn. At first glance, one would think they were shot on the same day. Yet, upon closer inspection, one can see that not only were they taken at different times, they also portray Dad in startling different circumstances.

One photo shows a young, eighteen year old teenager dutifully posing for a snapshot to be taken by his mother. No doubt Grandma was equally proud and nervous at the same time. Here was her son, fresh out of basic training in his Army uniform about to fight in the war. His uniform was devoid of patches or unit insignia and there was the slightest hint of a smile peeking out from beneath the serious visage of the soldier that Grandma believed him to be.

The other photo shows Dad on the same roof, yet it was taken about a year and a half or more after the first. Here again we see Dad in his uniform. The giant “T” patch of the Texas 36th Division was on his shoulder and Dad wore the same serious, stone faced expression which he offered the first time. However, there was no hint of adolescent cheer. Looking closely, one almost can feel his pain. We know of his injuries. These are wounds which he’s kept quiet for so long they’ve almost become rumors. Yet, the pain persists.

Dad’s strength kept him alive on the battlefield; and it was his strength too which allowed him to raise and protect his family. His bravery in combat was the right of passage into manhood which gave him the confidence to patrol the waters edge and mind a son who depended upon his big, powerful father to save him from monsters and tidal waves. The silent and dignified manner in which he carried himself through his struggles with his injuries both during and after the war defined his method of handling sick kids and medical bills.

Dad worried about us all, and he did so all the time. But, he did it from behind the stoic veneer of a young man in uniform who came home from the war to raise his family and protect them through times of struggle and hardship unique to our big family.

He is as much a hero today as he was sixty two years ago on the battlefields of Italy, or on a rooftop in Brooklyn.

The medals awarded to him today by an esteemed member of the United States Congress, Congressman King, are as much for his service as a parent as they are for his service to his country. At least to me they are.

Dad, I stand here today wishing that I can be the same valiant figure of a man to my own daughter and son. Because of you, one day my children may share a story with their own kids of how their father picked them up when they fell down, and feel a small amount of pride. And, when they do so, I will be in debt to you, as you taught me about strength and manhood. You are an example to us all Dad, and I am proud of you. You are my father, my hero, and I love you.

After we left, proud, satisfied, and off to a nice lunch at a local restaurant, we later gathered at mom and dad's house in the living room where many years earlier we watched "The Wonderful World of Disney" and then witnessed our father re-connect with his violent and painful memories. Dad sat on the couch, and proceeded to tell us war stories for the first time in his life. Without becoming too graphic, he allowed us into his private world to briefly learn about a very private side of him.

We learned that he was shot in the face and in the right arm, left for dead and was almost buried alive, that he was wounded on June 2nd, 1944 and was discharged from the Army hospital in Rome on September 2, 1944. Mount Vesuvius erupted while he was in the hospital and, as dad put it, "the whole war stopped." He told us that when he was finally discharged, he was left without a uniform and had to wear civilian clothes until his division was re-supplied. His orders were to return home to be discharged by the army; but, he wanted to return to unit and to his buddies who went on to fight in France. His injuries were too extensive, and he was unable to handle a weapon, so he was sent home.

A ship was leaving for the United States, and two GI's took him by Jeep to the pier where they made it as the very last people were boarding. If he had missed that boat, he would have had to go into France with his regiment, civilian clothes and all, and then wait to be flown back to the United States.

In the Mediterranean Sea, a German u boat fired torpedoes at his ship, and a US Navy frigate maneuvered in front of them and took the hits. A Navy blimp spotted the u boat and destroyed it with depth charges. He finally made it back home to New York, and enjoyed two weeks in a resort in upstate Lake Placid. New York State treated its returning veterans to this getaway as a "thank you" for their service.

My father's buddies were all eventually killed in action in France.

Since that time, dad has talked about his experiences in battle in greater detail. And, there were times I thought he was reliving the past. The biggest challenge of his life came long after the war and allowed another question to resurface regarding dad and his medals. On August 30, 2006, our mother, dad's wife of fifty two years, passed away after a long struggle with cancer and Lupus. Her death devastated him. It seemed he would never recover from his grief and his incredible loss. The only woman he ever loved was gone and we rallied behind him as we, his children, became strong for him the way he taught us how. I wouldn't find out until a year later the other motive my father had for getting his medals, and it showed how deep and unselfish and devoted dad really is.

September 19, 2007

The Biggest Event: Part II

For over ten years as an adult I pestered my father about his experiences in the Army during WWII. My grandmother often spoke of how he left the Army and never “got his medals.” We knew he received his Purple Heart after he was wounded; but, she was referring to his campaign ribbons and the like which he never bothered to pursue. It became my mission to see him get some recognition for his service, and to learn for myself, and for his grandchildren about his wartime experiences as part of our family history.

This was a difficult task as he wouldn’t tell me anything about it. For many years, he refused to say what division he was in, let alone where he fought, when he served, or how long he served for. The only information I had was that he was in North Africa and then in Italy. Dad was wounded in Italy as we found out when we were children, but he wouldn’t budge on any of the other details.

In the late 1990’s I scoured the internet and tried to come up with information about battles the Army fought in Italy. He let it slip that he enlisted in the Army when he was eighteen years old. That meant in 1943 he signed up for the Army. Dad lost his father when he was a young boy, aged thirteen, and he was largely responsible for working and paying some of the bills. He graduated high school and immediately went to the recruitment station, only to be told to come back when he turned eighteen a few weeks later. Joining the Army meant a steady income of roughly thirty six dollars a month; enough to help his mom and his siblings.

On September 2, 2001, dad suffered a massive heart attack. Mom was very sick at the time with Lupus, and my father walked around for three days with chest pains, alerting no one to his condition because he was duty bound to care for his wife. Such was the hardened war veteran, one of the “Greatest Generation,” to stubbornly resist asking for help as he was busy nursing the mother of his children. So instilled him in him was sense of loyalty, honor, and faithfulness to his ailing bride, that he went without medical assistance until the pain was too unbearable for him and he finally got help. He did what any reasonable person wouldn't do: he sneaked over to the neighbor’s house across the street and asked if one of them could give him a ride to the hospital to “get checked out.” Also, he insisted that they use his car so he the neighbor wouldn’t waste his own gas.

My parents had six children, five of them living on Long Island with him, two of them only minutes away. Any one of us could have hopped in a car and been there within a half hour to take him to the hospital. Yet, he didn't want to bother us. He simply told mom that he wasn’t feeling well and went across the street to the neighbors. When I heard this, I thought of him as an eighteen year old teenager, lying in the hot Italian sun, clinging to life with two bullet wounds in his body. Maybe he thought that if he could live through that, he could handle anything.

When he returned home from the hospital days later, he sat on his bed with my then two year old son clinging to his grandpa’s side. I asked him again for his discharge papers because I wanted to get him his medals. His response could be heard around the block as he replied “I didn’t get anything for valor. Those are just because I served.” After that outburst, I decided to wait a bit longer.

About a year later, I saw a program on TV about a project where children and grandchildren of war veterans were using video cameras to record the experiences of the parents and grandparents during the war. World War Two vets are dying at an alarming rate and I wanted to record dad's story as well because it was a part of our families' history. One part of me wanted to simply know where he fought and other particulars such as what unit he was in, etc. However, with the same morbid curiosity that one has when we peek at the scene of an accident as we drive past, I had to find out about the battle in which he was wounded.

I actually brought my video camera to the house one day, but I chickened out. Dad was in a foul mood, and since the second Iraq War began, he was even more reluctant to talk about combat as his heart went out to all of those young men and women suddenly thrust into battle. Once again, I needed to wait. Mom's health was deteriorating, and dad and the rest of us dedicated most of our time tending to her health concerns. It seemed I would never find out what happened to my father over six decades earlier. I had to live with the few scraps of details which were handed down to us from my grandmother and from my mother. It wasn't as if dad poured his heart out to them, but he pacified their curiosity over the years with a few anecdotes from his time in the Army.

One story I enjoyed which I often told my friends involved his experiences in basic training. Since my father was a city boy, raised in Brooklyn, New York, the guys in his platoon who were from the south and other remote regions of the country would often tease him about his inability to build a fire or use a rifle. Dad laughed at them, saying that he "knew something that they didn't know" and soon he would be the one laughing. Many of the men he went through basic training with were shipped to the Pacific Theater; but, the few who remained with my father learned in a very unpleasant way about payback.

As a boy, my grandfather often took my father and my uncles deep sea fishing. That meant that dad developed his "sea legs" long before he showed up to the army camp. It was an eleven day voyage to North Africa where he was first shipped off to. All that time, the guys in his platoon suffered with violent nausea due to sea sickness. At one point, so many men were leaning over one side of the ship, the boat was listing. Dad wasn't sea sick at all. In fact, he used that opportunity to stick it to the guys who teased him about his unfamiliarity with the great outdoors during basic training by eating his meals in front of them and asking if they wanted anything to snack on. According to dad, they all quickly apologized, in between dry heaves.

It was that story, and maybe one or two others which whetted my appetite to learn more. Finally, in 2005, I decided that enough was enough. I badgered my father about his service ribbons and medals saying that he should have them because they are part of his past. This time, dad gave up some crucial information, saying that he wanted the medals "If doing it would make me happy." Quickly, he told me that he was in the Texas 36Th Division, 141st Regiment, Company L. As far as where his discharge papers were, he "didn't know." Armed with more data than I had in my entire life, I booted up my computer and found a ton of information on the Internet. It turns out that was a single, handy resource where I found out nearly everything I needed to know: "The Texas 36Th Division Museum" website. From there and the related links, I pieced together where and when he served and the actions he was involved in.

But, missing in all of this was his personal account of the events. I wanted to hear him tell me about what he saw, where he landed, the people he met. With all of the satisfaction I had reading about his Division's history, I still felt left out. There was nothing else I could do. I resigned myself to the fact that he was never going to come around. In reality, it was none of my business what he experienced "over there." Maybe I was being selfish, probing, and too harsh on him. Obviously, his time overseas was too painful to recall, and a good son would let his father alone to keep his secrets to himself. Yes, they were secrets, those awful memories. I was reminded of something an old time cop I worked with told me when I was a young rookie working up in Harlem in the very late 1980's. He said :"There are things you tell your priest, things you tell your wife, and there are some things that will die with just you and your partner." Man, was he right about that. As I likened my own relatively benign history to my father's, I backed off for good.

In early November of 2005, my wife and I took the kids to my parents house for our usual Friday night visit with my folks. After dinner, my father discussed with me his views on the war in Iraq. In one breath he was talking about how to run an effective military convoy, in the next he began describing landing with his regiment in Salerno in 1944. He rattled off grisly details about being surrounded by Germans and men he fought with being killed as if it happened yesterday. He told me about how he and his buddies spent about two or three days in the home of an extended family in the country side. Being from Brooklyn, he spoke Italian and was able to communicate effectively with them to the amazement of his Italian-American GI buddies. When it came to combat, his retelling was personal, private, and not to be mentioned in this space. Still, he never talked about when he was wounded.

After about an hour, I felt exhausted. Dad stood up, walked into his bedroom, and emerged moments later with his discharge papers. He knew where they were all along. "Here," he said "get me those medals. They're for my grandchildren. Please, for my grand kids, while I'm still here." I took this document, which he denied having for years, and made it my mission to get him those medals.

September 12, 2007

The Biggest Event: Part I

My dad never spoke about the war. Like most soldiers who saw combat he was tight lipped about his experiences under fire. We knew he was wounded as he had only a few teeth in his mouth and had limited mobility in his right arm. But he kept his pain and discomfort quiet for so long, his injuries almost became rumors.
It was especially uncomfortable for my father during the holidays. My uncles would arrive at our home and inevitably bring up their own experiences in World War II which consisted of peace time occupation duties in Europe. The way they acted though, talking as they did about those “damn Nazis”, you’d think they won the war themselves. As dad was quick to point out when he was especially frustrated with them “They never saw a shot fired in anger in their lives.”
When I said dad never spoke about the war, I meant he didn’t talk about combat. He often read entire books about the WWII and watched countless documentaries. My mother once said that maybe he was looking for old friends in those grainy, black and white reels. Perhaps instead he was trying to make sense of it all. One particular Sunday night in my youth stands out in my mind like a vignette because it was the closest he ever came to revealing what happened to him when he was wounded. I know it was a Sunday because we just finished watching “The Wonderful World of Disney” and the telltale fireworks over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland in California were cut short when dad ordered me to change the channel and put on “The World at War” on Channel Thirteen.
Mom hated when he watched this with us kids around. Dead bodies were shown everywhere. Horrifying scenes of death camps, bombings, and soldiers running into battle flickered in front of our young eyes with the full knowledge that our dad had seen much of that. I often marveled at what a giant my father was, and how brave he must have been to scamper across the battlefield with his rifle in his hand and dodge explosions and machine gun fire. Most impressive was that he made it out—with a bullet fragment still lodged in the base of his skull—and was still able to work two jobs and throw a ball to us in the backyard.
That particular Sunday night, my brothers and sisters and I stared at the TV screen, disappointed that we weren’t allowed to watch “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” which followed Disney, and instead had to watch another war documentary. And then, something amazing happened. My father was silent, staring intently at the screen. I remember this episode showing Adolf Hitler speaking in Rome from a balcony in pre-war Italy. There was a throng of people saluting obediently below as he spewed his vile hate speech.
“Do you see that building there?” said dad as he jabbed his finger at the screen. We all flinched as we were startled by his action. “Right there", he continued “that was a university before the war.” None of us said anything, including Mom as she looked up from her crocheting.
“And there was a market, and that building was an elementary school.” Dad watched the screen, his mouth agape, as if he spotted something magnificent.
“How do you know all of this, dad?” my older brother asked.
“Because they made the grammar a school a hospital during the war.” He said as he looked around the room at all of us. “That’s where they took me after I was wounded”.
After he was wounded he said; so much information, from one tiny memory shown on a little RCA television.
I don’t remember if any of us said anything after that. In my young mind my father, the soldier, had come to life. Before that, I fantasized about him being just like John Wayne or Lee Marvin in all of those war movies running around with a sub-machine gun, cigar clenched between his teeth, and tossing grenades at the “Krauts" as that pejorative was used in those films. In a single utterance, dad become a vulnerable human; someone who experienced pain.

September 11, 2007

A Child's Eye on September 11th

It's difficult to imagine that it was already six years ago when the world changed on September 11th, 2001. Like today, September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. A clear, sunny day it was with the kids back to school and summer a mere memory as the sunlight faded a bit earlier every evening. My son was just shy of two years old and my daughter was six back then. With the oldest one in school, I had the day with my boy as he was in preschool three days a week. I was off from work, and had to drag my young son with me to the car dealer to get the Chevy serviced when the news hit the wires about a plane hitting the World Trade Center.

There's no need to recount the events of that day. Everything is neatly cataloged in the minds of those affected directly or even indirectly by this cowardly act of violence. But, I'll never forget sitting in a restaurant with my wife and children Friday, September 14th. My son was watching a flat screen TV which was on a wall opposite from where we were sitting. Images from Ground Zero were constant and regular programming for most stations was canceled with coverage of the rescue and recovery efforts, as well as the socio-political commentary on the subject twenty four hours a day. We were seated in a booth, and suddenly my boy stood and began to rant.

"There's danger, danger..." he said. ”Everywhere...hurt." This went on as he pointed to the television screen, acutely aware that something was tremendously wrong in the world, and he was expressing in his own limited way the fear he felt watching the events unfolding around him.

My wife and I tried to calm him down, and others in the restaurant politely turned away as they understood that this wasn’t a typical temper tantrum thrown by a kid. There was urgency in his voice, and it was obvious what he was trying to tell us. No one rolled their eyes at the parents who couldn’t control their son or remarked at the misbehaving brat at the next table. He too was affected by the images shown over and over again on television of the towers crumbling before our eyes with very brave souls trapped within, dying as we all gasped in collective horror.

On Long Island where I live, the roads were closed on 9/11 and only emergency traffic and those cleared by the police were allowed on major highways into New York City. All the air traffic across the entire country was suspended, and the local airport near our home was silent. Noisy military helicopters and jet fighters patrolled Long Island's airspace and people were flying flags, holding candlelight vigils in public places, and given to erecting signs and hasty memorials to the victims. All of this fell on my toddler's eyes and ears and was difficult to digest. He heard all of this and reacted the only way he knew how: by warning his family that there was danger.

This morning, I woke up to put my daughter on the school bus and let my son sleep a bit longer. After she left for her busy day, one in which she was chosen by the school librarian to read a special poem over the P.A. system to commemorate September 11th, I got ready for work as my little boy wandered into my room still drowsy from sleep. He looked at the television, the news anchors were seated at Ground Zero and talking in somber tones about the various memorial services going on around the city. I watched him as he stood there, perhaps remembering his own reaction as a two year old six years earlier, and maybe he experienced a small amount of fear.

"Do you know what today is?" I asked him. He nodded with his eyes still fixed on the TV screen. "It's the day the World Trade Center fell down." He said. Then he paused and looked at me. "Dad, why don't they build those buildings again?"
"Who would want to work in them?" I said, perhaps a bit too sharply.

He shrugged and sat down on the bed. It was then that I needed to sit with him, hold him tight and make sure that he knew he was safe, even though there is still danger out there. There's a war raging in Iraq, Afghanistan, and images of 9/11 rolling around in our heads, even in the minds of eight year olds. Maybe I told him too much, or maybe not enough. But, young or old, understanding danger, remembering 9/11, and preparing for life in a violent world is something we have to do no matter what. Like the two year old who stood in a restaurant, pointed at the TV, and told his sister and his daddy and mommy about the danger that is everywhere, I had to make sure he knew, and remembered, that this day affects all of us. The victims live in the hearts and minds of their families, and the images and ripple effects of war and more and more American deaths in foreign lands remain. The world has changed forever because of 9/11, and a two year old can see that.

September 10, 2007

Mr. Grudge Returns

Hello Readers:
After a long hiatus to work on other writing projects, Mr. Grudge has returned and will be changing his format from all baseball/Yankees to more of a standard writer's blog. This was the intent all along with this blog, however, one baseball post turned into another, and then...well..I couldn't help myself.

There will still be an occasional baseball post, but it will not be the focus of this space as Mr. Grudge will post mainly topics about writing, and will most likely post some brief works, and ask for submissions from readers. Thanks for reading Mr. Grudge, and I look forward to a long reading and writing relationship with all of you.

~Mr. Grudge~