If Valentine’s Day, like it’s cousin, Christmas, has strayed from its roots we only have the greeting card and candy companies to blame for amping up the love machine in the middle of a dreary month.
Whatever the celebration of pink, frilly, frothy, flower-strewn, lace-edged love has come to be it started out with a lot of bloodshed in “ancient times” before Miss Manners was around to counsel against flogging your intended with a dead goat.
But that shouldn’t stop the party. In fact, the real party is tomorrow when candy is half off. The sentiment is also half off.
Which brings me back to today at exactly 12:25 p.m. I’ve decided that damn the weather I’m going to walk around the office complex, the one with a view of Mount Jennings, the Albany landfill, without fail everyday, forever.
On one side of one of the nameless faceless dumpy brick buildings is a picnic table which, last I checked, had a recently deceased crow with its stiff little legs tucked up near enough to the table to warn off even the most determined diner.
On the other side of the same building is a deli and a doctor’s office. There is, hopefully, no connection.
At 12:25, as I walked passed the doctor’s door, I met Red and his daughter. I don’t know if you’ve been keeping track but World War II vets are leaving us at the rate of more than a thousand a day. Those that are still with us are now octogenarians or older. Red didn’t have to tell me he was one of the very much alive and kicking World War II vets, his cap told me: “World War II Veteran”. That’s all I needed. The conversation went something like this:
” I see you served in World War II.”
“Yup, I did. The whole war. Army.”
“Where’d you serve?”
“North Africa and then we went across Sicily.”
“OMG! Did you serve under General Patton?”
“You betcha, young lady.”
And there went the walk and the lunch hour. Red and I stood in the parking lot on this chilly Valentine’s Day and talked about war and life after war and a time that seems so far gone in 2012. We talked about General Patton. I told him the General was my hero. He told me I’d “picked a good one.” He told me the General drove the troops like cattle but “not one of us would have left him even if we could.”
Forty minutes could never be enough time to listen to campaign stories or to ask the hundred or more questions I wanted answered. And it certainly wasn’t enough time to tell Red how much his conversation meant to me, the daughter of a World War II veteran
I suspect he knew. “Remember me”, he said. “There aren’t many of us left.”
“I’ll promise that, Red. You made my day in a big way.”
“Well, I’ll see you that one, young lady, and raise you one more. This was the best Valentine’s Day I’ve had in years.”
I’m not sure what you did today or what romance you conjured up in your life on a day that mandates hearts and flowers.
Today was serendipity for me. I suspect Life just gives you a little perk every now and then. Somewhere around 12:25, if I cocked my good ear, I could almost hear Glenn Miller on the wind, or was it Tommy Dorsey? For the better part of an hour, I was not here. I slept in a pup tent on a cold night in Morocco, traipsed across Sicily, and didn’t stop moving until I reached Germany.
It was a helluva Valentine’s Day.
Wonderful post! My grandfather served in those same campaigns and locales, and I have his extraordinary photo albums from them. It is always amazing to be reminded of a time not so long ago when an entire nation sacrificed, scrimped, stepped up and saved to win what was considered a just war. Today, it seems our sailors and marines and soldiers and their families are really the only ones who sacrifce to reach stalemates in wars of opportunity, while the rest of us are told to go shopping, on credit.
Thanks, Eric. The post wrote itself. If I could do anything on my own time it would be to take a tape recorder down to the VA and to the Vets home and just sit and listen. “Wars of opportunity”, perfect phrase. I wonder what my Dad would think of where we’ve gone.
The guy who owned one of the hippest music joints in the Hudson Valley was in Patton’s Third. He used to dance with my then-wife and joyously shout out, “Betcha can’t tell I have a degenerative knee condition!” He skied at Belleayre until he was past 80. Tough bunch and I’ll always appreciate ’em.
In my office the first thing you see is the framed picture of the General during the Sicily campaign. I’m thinking of adding a few candles 😉