Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Post Cards, Whistling and Cranapples

Today, I remember the brave men and women who have served this great country, protected our freedom and who fought for our rights. Today, I remember all those who have given the greatest sacrifice ever imaginable. Today, I remember all those currently serving. Today, I remember.

Today, I remember post cards, whistling, and cranapples.

Today, I remember my Papa.

Oh, how I miss my Papa. How I wish he could have seen me grow into the woman I am today. How I wish he could have seen me marry the man of my dreams. How I wish he could have held my children as newborns and known them, guided them and loved them.

Today, I remember old post cards.

Today, I remember treasure hunting with Papa to find old post cards. During my summer visits we visited thrift shops, yard sales, flea markets and collection shows. Papa would scour each card. Gently caress the photo side, slowly turn it over, inspect the stamp, date and personal message. The he would flick it with a tap and nod his head approvingly and put it aside. Our newest find.

I never really understood Papa's fascination with post cards. They were post cards from people he did not know. Strangers. They were old and sometimes in a fragile state. Why did he collect these personal glimpses into strangers' lives?

At first I thought it was because he wanted the stamps for his stamp collection. This is partially true. Once home he would re-inspect the post card, and sometimes carefully remove the stamp and add it to his collection. Then, he would place the post card into an old show box. No post card was ever discarded or thrown out.

One day, as a teenager, I asked him why he liked collecting post cards of strangers. His reply did not mean that much to me then...but it does now.

He collected them because it was a glimpse into a happy time, an adventure, a happy moment. Few people send a post card full of sadness. Most cards end with, "Wish you were here!"

Years later I would recognize the importance of those post cards to my Papa. Most of the post dates were from the days, months and years he spent as a POW during WW2. How terrible that time must have been. The terror, pain, loneliness, despair and fear he must have faced in the prisoners camp.

Those post cards he handled so gently, so lovingly, so full of respect, were a way to leave those terrors behind, and see that in that time of horror, there were glimpses of love, laughter and good times. Life had been almost normal - somewhere. Proof that during a time when he was surrounded by death, destruction and may ham, there was light, happiness and life. And I think, he wished he had been there.

Today, I remember how my Papa would always be whistling. He whistled.

He would whistle as he worked, whistle as he walked, whistle as he drove. He whistled.

He whistled so much we sometimes forgot he was whistling.

He whistled when he was happy. He whistled when he was sad. He whistled.

He whistled to secretly communicate amongst his fellow POWs. He whistled to alert to danger. He whistled to keep his sanity. He whistled to give hope, faith and friendship in a dark time in a dark place. He whistled to proclaim the time was right to put their plans of escape into action. He whistled. He survived.

I am sad that I did not understand why he whistled. I am sad I did not hold onto his whistling and embrace it, cherish it and love it like I should have. I miss his whistling.

Today, I remember throwing cranapples at the squirrels trying to get into Papa' bird feeders.

Every morning he would sit in the front window, read the newspaper, drink his coffee and curse the damn squirrels for stealing the birdseed. Then he would get up, walk out the front door - I would scamper behind him. He would pick up a rotted cranapple from the ground, take aim and peg the pesky squirrel. I would grab some ammunition and stand at ready.

Years later, I look back, and I realize the power, the meaning behind Papa protecting his much loved birds and their birdseed. As a child, the symbolism of this act was lost on me. Now, I see a strong, brave, committed man caught in a fight. I now see the complexity of protecting, fighting and guarding what is ours.

Today I remember my Papa. Today I remember all those who have served and who are serving this great country.

Today, I remember.

Do you?

8 comments:

Sniz said...

Wow, what a post! I think this is one of the most insightful, poetic posts I have ever read! You should be a writer, the way you are able to put internal feelings and meanings into words and consciousness!

InTheFastLane said...

Wow. What great memories. I think you captured his spirit so well.

Tara R. said...

That was truly beautiful. You such wonderful memories of your grandpa... very touching.

Pregnantly Plump said...

What a beautiful post! Your grandfather sounds like a wonderful man. Those are great memories to have, and I love the lessons he taught you.

wheelsonthebus said...

thank you for sharing this

Kellan said...

What a wonderful post and sweet tribute to your Papa! I loved hearing about him and I especially appreciate the memories you have of him!

Take care - Kellan

Lauren said...

That was so beautiful. You put your thoughts together so nicely. Your Papa sounded like a very strong and wonderful man. You really should be a writer, you brought me to tears, in a good way. Thank you

Kat said...

That was just beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous tribute to your Papa.

(I feel like I've written this same thing in so many people's comments today that maybe I should just post it, but here I go again)

My dad's nursing home had a lovely ceremony for all the residents who are veterans. My dad received a plaque with his Army picture on it, years of service, and awards received written on it. Not sure if he grasped it completely, but he surely was grasping that plaque pretty tightly. :)