Monday, June 30, 2014

Fade Away

Fourth of July is Kind Of A Big Deal in my little old hometown juuuuust outside of Buffalo NY. The “downtown” (read: village center) area gets closed, rides are set up, games are everywhere, there is some kind of cross between an antique show and a farmer’s market, tons of restaurants set up booths, and this goes on for a couple days. For a small town, the parade is kind of amazing; it lasts several hours, there are enough firetrucks to sink a battleship, very cool and antique cars, 3 high school marching bands, too many elementary school marching bands to count, three fire departments and their marching bands, at least three police departments and their marching bands, and of course, the veterans.

The veterans. Of course.

Vor and I are in the middle of watching Band of Brothers. We’ve both read the book, but it’s been awhile. I was suddenly struck by a strange, world up-ending realization: I won’t be able to see the remaining WWII veterans in the 4th of July parade much longer, if I even get to see them this year. They are slowly aging into actual history, their stories only to remembered by our collective consciousness instead of listened to by actual ears.

When that struck me, I promptly texted my dad, asking him where his uncle had served. I knew it was the Pacific, but that was about all I knew. I just needed the details, even though it was almost 11 pm. I needed those details to be written down somewhere. I needed to know.

Every year, as the veterans came through the parade, we watched their numbers dwindle. At first, they were mostly still all walking; then there were the wheelchairs; then they were passengers in convertibles. Then, they simply began disappearing. As I sat there, mulling through those particular memories, I was overcome with a crazy desire to plan to run out and hop into the car with one of the vets with a recorder, and drag out every detail. Which is crazy, and borderline disrespectful (if not over the border), but I can’t help but feel sad; sad at the loss of these people and their compatriots, and sad at the loss of their first hand experience and knowledge and wisdom. The same could be said for any person, I know; I think I just feeling it more acutely having had my brother recently return from his deployment.

I was also sitting there, watching the show, feeling somewhat shell shocked by the fact that Lis will never grow up seeing WWII vets walk by in the parade. Then I promptly wanted to smack myself on the forehead. Lis will watch her own generation of veterans walk by her.

There is one thing I can teach her, one thing that stays the same no matter which generations of veterans have come to bear silent witness at our 4th of July celebrations. I will teach her stand when they walk by her.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My grandfather is a WWII vet. He is starting to fade away, and it is so hard to watch because he was so much younger than his years for so long.

He has Alzheimers, and in recent years has been telling more and more stories about his time during the war--a subject that never really came up in my youth. I think he remembers the distant past better these days.

It is sad to see the passing of this generation.