After hours helping my parents construct a rather flimsy green gazebo planted in the middle of our backyard this weekend, I thought it was their turn to help me. I asked ol mom and pop who do not usually involve themselves in the particulars of my writing what this weeks column should reflect.
Whats Memorial Day about? my mother asked, hesitantly trying to light the grill.
Barbecues and corn hole, I said.
She gave me that look Ive come to expect after spouting something glib.
Whats Memorial Day really about? she asked, more certain.
Well, hell, who am I to say? With every holiday that carries the slightest connotation of solemnity, we hear newspaper columnists and TV personalities and ever-so-clever church signs (one of which is practically in my backyard) calling for the masses to Remember the reason for the season or to Take time to think about what Memorial Day means.
Fine. The reason for the season as originally meant was to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who died during the Civil War, an act meant to reconcile the victorious Northern states with the bitter losers that were the former Confederate states. It has, of course, devolved (as holidays are wont to do) into a day of collective remembrance that packs an extra punch every time we send some poor souls abroad to fight some foreign enemy (as we are wont to do).
I cant help but think theres more to it. Its more than the Federal governments purposeful construction of a three-day weekend for all federal employees in May or a chance for pools to open with a splash or for Indiana Jones sequels to secure an extra $50 million at the box office. It has dare I say a deeper meaning.
But I always resist this idea of memorializing: laying flowers on graves, listening to Taps, hanging a flag. Its called Memorial Day, not Pretend To Care About Old, Dead Veterans Day. That sounds insensitive, yes, but reciting names is not the same as remembering.
My grandfather is one of those old veterans. He turned 87 this year.
A newspaper columnist in my hometown recently wrote about his medals, his purple heart (shot in the leg by Nazis) and his legacy as a veteran. But thats superficial. Its not even skin deep its medal deep.
When my grandfather dies, I dont want people to think of the Francs he kept from the war or the bullet he had taken out of his leg but stayed near him the rest of his life. I want them to remember that he stayed married for 51 years and that he had five children. I want people to know that he used to take his wife to Bob Evans nearly every day. They had their own table. He usually will ask us to take him when we visit.
I always think of him as a sweet man who just really loves Bob Evans.
Maybe thats what its all about.
Justin Thompson is a senior journalism major. Send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.