I Remember…

As a kid I grew up listen to stories on both sides of my family about the war. It was always The War. Of course my family meant WWII. It was real to my family, not just some newsreel or stories that had been handed down. Grandfathers, Fathers, Uncles, Brothers, Cousins and Friends all had first hand knowledge of The War. In my family I think my Beloved Great Grandmother known to all as little Gram suffered more than most. Her husband had survived the Great War, but then she was asked to give up her sons for the Second World War. They all came back, except one.

Warrant Office Class I Gerard McEachern, Royal Canadian Airforce, killed in action over the North Sea, 19 May 1943.

He had finished his tour of duty but took one last flight for a buddy who was too sick to go. I heard stories of how my Gram knew it happened before she received the telegram. The story goes, her son came to her in a dream and by morning her hair was white. My family is filled with story tellers. True, we embellish things. I am not sure of the actual details surrounding this momentous event but I know it changed her. How could it not? When a mother loses a child a giant part of her heart is ripped from her chest and she dies a little bit that day. His picture was always on her dresser when I came to visit. She always commented on my curly hair, just like his. But she never told me any stories about him. I heard all kinds of crazy stories about the rest of her children, 5 in all, but never about Gerard. I imagine the pain in remembering made her chest wound open up and bleed. As a child, I never understood. Of course I thought I did, of course I was wrong. As a mother I can’t even begin to imagine the pain she went through. Then one day last year, I could almost imagine. We were in Belgium visiting Ypres. The Meinin Gate was the destination.

I remember hearing my Honey’s excited voice, “WE ARE DRIVING THROUGH IT!” Cool! So we had arrived to the Menin Gate. It was impressive! It records the soldiers of the British Empire without graves. We walked through it, looked at names and saw my son’s name. Although I knew that wasn’t really my son, it still weakened my knees. At that moment I knew I never wanted to actually see my son’s name on a wall. I was ill.

We moved our way up to the grassy park that was high above Yrpes. I needed air, I didn’t share my feelings with my family. My honey wanted to keep exploring but I needed to change my view. Like my Offspring, the time had come for me to end the War Memorial visits. It was starting to affect me.

Today I watched the services from Ottawa, our Nation’s Capital. I saw Prime Minister Harper and his wife lay a wreath, then the young moms of Soldiers who were killed in action Afghanistan. Heart braking. I looked over at Genetic Offspring and requested that he never put me in that position, ever. I am grateful for all the mothers who gave up their boys. I can’t even imagine how they can keep breathing every day. Every boy that is laid to rest in fields all over Europe had a mother. Walking amongst the head stones of boys, whose ages are the same as my son and his friends, or my nephew and his friends, was shattering. The stones all had a maple leaf and if the name was known it was there. If the religion was known, the symbol was on it, be it a cross, star or moon. At that point, I think Religion no longer matters. We are all one under God.

Today I remember the boys whose stories I have heard time and again. I remember the stories of men who lived to tell me about it their time in past wars. I remember friends who have come back from wars in recent memory and retell the vivid stories of things they cannot unsee.

I remember you and your sacrifice and honor your mother for letting you go.

Book Moods and Reality

If you are a reader like I am, you will understand how diving into a book can affect your mood while you are pacing yourself through it. Most of the books I have read this year have been a bit desperate. Meaning, I have loved reading them they have left me feeling like the world is a wee bit depressed. I hear ya. Everyone is a wee bit depressed, including me. I think that is why I am attracted to these books. They make life feel so normal because lets face it, no one lives in a LaVyrle Spencer novel, everyone lives in a Maeve Binchy novel.

 

 

 

I loved Maeve Binchy (except her Father Flynn Series) because she wrote about average people doing mundane things in a way that left my heart aching for more normalcy. Evening Class made me want to go back to school and meet people. I did go back and met a lovely chum who is sarcastic and dark like me. We chuckle and complain yet we are the smarty pants of the group. Evening Class was plausible and that is why I liked it.

 

 

 

As much as I love watching Sci-Fi, I despise reading it. Books need to be plausible for me and quite frankly I have a hard time wrapping my head around worlds I haven’t been to. This includes countries where I have no frame of reference. I have tried the Sci-Fi genre and it just isn’t my favorite. For example, I have Read Never Let you Go and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and while I was reading them, I kept thinking…huh, not loving this so much. So, I made the choice to save Sci-Fi for TV and Movies because it becomes an EPIC adventure and save the Sci-Fi books for other people.

 

 

 

The books I have read so far this year seem to have a common theme. Their life kinda sucks and it doesn’t really change by the end, other than they are accepting of the sucky life they are living. Fair enough. I think that is real. The key is to embrace what you have and accept it for what it is and be grateful for the good stuff, because life isn’t all bad. It isn’t. There are awesome snippets of time that make up for all the crap we deal with. It’s a shame we have to deal with anything but that is what makes us smart. That is why I like reading these books. I like learning from other people’s choices. Not that I always agree with what they do, I think my moral code plays a role into these scenarios, but sometimes learning what NOT to do is just as valuable. And sometimes being a victim of circumstance all you can do is cope. I have been lucky – although luck might not be the word I am looking for. Karma has been fairly kind to me. I have done things I am not proud of, but the outcome has been the best possible scenario I could hope for…well, I hope for more but am satisfied with what I have.

 

 

 

Then I read books like The Book Thief. I am not through the whole thing yet but I suspect the family is harboring Jews during Nazi Germany. The young girl is fostered by

 

Cover of "The Book Thief"
Cover of The Book Thief

 

this family and, well, I foresee bad things. It is WWII after all and life wasn’t great then. A great insight to civilians living through WWII in both Germany and England is Life After Life. It gave me a sad, yet vivid perspective of what life must  have been like. The Book Thief is different, it is narrated by Death himself and he seems like an okay fella. I don’t fear death like I did when I was younger but reading about death has become a bit of a theme for me. I am fascinated about it and how people handle it. Perhaps it is because it surrounds me more frequently than it did when I was younger and living with a tumour makes me face it head on. Wrapping up all my personal endings for ‘just in case’.

 

At any rate, I am feeling the moods of the characters I read about. I love that about books. I love how real these characters feel to me. I know I will love Hans long after the Book Thief is over and I will think of him often, just like I think of my Grandpa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ding! Ding! One of us is eatin’ canvas, and it ain’t gonna be me

Today’s post is from my favorite writer and story teller. After reading one of his posts about running in the New York Marathon with no – well very little – training, I figured…What the hell! If he can run a full marathon, I can do a half – Easy Peasy! Well, it wasn’t so easy peasy, he  just motivated me to the point where mental was more more significant than physical. I invite you to take a peek over at Back of the Packer. Joe is about to embark on an incredible journey. His plan is to run 13 marathons in 2012. One every month to raise money and awareness for the Dream Team in support of Make a Wish foundation, and one extra one – his Super Bowl – the New York Marathon in support of Team for Kids. No matter how you slice it up, a marathon a month is insane. I, along with his family, hope he is alive able to walk by the the end of next year. Good Luck Joe!

Now on with the words……

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My grandmother was five feet tall. She barely weighed 100 pounds, and came from a large Irish family dominated by domineering older brothers. Growing up, she experienced the transition from a horse & carriage to the automobile – yet she never once sat behind the wheel of a Dodge Dart. She lived through World War I, Babe Ruth moving from Boston to NYC, the Great Depression, World War II, the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King Jr., the Korean War, NASA placing a man on the surface of the moon, Vietnam, Watergate, twenty six New York Yankee World Series Championships, DiMaggio and Monroe, the Rat Pack, the music of Louie Prima….and the all four New York Ranger Stanley Cups (that last one is a biggie). (…I just re-read that last sentence – wow do I love commas). She passed away at the ripe old age of 94 years…yet she would never admit her age to anyone. If someone asked her how old she was, her response would always be “I’m 21+”. My grandmother is one of my sources of motivation – for I cannot comprehend the degree of worldly change she took thin through those crystal blue eyes.

One of the many, many things I have learned from my grandmother came from a conversation I had with her about a year before she passed on. I recall asking her, “Grandma – you’ve seen and experienced so many difficult times…how did you keep going when things got tough? I mean, it couldn’t be easy getting by during the Great Depression and World War II. So much negativity throughout the world. Not much was going right. How did you see things through?” ….her answer floored me – and it echoes in the back of my head each time I feel like things are taking a turn for the worst.

My grandmother took my hand in her’s and said in that soft voice which carried a wonderful Bronx accent “Joey, you gotta wake up every morning ready to go toe-to-toe with the world. Life’s like a boxing match, and you gotta be Rocky Marciano. She’ll throw lefts and rights at ya all day long. Wake up late and miss your bus to work? Whack – right in da face. Gotta work overtime and won’t be home for dinner? Pop – a hard left to da jaw, ya know? But every time the world slugs ya a good one in the kisser, ya gotta smile and say ‘is that all ya got?’ and then egg the bastard on to throw the next punch. And once in a while, da bastard will get lucky and sock ya a good one right on da button. You’ll get knocked down. But then ya gotta bounce back up quick, ya know? Dust yourself off and then tell da bastard he got lucky and egg him on again. That’s da key.”

“What’s the key, Grandma?”

“Joey, whenever the bastard clocks ya a good one in the face and knocks ya down, ya gotta pop right back up. Don’t waste a second on the canvas. Get the hell back up quick, even if you’re still walkin’ down Woozy Boulevard. Get up. That’s the key. Get the hell up. Don’t stay down.”

“But what if it’s something really tough, Grandma? Sometimes I feel like I cannot handle my responsibilities. And I have goals for myself – big ones. But there are times where I feel like I don’t have what it takes to attain them.”

She sighed, took a sip of tea, and patted my hand and replied “Joey, we were all born as undefeated champs. Ya can do anything ya want in life, as long as ya stand toe to toe with da world. Look the bastard in the eye and tell him ‘one of us is eatin’ canvas…and it ain’t gonna be me’.

Unfortunately, I forgot that conversation for a few years. I got popped on the chin a few times and took a looooooong time to get back up. But that’s OK, and long as I keep answering the bell for the next round.

Ding! Ding!

I Remember…

As a kid I grew up listen to stories on both sides of my family about the war. It was always The War. Of course my family meant WWII. It was real to my family, not just some newsreel or stories that had been handed down. Grandfathers, Fathers, Uncles, Brothers, Cousins and Friends all had first hand knowledge of The War. In my family I think my Beloved Great Grandmother known to all as little Gram suffered more than most. Her husband had survived the Great War, but then she was asked to give up her sons for the Second World War. They all came back, except one.

Warrant Office Class I Gerard McEachern, Royal Canadian Airforce, killed in action over the North Sea, 19 May 1943.

He had finished his tour of duty but took one last flight for a buddy who was too sick to go. I heard stories of how my Gram knew it happened before she received the telegram. The story goes, her son came to her in a dream and by morning her hair was white. My family is filled with story tellers. True, we embellish things. I am not sure of the actual details surrounding this momentous event but I know it changed her. How could it not? When a mother loses a child a giant part of her heart is ripped from her chest and she dies a little bit that day. His picture was always on her dresser when I came to visit. She always commented on my curly hair, just like his. But she never told me any stories about him. I heard all kinds of crazy stories about the rest of her children, 5 in all, but never about Gerard. I imagine the pain in remembering made her chest wound open up and bleed. As a child, I never understood. Of course I thought I did, of course I was wrong. As a mother I can’t even begin to imagine the pain she went through. Then one day last year, I could almost imagine. We were in Belgium visiting Ypres. The Meinin Gate was the destination.

I remember hearing my Honey’s excited voice, “WE ARE DRIVING THROUGH IT!” Cool! So we had arrived to the Menin Gate. It was impressive! It records the soldiers of the British Empire without graves. We walked through it, looked at names and saw my son’s name. Although I knew that wasn’t really my son, it still weakened my knees. At that moment I knew I never wanted to actually see my son’s name on a wall. I was ill.

We moved our way up to the grassy park that was high above Yrpes. I needed air, I didn’t share my feelings with my family. My honey wanted to keep exploring but I needed to change my view. Like my Offspring, the time had come for me to end the War Memorial visits. It was starting to affect me.

Today I watched the services from Ottawa, our Nation’s Capital. I saw Prime Minister Harper and his wife lay a wreath, then the young moms of Soldiers who were killed in action Afghanistan. Heart braking. I looked over at Genetic Offspring and requested that he never put me in that position, ever. I am grateful for all the mothers who gave up their boys. I can’t even imagine how they can keep breathing every day. Every boy that is laid to rest in fields all over Europe had a mother. Walking amongst the head stones of boys, whose ages are the same as my son and his friends, or my nephew and his friends, was shattering. The stones all had a maple leaf and if the name was known it was there. If the religion was known, the symbol was on it, be it a cross, star or moon. At that point, I think Religion no longer matters. We are all one under God.

Today I remember the boys whose stories I have heard time and again. I remember the stories of men who lived to tell me about it their time in past wars. I remember friends who have come back from wars in recent memory and retell the vivid stories of things they cannot unsee.

I remember you and your sacrifice and honor your mother for letting you go.