Memorial Day menu

Lt. Harold J. O’Grady, formerly with Brooks-Scanlon Corp. of Foley, Florida.

Occasionally the mundane overwhelms.

Too hot to sleep. Whoops, almost forgot to set out the garbage and recycling. The last avocado’s gone bad; no guacamole for the morning toast. Do we have anything Herself the Elder will eat when we bring her over this afternoon? Or do I need to go to the grocery on Memorial Day?

“Boy, you sure get offered some shitty choices,” a Marine once said to me, and I couldn’t help but feel that what he really meant was that you didn’t get offered any at all. Specifically, he was just talking about a couple of C-ration cans, “dinner,” but considering his young life you couldn’t blame him for thinking that if he knew one thing for sure, it was that there was no one anywhere who cared less about what he wanted. There wasn’t anybody he wanted to thank for his food, but he was grateful that he was still alive to eat it, that the motherfucker hadn’t scarfed him up first. He hadn’t been anything but tired and scared for six months and he’d lost a lot, mostly people, and seen far too much, but he was breathing in and breathing out, some kind of choice all by itself.

Michael Herr, author of “Dispatches,” met that particular grunt in Vietnam. But he has brothers and sisters everywhere getting offered some shitty choices, mostly by us; our scrapings from the bottom of the ballot box, a real shit sandwich, one that eats you if you’re not careful, or simply unlucky. Just another kid snatched out of a small-town sawmill and shipped off to a picnic in someone else’s woods. One thing’s for sure — he won’t be “board” there!

Sometimes I think Memorial Day should be expanded to honor lives lost to lip service as well as national service. But there aren’t enough hours in the day. It could wind up bleeding all the way over into the Fourth of July.


14 Responses to “Memorial Day menu”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    Lip service. Lynchings. 18 year old kids with a chip on one shoulder and an AR on the other. I guess the list can get pretty long.

  2. Pat O’Brien Says:

    I will remember what our Dads and their buddies did for us. And, I will continue to wonder what it did to them. I should have asked him more questions. After my excursion to the dark side, I had just some of the bona fides to ask.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      As I’ve mentioned before, the old man was not a talker. Not when it came to the war. He’d tell us about celebrities he got to fly to USO shows, or hotshot pilots he met, but that was about it. And I was too much of a self-absorbed little prick to seriously grill him on the subject back when we still got along.

    • khal spencer Says:

      College friend of mine was a Rochester city cop, moonlighting at the U of Rochester security dept, which is how we met (my work study job was night watchman in the dorms and academic buildings). He was with the 101st Airborne and in some of the heaviest combat of the war. Never talked about the war except for funny stories.

      Same with my uncle and first father in law. They were really quiet about the killing stuff. I saw my father in law go into a flashback one day. It was not pretty.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        It must be a horrific mental editing process, deciding what if anything you can or should tell someone who hasn’t been there.

        “Nope, can’t talk about that. Definitely not that, either. Nobody would believe that. I was there and I don’t believe it. … OK, here’s a softball: I flew Bob Hope to a USO show once.”

        • khal spencer Says:

          I think it was just tough to remember those actual war days. Woody, the RPD cop, came back with enough metal in him to ring the alarms on the airport screening portals. He also came back with a German machine pistol as a souvenir. Not sure he ever registered it in New York, but….

          Know he was at Bastogne. Think he was at Normandy, but its been nearly half a century and my mind wanders. Tough old rancher’s kid from, I think, Montana.

          I made the mistake of asking Woody about the Malmady shootings over a post-shift breakfast one day (on weekends, a bunch of us would often go out to this greasy spoon near the U of R for steak and eggs after the all night shift). He just got really quiet for a minute and then said “we didn’t take a German alive for six weeks after that” and then he went quiet. I think after that, we knew better than to ask Woody any serious war questions.

          My father in law said he landed on D+3 and was involved with what he called the “beach cleanup”. I can only imagine what he meant.

  3. Pat O’Brien Says:

    PS: Love the new masthead. It’s ingenious is what.

  4. Shawn Says:

    I had a Father that enlisted under-age for WWII. He knew that it was wiser to enlist than it was to be drafted later. He spent time in England, France, Belgium, Germany and later in the Pacific with some time in pre-police action Korea – He was happy to be able to get out of there before trouble boiled over. He raised his children well and taught them to think for themselves. They did and a couple of them got into trouble and marginally failed in the eyes of society. One of them flipped the bird at uncle sam when he was refused enlistment due to a poorly healed fractured hand. Later when the draft notice came, he felt that he had already given uncle sam the chance and crafted a fine paper airplane out of the notice and tossed it out his micro-bus window as he cross the Golden Gate. He was unfortunately not smart enough to “dodge” across the border into BC for a life of benevolent reflection. The g-men happened upon him one day at work and told him “Though is in trouble”, and for a few years they kept him in hippy-dom poverty. Later when a wiser individual was shifted into our country’s leadership, the work of various people including US Representative Pat Schroeder in Colorado, my Brother was given a Presidential pardon. When I place our flag out front every Memorial Day, I do so for those who have fallen, as well as to those who have suffered.

    My thoughts go out for your Father as well. I suspect he was as proud of his rebellious son as my Father was of his.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Some folks are unpleasantly surprised when they teach their kids to think for themselves and by gosh and by jingo they actually go out and do just that.

      That said, in my dotage I’ve come to realize how much free time I had for reflection and independent thinking, growing up as I did in a one-income, two-parent, middle-class household, without all those world wars, dust bowls, and depressions foreclosing on all my limited cranial real estate.

      Some days I’m astonished that my parents didn’t strangle me in my sleep. No court in the land would’ve convicted them.

      • khal spencer Says:

        “…I’ve come to realize how much free time I had for reflection and independent thinking, growing up as I did in a one-income, two-parent, middle-class household, without all those world wars, dust bowls, and depressions foreclosing on all my limited cranial real estate….”

        Same here. The Chevy plant never made us rich, but we never lacked for a decent life, either. And my mom was usually bored enough to go get a part time job as a legal secretary rather than be a stay at home. Both my mom and stepdad lost their fathers during the Great Depression and were visited by poverty. Small wonder they grew up pretty tough and always made sure the checkbook was balanced.

        Yup. And nowadays, our youngsters need safe spaces and teddy bears if someone challenges their point of view. Oh, and pay their tuition. I guess we need a regular diet of wars, droughts, depressions, and pestilence to keep each generation toughened up.

        • Pat O’Brien Says:

          I’d say the next generations starting within our own families will have enough to toughen them up considering the mess we left them.

          • khal spencer Says:

            We didn’t have kids. I have enough PTSD from growing up in my parent’s home for both of us, and did not want to try to raise kids of my own. I will try to leave as I arrived on this planet–alone.Still, I’ve tried to pare down my footprint to some degree for the sake of the future. No meat and in fact close to vegan, small house, bicycle instead of drive, have fuel sipping car.

            The other day someone hit me with the latest rant about guns and I opined that the Las Campanas Lifestyle Syndrome (huge houses 20 miles from everything, gated community, big honking SUVs) is probably more deadly. When we start running out of resources, wait till the haves and have nots start fighting it out for real. I think we are starting to see that just in the U.S. alone. What drives crime? Inequality.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        These kids today, etc. One of the little girls next door called her father “Poop Head” during a badminton game the other day. When he came over to chat I said, “Hey, Poop Head … may I call you ‘Poop Head?'”

        He sighed and replied, “Why not? Everybody else does.”

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