A Memorial Day Conversation with my Dad in Absence
Updated: Jun 5, 2020
By Terry M Pace (1978/1994/2020)
Dad, I can’t be judged so easily by your standards, my generation hasn’t had the same chance or challenge.
You grew up and lived through the Great Depression and you learned the necessity of mutual caring and of sacrifice.
I grew up in a re-made land of plenty and cut my teeth upon the cultural turmoil of Civil Rights, assassination, Vietnam and Watergate.
As a young man you were called to defend human decency and to stop the evil of Hitler and like minded fascists.
I am in awe of you dad. You were a part of the whole that saved the world from despair and for freedom.
You were at Normandy, you crossed the Moselle River and pushed back the Nazi’s in the battle of the Bulge.
For those of you who lived, you came home with steel eyes, determined to see a better way to live.
You came home from seeing devastation and horror that was hidden beyond words, with too much loss to ever mourn.
So you decided to build; a home, a family, a new life, farms, roads, bridges, buildings, communities.
I feel my generation, born in the post-war exuberance of the 1950’s was strangely cheated and misunderstood.
Our war, that I just missed out on, was then in an obscure corner of the world over reasons we never understood.
We felt alone over there, and often in our own streets and some in their own homes; my generation, boomers, lied to and tempted such that our own eyes fogged over.
It was never that we didn’t care, or had lost respect, times changed, we were awash in a world of things, misfit creatures in a world of lost toys.
In Vietnam we were never really there to win the war, just to plug a hole in the leaks of world politics.
I wonder if we could have at least had a war like yours? Maybe we would have found greater strength?
Perhaps we would have been better people, more faithful to our dreams and not so easily silenced, turned and tormented.
Maybe this is what is meant by the generation gap? There are always new conditions to face in the world.
And these differences shape us all, in life and death as we seek to make sense of the world we encounter, to somehow make it our own for a time.
But with mercy, we may yet learn how to love deeper and cherish the freedom that still seeks to hold us all.
My generation has had many challenges, not the least of which has been a rapidly developing world, all digital and instant and virtual.
Fighting for civil rights and inclusions of all people; women, Black folks, Native, Latinx, and Asian Americans.
This has possibly been my generations greatest war; our greatest challenge, hope and most profound failing.
But in you I see that sacrifice, selflessness, unity, purpose, honesty, bravery and restitution may still carry us along this journey.
That like you, we can build new homes, businesses, governments and communities, of equality and peace, our once pure dreams.
Where justice and love are profound partners in leading us toward that “more perfect union” you fought for, or leaving space for those who come after us.
But these enemies that grip us and show us our worst sides, are rarely people at all (there are extremists of course), but our own minds are what haunt us the most.
Privilege, from our whiteness, maleness, healthiness, stable, relatively secure, closely connected lives, both bless and curse us.
Killing beliefs and habits within our own minds, necessary for the cultural reforms we seek; awash in stuff, in old fears and hatreds, cynicism and loss, we struggle.
I do not know in the end who needs the most courage, you or I dad? Your war, our internal and cultural rifts?
You fought and suffered in mud and blood, snow and flood, amidst some of the greatest horrors known.
I have tried to became enlightened, awoke, repentant, vulnerable, hopeful of inner peace and justice in this land.
I fear my children and grandchildren may not look and see the heroic in my generation as we see in you.
But I want you to know how much I love you; how your sacrifice has shaped and informed my life for the better.
The challenge of each generation is to honestly transcend the limits, failures, hatreds and changes they find, building upon good and seeking transformation for new times.
So on this Memorial Day, I look once more to you and what you taught; how you lived, your work which defined your faith, how those were one in you. Life over words.
But some words matter and must be said. Black Lives Matter. You knew that. I know that. Old mostly unspoken beliefs and fears are hard to change; we both have tried.
I ask God for wisdom and strength to fight to the end, and to love, like you with our blood, sweat and tears.
For yet a reformed world, with greater equality, justice, empathy and freedom for all, balanced by responsibility may still lay out there waiting.
It’s not a fully new world, as these qualities have been known and taught to us; to care for the weak, the sick, the poor; to be kind and forgiving, and above all to be honest.
It’s not a return to the past, though the clarity of some of the characteristics, open-minds, stout hearts, honesty with ourselves, perhaps even actual kindness and mercy.
I honor you dad, remembering some things you did and said, thinking of my own life as I look through yours, and wondering of others, only today and tomorrow will find.
On this Memorial Day I sense the decades and watch them whirl and twine in the wind with us. I'm watching us all go together; no end, just memory and love.