Memorial Day

Most of the time, Memorial Day makes me think of the countless men and women who have given their lives in defense of freedom.

Today, I found myself thinking of two men I never knew.

My Uncle Charlie was my Dad’s next youngest brother. He served as a paratrooper in WWII, in “The Big Red One”–something I didn’t know until just a few years ago. Dad told other Uncle Charlie stories. He had really bad allergies. He sent more than his paycheck home to Grandmom & Grandpop, because he consistently won at poker. (My brother John and sister Kath inherited his gift for card playing.) In a cruel twist of fate, Uncle Charlie died in Europe, run over by a Jeep, after peace had been declared. Grandmom thought all four of her older boys, all of them in service, would return home to her, until the telegram came that brought her to her knees, sobbing in grief.

My mom had never met her Australian first cousin, William Stanley Brennan, until he stopped to visit his American kin in Pennsylvania on his way to England via Canada. From the way she talked about him, I think she had a case of instant hero worship. Stan had volunteered for the Royal Air Force. My sister MaryBeth, in doing some family research, discovered he was killed in action less than four months later.

These are only two of the stories that put faces and names to the men and women we remember today. When we remember all those who have fallen, let us remember that every one of them had a story: a face, a name, a family, hopes and fears and dreams….

Let us not only honor all of them. Let us honor every single one of them.

They Call Me Baby Driver

I’ve mentioned I like to travel, right? I especially like road trips because I just plain like to drive. Especially highway driving. On the open road with family.

My most recent sojourn was a trip with my Uncle Joe and two of my cousins to visit another cousin, his son/their brother. I flew to an airport along their route, they picked me up, and six hours later we were there. I drove out in a new Ford Escort, which gave me a five-minute fuel history, and might’ve had a button on the dash that launched warp drive. (As soon as they come out with that, I am so going to Forge!)

Before we went to my cousin’s home, we went to his garage. I’m not kidding. He has some really nice cars. Classics.¬† So I got to sit behind the wheel of this:

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a 1940 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet, one of a limited production run of 350. I dunno…I kind of think they could’ve stopped¬†tinkering with dashboard design right here…

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But when the rubber meets the road…as long as it’s got a half-way decent ride and will get me where I’m going, I like to be behind the wheel of most anything. For those of you who feel the same way, here’s a Simon & Garfunkel tune I’ve regarded as my personal theme song from the time I was thirteen, and within spitting distance of my driver’s license. Enjoy the song, and enjoy the road!

Happy Mother’s Day

I’m not a mom. But for a couple years I took care of my two grandnieces and grandnephew. When I began they were 5, 3, and 1, and when I moved away they were 8, 6, and 4. During that time I often thought of my mom, who had recently passed. Especially in the beginning, I had a lot of doubt and second-guessing. I had no desire to wind up as the featured character in my grand-nieces’ and -nephew’s therapy sessions when they grew up!GreatMom by Meghan

In an extreme moment of angst, I asked Mom for some kind of sign, whether I was a) doing the right thing and b) would I do a decent job of it. I don’t know about other moms, but mine could read my mind. I figured if she could do it here, it would be easier for her on the Other Side of the Line. But I was still a bit surprised when, in the midst of my internal conversation with Mom, my eldest grandniece drew this picture. Struck by the drawing’s light and airy feeling, I asked, “Who is that?”

“That’s Great-Mom. And she’s happy you’re with us.”

And I knew a sense of peace. Mom was smiling at me. It would be okay. As a daily reminder, I kept the drawing on my dresser mirror.

[These kinds of real-life occurrences, by the way, are why I don’t dismiss ESP. My mother, and her mother had the Scots’ “Second Sight”–which is why the humans of the Scotian Realm have psychic abilities!]

In honor of Mom, and all moms out there, here’s my favorite “Ave Maria” by Franz Biebl, as performed by the stellar men’s chorale, Chanticleer. I heard this live in the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall–one of the most acoustically perfect halls in the world. I had to grab the armrests to keep from floating away on the sheer serenity of their song. After the performance, we had a chance to meet the members of Chanticleer, and I told one of them, “When you sang the ‘Ave Maria,’ I could feel the planets moving.” (My comment wound up in one of their newsletters!)

I hope you enjoy it…and have a very happy Mother’s Day.