I thought about posting yesterday, for Memorial Day. Growing up, we never celebrated. If that is the correct word for it. Owning a tree farm and nursery, and living above the 5,000 foot elevation mark, Memorial Day heralded open season on gardening in our area. The only military man I knew about was my dad’s older brother who flew something like 21(?) successful bombing missions over Germany in WWII. I never heard that story until dad was well into his seventies, and I’d finally refused to be bent over a pot of dirt flinging handfuls of fertilizer for the entire long weekend. But before I declared my free will, I spent my Memorial Mondays waiting on customers, hauling trees, explaining how to plant, watering greenhouses, and moving pipes in the lower fields.
This year, this year was so different.
I found myself thinking about those I knew who’d served in the military and (all of mine) who returned home as safely as is possible. It was one of the first things I learned about my younger brother, his military service. I listened to him talk about it and realized, quite suddenly, that it was a very close call. That I just as easily could have been reading his obituary, having never known about him until too late.
That is something I’ve done quite a lot this year, been too late.
I absolutely know there isn’t anything I could have done differently. They were lost to me long before I had the tools to find them. Illogically, it doesn’t make me feel any better.
So, this Memorial Day has been a long one. All the complicated feelings that surround the recent deaths of the parents I grew up with, and my niece only eighteen months ago. Add to that a woman I never met, an older sister whose loss I feel so keenly, I cannot explain it. Then her, the woman who gave birth to me. The story is unfolding to be as tangled and tragic as could be imagined. And him, I grew up having been told he didn’t want me. I now know there isn’t anyway I can believe that piece of information. Nowhere reliable for it to have come from. Yet another white lie told to make a situation acceptable. Perhaps even a belief, not told with malice or intent, but to comfort.
Having written it, the list seems small, but feels crushing. Once again I didn’t go anywhere on Memorial Day. However, this year my mind and heart were in California, Arkansas, Idaho, and Utah laying flowers, fingers tracing names, heart trying to hold it all together.
Truth be told, next year I might pick up a shovel and bucket of fertilizer, plant me a few fucking trees.