Monday, May 25, 2015

In Memory....

I was in my second year of college and my history professor gave the class a project.  We were to fill out an ancestry pedigree chart.  By speaking with all of our living relatives about their lives, we were to not only gather statistical data on our ancestor's birth and birth places, but also ascertain whether they served in the military and what their experiences were while they served, as well as any information they could pass along about relatives who had already passed away.  The more information we could glean, the better our grade.

Memorial Day
My Grandfather

My parents loved to expound on their family history, so I latched onto this assignment figuring it to be a very easy 'A'.  With the 'pedigree' chart in-hand, I sat down and questioned my parents.  Three generations of my ancestry chart were nearly complete within thirty minutes.  A quick phone call to my mother's parents, as well as some digging through old newspaper obituary notices by my father, allowed me to complete the four generations required for the chart in an hour.

But, the 'pedigree' chart was not the only part to this assignment.  I thought finding the names and birth places of my ancestors was going to be the most difficult part of this assignment, since it required me going back 150 years.  Names and places turned out to be the easy part.  Reading about and listening to my grandfather talk about his experiences in combat during World War II was life changing.

My grandfather was sent to the South Pacific and while he spoke of many funny experiences he had upon arriving in the region, he had refused to speak about his encounters in war....... until I told him about my history project over the phone.  Since I would be coming to visit him over my Spring Break from college, he agreed to let me "interview" him for my class assignment.

A week later, I arrived at my grandparents' home.  One evening while my grandmother and mother were preparing dinner, my grandfather was ready to talk.  We sat down in their living room.  He pulled out a journal he had hidden between the arm rest of his recliner and his leg.  As he reluctantly handed it to me, I could see him struggle with sharing his thoughts and experiences.

He finally handed it to me with one stipulation:  I could read it until dinner was ready but not a minute longer.  I quickly sat down and started flipping through the small journal.

I laughed as I read his account of meeting the women of the South Pacific region for the first time.  Apparently all of the island women on his base were topless.  The Commanding Officer ordered all of the men to put their eyes back in their heads and for the women on the base to be given shirts.

The next day, the women showed up on the base with the shirts on........... and perfectly round holes cut out for their breasts.  My grandfather started laughing so hard at the memory, he had tears running down his face.

As my time with his journal was severely limited, I quickly flipped forward a good number of pages.  What I read made my heart stop.

The entry began with him having described how he had just finished eating dinner and was going to lay down in his tent and catch some much needed rest.  He had no sooner laid down when he heard shouts of "incoming!".

Before he could move, bombs started exploding and machine guns started firing.  As he jumped up, the tent next to his exploded and the soldiers resting inside, his friends, were killed in an instant.

A lump grew in my throat and tears filled my eyes as I read his next thoughts.  I looked up into my grandfather's eyes. With eyes brimming with tears, he knew exactly what I was reading.  I can still hear his pain as he spoke so softly "I could never understand why the bomb hit their tent and not mine.  Why they died and I survived.".

My grandmother announced dinner was served.  My time was up.  I got up from the sofa, handed him the journal, and gave him a hug.  We never discussed those painful memories again, but today I remember.

Memorial Day
Public Domain Flag Image

For me, today is more than just a day for barbeque, swim parties, and wearing patriotic colors.  Today I remember my grandfather, his friends, and all those who have served and have given their all.  Today I remember their call to duty, I respect their service, and I honor their sacrifice.  To all of the servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as to their families, I say Thank You.

Christie Bielss

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Trade Off

My apologies for the long pause in writing.  Our son was recently diagnosed with a substantial injury which necessitated a lot of doctor visits and physical therapy.  My "free" time turned into a job as a physical therapist, drill sergeant, and chauffeur, shuttling him from one appointment to another.  He is now on the upswing and I am getting used to my new "normal".  Thanks for sticking with me and for your kind words of encouragement during this time!

After having our first child, we stumbled around, utterly sleep-deprived, not knowing which way was up for months.  It was during this time when we were assured by friends and family the infant stage was the hardest part of raising a child.  Everyone told us as our children grew older, things would become easier.  We clung to that hope through the sleepless nights, countless ear infections, teething, fighting croupy coughs, and the more-than-I-can-count fights over food.

We held on tight to that ray of hope like a castaway bopping along in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean.  For the first couple of years we waited anxiously for the day when our boat would hit dry land and we would be "rescued".  During the long wait, we were so sure we were approaching our smooth sailing days, we even had another baby.

As we clung to our sanity, we made a most unexpected discovery.  Our family and friends, who loved us dearly, were all a pack of liars!  Raising children does not get easier as they get older, you just trade off what you are currently doing for something different, but equally as difficult.

Yes, gone are the days of struggling to strap an infant carseat into a vehicle at just the right angle so it locks into the vehicle's restraint system.  These days I'm trying to get a pack of giggling tween girls into the different rows of my car, without anyone losing part of their toes to a falling backpack which is weighted down with more school supplies than Grizzly Adams would dare pack onto the back of a mule. 

I no longer hear the annoyed cry of a baby who is frustrated over a dropped pacifier or treasured toy just out of their reach.  These days I am bombarded with a teenager screeching "Mom! He/she is touching me!" or "STOP!  You're on my side!  Don't cross that line!".  

I thought having to hear Barney singing "I Love You" five hundred times a day was more tortuous than what some third world countries use as interrogation techniques........ until my children discovered and downloaded the Clash of Clans and Talking Tom apps on all of our electronic devices.  The gutteral grunts of cavemen and of enemies attacking bases has surpassed that dinosaur.  Being awakened in the middle of the night to a weird sounding voice coming from my cell phone telling me he is lonely and misses me, is more disturbing than a purple dinosaur singing and dancing.

I also almost miss the days of changing a baby's dirty diaper in the backseat of a car on a 100° day.  The odor back then was definitely a lot less pungent than what wafts from my son's gym bag these days.

But, even with all of the trade-offs, we would still do it all over again.  Yes, our friends and family definitely lied to us.  Whether it was in order to ensure the procreation of our species or so that we could sing the Dora the Explorer song along with them has yet to be determined.  We have gotten even though.  We told them that there is nothing quite like seeing your children take care of their very own puppy...... and fish ......... and guinea pigs.

Christie Bielss