Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Moments That Remind Us . . .

There are important people in your life and then there are IMPORTANT people. Unsung heroes.  Your hairdresser, your nail tech, your dog sitter. Not much stands in the way of my hair appointment, little stands in the way of a manicure but nothing, and I mean NOTHING gets between me and our dog sitter.  She is an esteemed part of our family.  My dog loves her.  He happily prances out to her car and never looks back even after spending days moping because the suitcases are out.  Jan's here?  See ya! The same could be said of our neighbor's dog.  She loves Jan, too. So, when my dog sitter's husband passed away recently, it wasn't a shock but still a surprise.  when we got word from her sister-in-law that there would be an open house to honor Jan's husband, John, at our community clubhouse, neighbor Carol and I decided to go up there, pay our respects to Jan. I didn't really know John but he loved my dog so. . .

We, Carol and I, decided we'd go together.  So, we dressed, put on make-up and made our way to the clubhouse at the appointed time.  The plan was to seek out Jan, extend our sympathies and then get out of the way so that others who are really closer to her could socialize.  That was the plan.

The clubhouse was packed.  Recognizing almost no one, we assumed it must be family and scanned the crowd looking for Jan.  Near the food table? No, but there were some delicious looking cheese and meat spreads and desserts. Near the beverages? No. Near the 4 men standing in uniform near the door? Uniform? Hmm. John was former Navy, perhaps they were there to pay respects, too.  Finally we spot Jan holding court at a large table and she is delighted to see us, encourages us to get some food and take a seat, "They should be starting soon."

Starting? Carol and I are perplexed. Starting what?  Is this a memorial service?  Collectively we went through the gamut of options. Certainly we don't belong at John's memorial service. Do we sneak out the back door? Squeeze past the uniformed men? What do we do?  We aren't family. We didn't really know John.  And so we stood awkwardly, with smiles plastered across our faces, talking through our teeth:

Me:"What do you want to do?" Smiling, smiling.
Carol: "I don't know." Looking around, smile firm and toothy, "Lets go get a drink."
We shuffle in synch across the room to the beverages and get some iced tea. I never know how to naturally place my arms in these situations, so holding a cup of tea seems like a good fix.

Me: "Now what?" Ever smiling.
Carol: "I don't know." Looking around and pointing with her eyes to the far wall, "I think that's a guest book. Let's go sign it and then slip out the door."

Collectively, we walk stiffly back across the room, in synch, toward the table with the book.  Only it isn't a book, it's a memorial card with John's information. We each pick one up. 

Me: "Now what?" Smiling, smiling.
Carol: Smiling, "I don't know."

Just then, a man kindly urges us to take a seat, he would, he said, be starting in a minute.  I looked at Carol and she looked at me and our smiles, still plastered on our faces said it all, "We're staying."

And so it began with a few words from Jan's brother-in-law. He reminded us that John was a veteran, a career man in the navy doing the jobs that don't garner bravado but most certainly keep that well oiled machine going; the jobs below deck that are necessary for keeping the whole vessel afloat. He traveled the world, served our country faithfully and then he settled in California where, the speaker said, he tried to become a gentleman farmer.  Always a gentleman, John was, apparently a lousy farmer.  His final years were spent at Ralph's Grocery Store - he worked the deli and had a list of regulars who would only allow John to cut their order.  He was that well liked.

The Veterans who had been standing along the side of the room were now beckoned forward.  They marched up in synch (now THEY know how to look natural doing it) and solemnly snapped a crisp flag out and then carefully, methodically, each movement made with full intention and perfection, folded the flag
into the familiar, revered triangle before then presenting it to Jan who was seated, surrounded by family.  I looked at Carol, a tear forming in the corner of her eye and knew I was sunk. 

The veterans then stood at attention while one of the men slowly, methodically raised a trumpet to his lips.  I turned to Carol and said, "They are going to play taps."  She shook her head, "I can't watch.  I'm going to lose it," she said.  "Lamaze breath," I replied.  I've found that Lamaze breathing has done more for me in the control of crying than it ever did in childbirth.  So now I am breathing, hee, hee , hee as the crystal clear notes of Taps resonate through the room. Hee, hee, hee.  It wasn't working. Carol, by then has given up. The veterans, well oiled in their minuscule movements then march off the floor to the chant of one of the men. Hee, hee, hee. Now I know exactly what to do with my arms because I have to wipe the flowing tears from my face. It was short and sweet but, it was powerful.

Awkward standing, unnatural arms, feeling like a voyeur at someone else's private moment - all of that disappeared when I realized that this kind man who loved my dog had spent a good part of his life in service to our country. He is a true unsung hero and deserves honor and an audience.

Happy Veteran's Day to All Veteran's and Thank You For Your Service.

No comments:

Post a Comment