Each and every year I write my article about Memorial Day after the fact. Part of that is because with weekly or bi-weekly newspapers, I have to write either before or after the last Monday in May. Because the Memorial Day Weekend has been such a big part of my family’s tradition, I chose to write this article after that holiday weekend.
As many of you may know, we celebrate Memorial Day at Compass Lake, Florida, the gathering place for seven generations of my family. Each and every year seems to bring new “firsts” for us to put in our memory book.
This year on Memorial Day, Henry and Laura both went tubing for the first time. It is a big experience for a six and four year old. Henry grinned the whole time, but later said we went too fast. Laura said she wasn’t ever going to do it again, “never in my whole life”, she informed me. Perhaps that shows some of the difference between boys and girls.
Will made his first foray into the lake water this weekend. I remember each moment that my grandchildren first got wet with these waters that I have known my whole life. His Dad held this beautiful nine month old boy that has the faintest resemblance to me, calmed his fears a bit, and then bobbed up and down so Will could get used to the fun.
We had our usual ribs, homemade ice cream, and cheese grits. Several books were read, even more naps were taken, and at least a pound of sunscreen was applied. There were late afternoon cruises around the lake after a day of jumping off the dock and swimming with the kids.
When darkness covered the lake, the jigsaw puzzle on the front porch became the center of attention. A viewing of
Frozen was made more special by the fact that everyone but me seemed to know the words to all the songs in the movie.
But there comes a moment as this wonderful time with family winds down that I think about how fortunate I am. As I sit writing my thoughts at sunset, with the water calm and the sounds of frogs and crickets all around, I am mindful once again that I can enjoy this time because of thousands of men who served our country and the many more who never returned.
Because of those who served that never will get to see their grandchildren scream in delight at jumping off a dock or help make homemade ice cream, I am forever in their debt. I am in debt to those who answered the call of a nation in need and gave up everything so our nation and my family would remain free.
So I write after Memorial Day, because of my own reinforced joy of being surrounded year after year by my family. This year and the many memories of Memorial Days past, remind me of a debt that I can never repay. All I can do is remember and say thanks to all that served. One day, I will tell these same grandchildren, who only know the joys of life at this point in their lives, that all of this came at a huge and terrible price. I will tell them what I know. It was all because of those who died so they could be free.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org