A couple of things:
1. At this writing, I am sitting at my laptop computer. In my eyes, the green and blooming of a just-gussied-up patio is pleasing. Piano solos on the stereo are just as pleasing.
An idle look lands on a couple of yellowing booklets on a nearby shelf.
One is a book of ration coupons from World War II; the other is a tattered copy of History and Rhymes of The Lost Battalion from World War I. Just where I came in possession of “Lost Battalion” escapes me. The ration books came from my mother’s things when she died.
But I digress …
2. Thursday was the 69th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944, when Allied forces hit the beaches of Normandy in the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe.
I forgot about it.
I am holding a ragged ration book issued to a Larn Smith, an uncle who would later fight in the Battle of the Bulge. There are also memories of my father carefully counting the coupons he had left for gas, for sugar, for things like that.
In a time of war, the home front lived on rationing coupons.
“Uncle Larn” was one of four brothers my grandmother sent to war. In her living room window there was a banner. It had a red border and four silver stars on a white background.
By the grace of God, my grandmother’s stars were silver, even at war’s end. A gold star said a son had died in battle.
I’ve told you that before, but not this morning. You can put it down to a guilt trip for having forgotten D-Day, for not calling up a remembrance of Larn or Rodney or Tony or Freeman, especially Freeman.
Some 10 years my senior, he was more big brother than uncle. He taught me to hunt, fish, chew tobacco, a few cuss words along the way. He also tried to teach me how to play the guitar. But most important of all, he taught me there were girls out there who were not my sisters.
I lost him in February, three years ago, and not many days pass without some remembrance of the good times we had together; most of them after he came back from the South Pacific. We tracked wild bees, listened to his big red bone hound chase the fox around the mountains and the valley that was my grandfather’s farm.
And we once built a small pond at the foot of a mountain with a slip scrape and a John Deere tractor. That is where he taught me to swim in one easy if scary lesson. He simply picked me up one day and threw me in the water.
But not once did he talk about the hell a Marine went through in the South Pacific. I have found that most who lived through combat do not talk of it. From “Buck Private” McCollum, author of History and Rhymes of The Lost Battalion, there is this:
“No artist, whether good or bad,
“Can paint the sunset’s glow,
“Nor can any man who ever came back,
“Describe that war and its woe.”
It is my guess, I’ve mentioned all of this before, too. Again, put it down to a heavy dose of penitence.
I’m not alone. This newspaper made no mention of D-Day and if any of the TV folks did, I missed it.
So, a bit late, but in remembrance of D-Day, June 6, 1944 ... and Larn and Rodney and Tony and Freeman …
I am sorry I never learned to play the guitar.
George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or email: email@example.com