Hamburgers, humor and hope

Hate and grief in this country have worn us all down this week.

And I’ve found myself irritable and lacking patience for most everyone.

Today I left work early enough to see November sunshine warming the shoulders of several smiling senior veterans leaving a nearby Applebees’s.

I smiled too once I saw the restaurant’s sign proclaiming ‘free meals for soldiers’ who had served our nation through their military commitments.

Smiles have definitely been a rare and precious commodity this week.

Returning home right after,  I checked my email and Facebook messages.

I immediately noticed the posts and pictures honoring vets today had won in a landslide over the nasty negativity earlier in the week.

I smiled yet again.

Tonight I’ll be studying up on some of my Dad’s letters sent home during WWII.

And I’ll amuse myself with all those cartoons he scribbled on the envelopes.

He seemed to learn long ago that humor can get you through almost anything.

Maybe that’s a lesson I can finally learn as well.


Time marches on

My sister and I divided up the ‘to do’ list when we lost our Dad to Alzheimer’s.

She contacted the church and the florist.

I wrote the eulogy and called the newspaper.

After placing an order for the obituary, I made a second call to the city desk.

Dad had been heavily involved in the community over the years. My sister thought the paper might want to do a separate short write up about his passing.

I quickly received a call back from a reporter, but his initial question caught me off guard.

“So did your father serve in WWII?”

“Well, as a matter of fact he did,” I replied.

The reporter went on to explain that those soldiers who fought in WWII are dying off at a record pace. He and the rest of the staff were concerned that their great stories would be lost forever.

According to the National WWII Museum, we’re now losing veterans of the ‘big one’ at a rate of 1 every 3 minutes.

I went on to have several more conversations with the reporter about Dad’s time in the army. I provided him with several letters and cartoons that Dad sent home to Minnesota during his years in the South Pacific.

Though Dad was very proud of his community service, I know he would have been even more honored to have his stories of military service preserved for future generations.

If you happen to see any veterans today, please share your thanks for their selfless acts.

If you encounter any WWII vets, maybe give them an extra handshake.

Consider asking them to share their own stories of service with you, before they’re gone.

As what a tragic loss that would be.

The gift that keeps on giving

Since it’s the anniversary of the D-Day invasion, this morning I pulled out the collection of letters Pop sent back home during World War II. I’d received them as a gift from my parents one Christmas Eve many years ago. Every time I remove it from the shelf, I learn something new about the big war and about him.

Today I chose to read one letter written November 12, 1944 on Red Cross stationery, penned in Pop’s jaunty handwriting that matched his personality perfectly.

He wrote of being so excited to receive a copy of ‘The Writers Digest,’ a publication that’s been around since the 1920s for new and experienced writers. Pop liked to write, almost as much as doodle military cartoons during his years in the service. Both hobbies served as survival techniques. Something to relieve the stress of war.

He also provided a review of a USO show, reporting, “The dialogue dragged in plenty of spots.” But adding with his usual sardonic wit, “Well, it was a chance to see some American gals in dresses again!”

Pop always did have a special way of putting a positive spin on things.





Here’s to you, Dad!

I was lucky. Dad was a great guy. Smart, funny, loving and a good provider. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. If he were still here, I think he’d say he had a good life in spite of his years with Alzheimer’s.

I’ll be remembering Dad this Father’s Day while:

1) Buying a cake with a striped tie plastic decoration on top, just like we always gave Dad from the
bakery. (But this year I’ll bring it to my husband’s place to share with the other fathers with dementia).
2) Eating a grilled hamburger and potato salad, Dad’s favorite Father’s Day meal, even
though he always ended up doing the grilling.
3) Checking out a book of O’Henry short stories from the library. I just read in Dad’s letters
sent home during World War II, how much he loved the author. I always did, too.
4) Framing a brilliant cartoon that Dad drew during the war, and hanging it on the wall.
5) Raising a cone, full of Dad’s favorite chocolate chip ice cream, and saying a toast to one
very special father.

Patriotic tunes and memories

While coming across Dad’s book of World War II cartoons that he’d drawn, and letters he’d written home, I also found some old piano sheet music. It belonged to Dad’s mother, Grandma Hazel. She adored the piano and played it with vigor. Every time she performed, the songs were played with her classic “honky tonk” style. I loved that she was still able to play for other residents in her care facility, as her own Alzheimer’s continued to progress.

I just returned after a visit to see my husband Richard in his home. For a special treat, I brought over a big box of chocolate donuts, topped with red, white and blue sprinkles in the shape of stars, for both residents and staff.

I heard piano music as I entered. A volunteer had stopped by and was playing classic patriotic songs, and other tunes as well, all decades old. I knew every one. All had been on Grandma’s playlist.

I thought a lot about Grandma as the volunteer played the familiar tunes. I thought a lot about Richard too, and 25 years of Memorial Day picnics enjoyed together.

Somehow I became a little sad as I left, and walked out into the rain.

One soldier: One sense of humor

As I started to clean my house tonight, I came across one of the best Christmas presents I ever received. As it’s Memorial Day tomorrow, I thought I’d take another look at the gift. It is a 105 page notebook put together 13 years ago by Mom and Dad. One created for my sister and one for me. This book details Dad’s experiences during World War II through cartoons he drew and letters he wrote to his parents back home.

The book is full of detailed description, history and humor and while reflecting the love he had for his parents. I’m impressed that my parents had the fortitude to get the book pulled together at a time when Dad was starting to show signs of his Alzheimer’s.

As I reviewed some of the pages tonight, I learned even more about Dad and what it was like to be in the South Pacific and Japan as a very young man. Dad was very fortunate, and survived his war years. But those years were not pretty, as we found later in some of the gruesome photos tucked away in a basement box. Yet somehow his humor continued to get him through the toughest days. And that may be the greatest gift that he ever received.