The Persistence of Memory

Memorial Day is over.  Did you take time during the day to remember?  I mean to remember what we are supposed to be remembering.  I could not get away from it.  Ed Mc Grath, who used to be a parishoner at St. Christopher’s where I go to church came to mind. He and his wife Ruth, and their five kids, were my neighbors.  I always remember him today, and him telling me of looking down on Boston as he flew over it on his way to Europe, a young B-25 tail gunner.  The plane he was in flew over his home because the pilot, who didn’t make it back, wanted to give Ed a look down at the place.  Ed was just eighteen.
I remember Ed Supple, my father-in-law, on this day.  After the war was over he went to a reunion and learned that he was the only fellow in his graduating class from high school who came back alive.

Early in the afternoon I saw the Currans come by the house riding their bikes on the way back from the parade downtown.  They are neighbors, too.  I’m not a big parade kind of guy, though I do remember the parades after WWII, and the veterans marching up Fifth Avenue.  I was three, and on my father’s shoulders, the throngs twenty deep along the way as they marched by, flags waving, drums rolling.  I remember the sky black with the returning planes, the flights of fighters and bombers roaring home for what seemed like years after that; parades through the sky as it were.  I remember visiting the huge gray ships anchored along the Hudson River, the ships which had paraded into the harbor and up the river while the shore was lined with thousands and the ships themselves lined with crewmen.

I remember the fellows I knew who were over there, all of them gone, now; the last ones marching off out of sight, but not memory, several years ago.  And as I remember them, I think of the men and the women, too, “over there” today doing the hard and dangerous things so parades could take place, so we can ride home on our bikes after them on a beautiful day.  And as I think, I pray.

I pray for an end to all such parades.  Let parades be only for the opening of circuses, or down the avenue, past the park, into the canyons of buildings on Thanksgiving Day with all the bands and floats available for sweet memories.  Let that persist.

10 responses to “The Persistence of Memory

  1. Richard Munro

    Thanks Peadar. Parades like that we might wish in a perfect world would not exist.

    But the world is a dangerous place and there will always be wars and rumors of war.

    Praise the Lord say I and pass the ammunition when necessar

  2. Helpful words, finely spun.

    The only member of his graduating class to come back alive? Incredible to imagine.

  3. Is trua mor!

  4. Outstanding!! Thank You for remembering…

  5. We kept Memorial Day here, in the company of ‘your boys’ in their own chapel in Wellington Cathedral. For me, it’s a time to remember that my grandparents kept open house for ‘the yanks’ and my mother’s one great love, who foresaw his own death in a sub met her there.
    Those parades always choke me, from the very first one, when as Head Prefect I was present at the Anzac Parade as a wreath layer. The World War I veterans started then, followed by World War II, and so on, through the current vets and soldiers, and the youngsters who spent a year or two of duty because they were chosen by ballot for the services when they hit a certain age: and then – at the end, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, with their brave, pathetic flags marching through the rain then I had that feeling of endless ages, little girls and boys following after the brave, and the brave marching alongside so many, so empty spaces, eyes on the flag, hearts brimming with memory, and us, then, with troops in Malaysia and Korea, Viet Nam still to come. I still see those little knees and brave smiles, but now, the Scouts and Guides I saw that day are in their late fifties. Many of them are Vets. But these days, I see the gaps, I feel them. There are no World War I Vets, there are few Second Word War vets, many of them in wheel chairs,

    It grieves me. It does grieve me.

    I still see the wee bare legs, still feel as young as that College Rep with a wreath, looking up with a tear in the eye, at a flag that still – God bless and save us – still needs to fly. Maybe that’s why our National Anthem is a prayer. God of Nations, at thy feet, in the bonds of love we meet ..

  6. Chopin Cusachs

    Kipling said it so well in “Recessional,” that great
    but unsingable hymn.

  7. Terry England

    Veterans Day Parades have always made me tear up rather I was in them > or standing on the curb. More so as I have come to realize how much > they truly sacrificed. the Vietnam Veteran has cleared a path for > future treatment for the mental hardships the soldier lives with the > rest of their lives. It has come to light that after seeing the evils > of war, the human mind is permanently affected and they have a living > hell going on inside the brain the rest of their lives.> > Even those who survive and come home are killed. They never really > can see the beauty of life again, they never truly trust again, many > of them turn to drink, some commit suicide, some cause those who love > them to drink and commit suicide, and others simply display > anti-social behavior leaving them in a world of their own with no > friends and family that would prefer to avoid them.> > I, after years of suffering at the mercy of a war vet, finally took to > the library and read everything I could find on the results of war on > the mind. The sacrifice made for freedom and God are higher than most > of us can imagine.

  8. Thank you Alys and Terry for your very true and very moving comments. My first wife, Sheila, may she rest in peace, was the daughter of a World War II vet. He and his five brothers were in Europe and Africa for the better part of four years and in combat most of that time. They did not come back unaffected. I knew one of them well, and most of them slightly. I never met her father who had abandoned his family when Sheila was about 13.

    Her Uncle Henry was an alcoholic until the day JFK was shot. He knew Bill W and spent the rest of his life trying to help some of those who “came home” but left so much of themselves behind.

  9. Kathy McGlaughlin

    I am deeply moved by your original piece, Peter, and by all the comments because they seem to point out something which many times is forgotten even by those who do spend the day remembering; and that is that we are not just remembering what these many people did, though that bears remembering, but we are remembering them, remembering who they are.

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