I’m usually reading the stories from World War II veterans in the newspaper all week. Stories about the Greatest Generation and how they spent time “over there” fighting Nazi Germany. Most often the stories seem to reflect their accounts of the D-Day Invasion. True heroism and sacrifice that I will never be worthy enough to accept.
The Memorial Day weekend itself is usually quiet around my house. One day is typically set aside for the annual visit to some relative’s home for a cookout (or in my case a birthday party since many coincide with this time of year). Making merry, partaking of adult beverages and eating so much food someone has to wheelbarrow me to the car for the drive home since I can’t move. Good times indeed.
The actual Memorial “Day” is normally spent quietly for me. I’ll try to sleep late (something I don’t normally do) and lounge around on what feels like Sunday.
But this year was a bit different.
My daughter, who has an obsession with all things swimming, decided bright and early she wanted to visit the Palmer Pool today. I had thought she would have had her fill of aqua related activities yesterday in my cousin’s pool. A large in ground one she had all to herself for several hours. But she was bound and determined to drag her old man to the community pool.
I’ve only been to the Palmer Pool a few times. I grew up on the south side Easton which is quite a ways away. During my tenure there I was considered riff-raff by the township hoi polloi when ever I went. But now that I am a full-fledged card carrying member of the Palmer community, at least as far as taxes are concerned, I decided to partake of the opportunity once again.
When we arrived I noticed the flags were flying at half mast and I reminded my daughter as to why they are so. Mouthing the same old lines that countless other parents and teachers have spewn to young ears. Hoping that the meaning might somehow get across and that this day isn’t really “the start of summer”.
As we swam I noticed a few things that jarred my memory: The part of the patio that was reserved to the Dip and Dance crowd. The long lines to get funnel cake and french fries. And of course, the diving boards where children would line up to jump into rather chilly water.
What else did I notice you ask? Ladies that should be in bikinis and those that most definitely should not. Shirtless men’s bellies hanging over their shorts so far they probably could not see their toes. Then there were the ones who had their guts sucked in (most likely to impress the ladies who looked good in the bikinis).
I swore I even saw a guy there not wearing a shirt who looked like Magilla Gorilla. The guy’s back was covered with layers of hair. I’m talking werewolf here, not a good look. Although I ‘m not really sure what part of the lunar cycle we’re in this week.
I had an encounter with my old high school classmates too. Well, at least I thought I did. I believe I saw Jim Prendergast there with his children waiting in line. I haven’t seen Jim in well over twenty years and wasn’t 100% sure it was him. I believe his nickname in high school was “Stickman” or something like that. I was tempted to walk up to him and call him that but I was afraid that if it wasn’t him my nickname might have been met with a fist. So that meeting never happened.
Later on, while sitting pool side, I noticed a young girl throwing a hakee sack (do they still make those things?) with her Dad. I kept going over and over in my head that I had seen them before and finally I realized that it was Michelle Eck’s husband and daughter. I know this only because of Michelle’s Facebook updates. She and I had also graduated together but she was nowhere to be seen. Her husband and daughter I have never met and they would have absolutely no idea who I was so I let that encounter go by as well.
But the most important thing happened as I waited outside for my daughter to go in and change to go home. Out of the locker room came a woman who was rolling a wheel chair. I watched her wheel the boy who rode upon it to a grassy area where upon he slowly got up.
I’m not sure if he had cerebal palsy or some other condition that made him so frail but I watched him struggle to move independently down towards the pool. Time seemed to stop for me as I watched the woman (who I assume to be his Mother) catch up to him and meet him at the steps. They held hands together and walked towards the water.
I kept thinking about how difficult it must be for both of them in their day-to-day lives. Simple things like dressing, eating and getting around must be a chore. But come hell or high water they were going swimming today. And damnit, they did. It also looked like it was something they do quite often together. Meanwhile, I spend most of my time taking so much for granted.
So this Memorial Day was a good reminder for me. I enjoyed every minute I got to spend with my daughter but for the first time in quite a long time I’m also remembering why we are all able to enjoy the things we do.
I hope yours is special too.