Monthly Archives: November, 2021

Macy’s Thanksgiving…Surprise

The Event of the Day…began early on Thanksgiving morning. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was televised from New York City… Billy B. got up early for the spectacular balloons and to see Santa Claus at the conclusion of the Parade. As usual Chet was coming over to watch the parade with him…and Jane and Daryl had been invited also. Neva J. had made Holiday Egg Nog and her Famous Coffee Cake. Billy B.’s neighbor…Lanny…had stopped by for just a few minutes for a piece of Coffee Cake…and a bit of Nog…which after drinking it he whispered to Billy B….’You will really like the egg nog…this Thanksgiving!’ Jane arrived dressed as a Pilgrim and Daryl came shortly after dressed as an Indian Chief. Chet commented that the Egg Nog was especially rich this year…and Jane asked for another cup as her cheeks became scarlet in color and her smile widened to a happy grin…

The humongous balloons were fascinating to behold. They swayed in the Manhattan breeze and it appeared to take many people holding on to ropes that were attached to the giant cartoon figures to keep them in their relative place and not hitting light poles or buildings as they marched in front of the Macy’s Store. Junior looked in on the kids and took a swig of Nog and said, ‘Damn…that is quality Nog you are serving, my dear!’ Neva J. already had the six-foot aluminum Christmas Tree erected and the colored light wheel spinning and shining on it. Along came Rocky The Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle the Moose…and Billy B. wondered what it would be like to fly with them above the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade…and see all of the people from such a lofty height…

Jane laughed heartily as she held on to Rocky’s large neck. She said that usually she was afraid of high places…but not today… Billy B. held on to Bullwinkle’s antlers…and wondered what had happened? Daryl called from below as he held a rope for Rocky and Chet held a rope for Bullwinkle…’ Isn’t this what you wished for Billy B.?’ At about this time Jane lost her hold on Rocky’s neck and began falling toward the ground. Billy B. let go of Bullwinkle and fell to save her.

Neva J. said, ‘What are you silly kids doing,’ as Jane and Billy B. lay on the floor in front of the TV. ‘And where is Daryl and Chet,’ Neva J. asked.

Chet called out in an excited and frightened manner, ‘Where are we going, Daryl?’ Daryl replied as he held tightly to the rope connected to Rocky The Flying Squirel and looked over at Chet holding tightly to his Bullwinkle rope, ‘Bullwinkle and Rocky have invited us to the Land of Aesop’s Fables…and Rocky says that we will land soon…’

November 22, 1963

Billy B. and Chet were on the playground. Mrs. Kittinger came out to where her first-grade class was playing and gathered them together. She said that she had had terrible news…President Kennedy had been shot and had been rushed to the hospital in Dallas, Texas. She had tears in her eyes. Billy B. had just moved to Eldorado, Illinois…he was from Chicago. Chet said, ‘That does not sound good,’ and called his mom, Thelma. Billy B. did not have a telephone in his home…which he called the ghost house…as it was haunted. Billy B. had seen more than his share of change in 1963. His mom and dad, Neva J., and Junior had moved to Eldorado in a vain attempt to save their marriage. Junior had been a mechanic for Semi Trailers in Chicago and wanted to open his own Mechanic Shop in Eldorado. They had moved in with Neva J.’s sister, Wanda, and her family. Both families shared the large Victorian white house that was just across from Eldorado High School. Billy B.’s room was in a forgotten utility closet that was just wide enough to accommodate his Twin Bed. The first morning that he awakened he was colder than he had ever been…inside a house. The coal furnace had ceased to provide any warmth and the multiple fireplaces…had gone out. When he arrived at Hillcrest School for his first day…he discovered that almost all of his classmates had been to Kindergarten…but him.

Neva J. loved President Kennedy. When Billy B. arrived home, as school was cancelled as soon as the news of the assassination of the President came out…shortly after 1:00 P:M: Neva J. was crying so hard that Billy B. thought that JFK, as his mom called the President, was a member of their family. Everyone that Billy B. knew seemed to be extremely confident in their President. After the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962…many felt that with Kennedy in the White House…no harm would come to them. Chet remembered his dad, Carol digging a bomb shelter in their back yard in Parrish Addition…and their practicing hurrying to the shelter…in the middle of the night…pretending that the Soviet Union had dropped nuclear bombs on Eldorado… Chet kept some of his favorite Action Figures in the Bomb Shelter…in the event that nuclear annihilation was coming.

Life in Eldorado…seemed to change after JFK was killed. There wasn’t the exhuberence that there had been. People walked more slowly. Russia seemed very scary…again. The embers of the hopes of ending racism…seemed to dim… President Kennedy told us, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you…ask what you can do for your country’…but our mentor was gone…it was difficult to see pathway forward…

Hope is the strangest of animals. It comes to us as bold as a lion…and leaves us as meek as a lamb. We witness the brilliance of the Sun…and then the darkest of clouds obscures our view…until we forget what the Sun looked like…

Christmas 1957

Several inches of snow lay upon the ground in the Windy City. The temperature was 5 degrees and every crack and crevice of the apartment that Neva J. and Bill lived in blew cold air into their little home. The streets of the magnificent city were festooned with splendid Christmas decorations. There were Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus and snowmen and Christmas Trees. At night the Christmas lights showed so bright that it appeared to still be the day. Neva J.’s sisters were making the trip from Southern Illinois to Chicago to see their Baby Sister and Junior…and the new Baby…Billy B. Neva J. had gone to Woolworth Drug Store and purchased a resplendent Aluminum Christmas Tree…which was all the rage in 1957. Along with the Christmas Tree she bought the electric color wheel to rotate and shine its many colors onto the shiny aluminum. Billy B. would be two months old Christmas Eve. Guelda and Wanda and Vema had all purchase gifts for the new nephew. Wanda did not drive and Guelda and Vema had never driven in Chicago…so they took the train…and Junior was going to meet them at the Train Station. When they departed from the six-hour train ride…there was Junior dressed as Santa Claus. ‘He was adorned from his head to his foot…but instead of a pipe held tightly in his teeth’…he had a Pall Mall Cigarette. The apartment had a hideaway bed that pulled down from its covey in the living room wall. There was also a nice sectional couch that was covered in plastic from top to bottom. Guelda and Wanda would sleep on the pull-down-wall-bed…and Vema would sleep on the sectional.

Vema asked Junior how he protected himself and Neva J. and Baby Billy B. in such a dangerous city. Junior pulled back his red coat and revealed a pistol. Wanda and Guelda…upon inspection of the hideaway bed announced that they could not sleep on it…as it did not have the proper lumbar support. Vema told Neva J. that she was looking a little heavy and that she had better get to work on her weight…or she would be a big as a barn. Then…Vema inquired why Billy B. was not talking…yet? Junior left the loving sisters and proceeded to continue decorating the apartment…as he took Christmas…very seriously. Neva J. announced that they were all going to go to the movies on Maxwell Street…and see It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. The Orpheum Theatre on Maxwell played the Holiday Classic each Christmas Season…on December 24th. The movie was intended to remind those viewing it that although they had worries and cares…they still had wonderful lives.

Maxwell Street was vibrant with the strobing lights of the theatres and the Christmas Decorations and the many vendors of goods…Holiday and other goods….that Maxwell is famous for. Just at the door of the Theatre was an old gentleman who was selling what he called…Laughing Santas…and Neva J. bought one for Baby Billy B. When Billy B. saw his Christmas Eve Gift…he smiled and giggled and wiggled his toes. As the movie began…Wanda said that her feet hurt. Vema noted that the ticket price of fifty cents was outrageous…and Guelda commented that she had seen the movie several times before when she lived in St. Louis. Junior said, ‘Ladies…you did not pay for the tickets…I did,’ and the three looked at him as if he came from another world… When the part came where Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey wished that he had never been born…Neva J…secretly wished the same for her magpie sisters…who with her best efforts…she could never please…

Junior and Neva J. and their Baby Billy B….walked out of the Orpheum with their hearts filled with Holiday Cheer and their profound hope for the future. Before taking the taxi back to their lovely decorated apartment…they had a cup of Apple Cider at a vendor’s kiosk. Neva J. thought for a moment that something seemed to be missing…and then she laughed to herself and knew that this could not be true…as she was so happy…

Santa…laughed from inside his box…

Five Sleeps Until Thanksgiving

Frank Sinatra sang that ‘Chicago was my kind of town,’ and I can add to that sentiment that St. Louis is my kind of town. MJ and I just returned from an overnight stay in the Gateway To The West…and as always we enjoyed the sites and sounds…and the flavors of the City that is nearest to us. We had been traveling to St. Louis for many years when in 2013 MJ needed surgery. The surgery was successful and the follow-up care has been terrific. MJ took the diagnosis of breast cancer with courage and warmth and strength…I was a basket case… The wonderful professionals at Mercy Breast Center in West County…calmed my fears. So, during February and most of March of 2013, we lodged at the Wildwood Inn in Wildwood. It seemed to me that everyone that we encountered was angelic in their kindness to us. We sampled a multitude of restaurants and at least once a week, Cuentto House of Pasta… on The Hill. We became friends with a young man named Tim who tended their wonderful Bar. We had dinner at the Roadhouse that is located on historic Route 66. I felt like that I had developed an extended family in St. Louis.

So…we have been making trips to St. Louis for medical check-ups…for nine years. Yesterday we had lunch with our good friend, Liz. We first met Liz at an Art Show at the Hyatt in St. Louis. She is a wonderful person and a lot of fun to be with. As I looked around at Plaza Frontenac on Thursday…I reveled in the lovely Christmas decorations that they had displayed…and Santa Claus visiting with all of the good little boys and girls… Their Christmas Tree is simply…magnificent! Nieman Marcus amazes me with their ornate decorations…and the prices of their Christmas gifts. I was reminded of so many holiday seasons that we have shopped and visited St. Louis during the Christmas Season. I recall my visiting the Fairfield Heights Mall one year…many moons ago…to purchase Christmas gifts for MJ and Aaron and Jonathon. I was a man on a mission. Money was no object…and the bills in January exhibited the truth of this claim… I love Christmas because it rather sweeps me away…a bit… I find myself in the land of Scrooge and Tiny Tim…and Santa Claus….who I still believe in…

‘Goodwill to all men!’ The Season of happiness and cheer is upon us. Advent is almost here. The celebration of waiting for the birth of the Messiah. Hope for the hopeless…inclusion for those who have been marginalized and discarded…and who look to the Christ Child…for succor and remedy… People are homeless for a multitude of reasons. Most would rather be warm and fed. Most did not choose the life of the open road…as the romanticism of that proposition is for the most part a fantasy.

There is a reason that so many Holidays fall at the conclusion of our year. We seek to balance the books. We look to recognize our good fortune and help those who are less fortunate than we have been. We peer into the clouded mirror of our future and know that we must try to share our abundance with those who live in penury and poverty and who if they had our lifestyle…they would feel as if that they were millionaires…

Happiness and a more than full stomach await many of us this Thursday…and we will rest ourselves on our comfortable couches and automatic easy chairs…and think of what we will buy and where we will go and the Christmas Joys that await us on Black Friday… Others will be cold and hungry and wonder why life is so hard for them and their children…and wonder what all the hype is about when we say…’Peace on earth…goodwill toward men…’

Alfa Romeo was the name of the automobile that was on display in the hallway of the Plaza Frontenac. I thought what a handsome automobile. The sticker price was 212 thousand dollars…and it got 15 miles to the gallon. I have heard it said that there will always be people that have more than you have…and there will always be people that have less… The Season of Giving is upon us. Let us be happy with the blessings that we have been afforded and share part of our abundance with those who are desperate for bread….and shelter…and a mentor…

Thanksgiving In 1963

Billy B. was working overtime for Neva J. to produce the finest Thanksgiving Celebration that had ever been experienced. Neva J. had decided to pull out all of the stops for Thanksgiving 1963. JFK had been assassinated just a few days prior…and the nation was in mourning… Neva J. had loved JFK. She had been convinced that all of the hopes and prayers of the United States were wrapped up in the personage of President Kennedy. There was a framed photo of the President in the living room and he was held in reverence. Neva J. had wept for the past several days. The assassination of her President had been as chilling as the loss of a close family member. In point of fact…it had been more earth-shaking than the loss of any family member that she had experienced…thus far… Thus her determination to have a memorable Thanksgiving was redoubled. Billy B.’s dad was a goose hunter. He had gone out early morning of the holiday and bagged three prime geese. After skinning them and preparing for roasting…Neva J. placed one in her gas oven…before daylight.

Aunt Vema and aunt Wanda and aunt Guelda were coming for Roast Goose Dinner…as well as uncle Ed and uncle Bill. Billy B.’s dad had prepared no less than three geese for the feast…and two of them he would cook in his new smoker. Uncle Bill had assisted him with the Dressing of the three geese. Uncle Bill was a man of few words and many wide smiles. He had the habit of placing his tongue between a gap in his bottom teeth and moving it in and out of the gap while he sat smiling and listening to Junior’s stories. Junior was what uncle Bill and indeed all of Neva J.’s family called Billy B.’s father. Junior and Bill had a bond that came from both fighting in the Second World War. They understood what it was like to see your buddies die…and to fear for your life…every minute of the day.

Chet and Thelma were on their way to the Bump home. Neva J. had invited them for Thanksgiving due to Chet’s dad, Carol, having passed away just six weeks earlier. Also coming to dinner were Abigail, who had been called ‘One-Eye’, and Rosie…who had purchased a new Moo Moo for the Holiday. The dining room table was groaning under the weight of the ‘Three Geese’ and the plum pudding and oyster dressing…and German’s Chocolate Cake and Neva J.’s special Coffee Cake. Everyone’s thoughts were on the terrible death of their President…and what lay in store for them and their Country.

President Johnson was on the television wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and assuring them that he was at the helm of the ship of state and that he would steer them into calm waters. They wondered if he had the ability to do so? Lady Bird sat beside him…smiling a practiced smile…whoever heard of a First Lady named…Lady Bird…

So Billy B. and those assembled joined their hands in unity as Neva J. offered Grace. She thanked the Lord for their many blessings and the food that they were about to eat. She said that none of them understood the senseless assassination of their beloved President…JFK…and that they wished that they could roll back time…just a few days…in order to warn him and his lovely wife Jackie of what tragedy was lurking around the corner for them. She acknowledged that miracles happened every day and why couldn’t they have a Thanksgiving Miracle?

Chet asked if someone could pass him the Plum Pudding and a plate of roast goose. Uncle Bill and Uncle Ed and Junior…were enjoying Grand Marnier…a Holiday Favorite in the Bump home. Aunt Wanda announced that she had just seen JFK on the TV…carving turkey…

Elusive Peace…

Fall has turned pleasantly warm and accommodating for this Tuesday. It is Aaron’s Birthday. I asked MJ if she remembers what she was doing 40 years ago today…and she responded that her and my experience on that day… were quite different. It was an unusually warm November 16th…much like today. Autumn brings me a Horn Of Plenty…of memories. The other day I was driving through a neighboring town, Carterville, and admiring all of the fall decorations and the posters for the local football team and our wonderful junior college…John A. Logan. I remembered how I similarly felt when I drove the selfsame road…20 years ago. For a moment I bemoaned the fact that I was not only 20 years older…but now I am…old… But…then the wonderful thought occurred to me…I am still in the game of life and I can appreciate the wonderfully decorated road as much as I did so many years ago.

Tomorrow will be the day that we start to enjoy life and stop to smell the roses and take time to feel our connection with our brothers and sisters…and our home…the earth. Tomorrow we will settle our minds and spirits and souls down to a peaceful pleasure of the satisfaction of being a creation of God and all of his bounties that he provides for us. Today is the tomorrow that we planned on yesterday. Each day is special. Each day is a miracle. Each stage of our lives is a special and unique experience that can not be achieved until we are ready for what it has to offer.

A difficult relationship is challenging. Life does not provide easy answers. When we have been wronged by someone…it is hard to forgive and forget…and most likely the forgiving portion may occur…but the forgetting…not so much… As much as I am capable of…I have practiced Practical Christianity…for over 50 years. I receive few revelations…in fact, I do not remember the last one. Jesus does not whisper my next move in my ear. When I arise in the morning…there is no tingle up my spine…but rather an arthritic walk to the restroom… When multiple appealing choices present themselves to me…I have a ‘think…’ for some time…before I settle on the right one for me. I have been the recipient of many criticisms and some praise…and both seemed to me to be a balanced assessment of my humanity.

Peace is an elusive creature. It alights like a dove on our shoulder…and when we look around to welcome it…she has already flown away… We want to love everyone…that is what Christ told us to do…but everyone is not loveable. We desire to care for others…but some eschew our care and concern… We want all to love us…but we are not, ‘Everyone’s Cup Of Tea.’

So…the Holidays are upon us. At times we may smile a smile of courage…while we weep inside.

Happy Birthday…Aaron!

Yesterday we traveled to Mary Janes for Brunch. Not Mary Jane Brooks Ristorante…but Mary Janes in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. You see…it is the high days of celebration of…Aaron’s Birthday. The food is fabulous and the Old Fashioneds are to ‘Die For.’ Aaron and I prefer the Traditional Old Fashioned with rye whisky…but we have sampled several of their variations…and they are all first-rate. This morning we erected and decorated the Christmas Tree. It is a splendid tree…’Full of Sap…!’ The Christmas Season has begun…and it is not too early for the Brooks.

Aaron shares my affection for scary movies. When I see that a new horror movie is arriving in theatres or on satellite television…I tell him and we make our plans to see the chilling flick. When he and Jonathon were quite young we had cable television installed in our little house in Elkville. The Disney Channel was one of our favorites with Micky Mouse and Goofy and Pluto and Donald Duck. One evening when MJ was gone to a meeting…I noticed that a movie that was for children called, Mr. Boogedy’ was playing and we three Brooks men…decided to watch it. I thought that it was somewhat creepy…and when I looked at Aaron’s eyes…they were as round as saucers. He told me recently that the movie scared him and that he still finds it frightening today…

Thanksgiving is but a few days away. MJ and I have a trip to St. Louis, Missouri this week and another sojourn to the Gateway to the West…next week on the Friday after Thanksgiving. We will tour the Lemp Brewery and have dinner in the Lemp house…both purported to be haunted. Also…we will stay the night…if our courage holds out… So no shopping…unless it is for Casper The Friendly Ghost…

Aaron shares my love of dark stories…also. We enjoy the Scandinavian variety. I took every Speech class that was offered at Eldorado High School. I graduated in 1975. One of the classes that I took had several senior girls…and they liked my speeches. One of them said of me when I was working on a class project with them…that although I seemed quiet until I was giving a speech…’Still Waters Run Deep…’

Like Father Like Son

A Christmas Carol…Through The Looking Glass

Neva Jane had been reading Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, and enjoying every minute of the story. Billy B.’s mom read late into the night on a regular basis. She loved books and belonged to the Book of the Month Club. On their bookshelf, there was everything from; The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to The Sleeping Prophet. The first is about Germany during the time leading up to World War II and the War. The second is about Edgar Cayce…a healer and psychic physician and seer of their future…and past. Neva’s favorite movie was what she called, Scrooge, although her title encompassed several of the popular Christmas Carol flicks. When someone was miserly or did not care about the poor…Neva Jane would name them, Scrooge… Billy B.’s mom was a helper of the poor…and she was far from rich… Two of her best friends were people that had long ago been marginalized in the little town of Eldorado…which as the sign that welcomed people into the City of Gold…said…A Town Full of Friendly People and One Old Sore Head. Rosie was a rotund little lady that favored dresses called Moo Moos. She talked to herself a little and every now and again…she provided an answer. Rosie loved JFK and had framed photos of him hanging in her little house and vinyl records discussing his assassination. She had a boyfriend who she proudly told Neva J., ‘He is all man.’ Billy B. wondered how she knew…or even what did she mean? The other friend was ‘One-Eye,’ which is what the town’s people had named a poor old woman…who indeed had one eye. She wore on her head what was termed in the early 1960s…a Gypsy Scarf…and was said to be a thief.

Chet and Jane were coming over to Billy B.’s house for Christmas Eve and Neva J. had promised them that they would see…Scrooge. Of course, there were movies covering the famous Dickens literary work from the 1930s-1950s. When Billy B. had asked his mom which movie was playing on Christmas Eve on the television…she responded with a sly smile…and a wicked grin… Billy B. was adjusting the rabbit ears on top of their 18 inch TV when he heard a knock at the door. Neva J. said that she would get the door in order for him to get the television ready for the movie on channel 3. In walked Jane and Chet…to London at the time of Charles Dickens. Suddenly they stood outside the home of Bob Cratchit and his loving family…and beside them was Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present…through the window, they could see that Bob and Tim were preparing to attend Christmas Eve Service at their church. The Ghost asked Billy B. if he would like to see the Christmas Eve Service that he would be attending when he was an old man…and Billy B. said that he would.

And…So…they were in there…in the pew at First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale, Illinois. The service was very much as Neva J. had read in A Christmas Carol. It began at 11:00 pm and concluded at midnight. It was lit by candlelight and when the Christmas Hymn was sung, Silent Night, tears came to Billy B.’s eyes. Chet looked into the corner of the beautiful sanctuary and there was Tiny Tim with his one rustic crutch. He was smiling from ear to ear and his dad, Bob Cratchit, was beaming with his cheeks as rosy as two ripe apples. Old Mr. Scrooge was smiling and singing at the top of his lungs…as he wept when he saw Tiny Tim…and witnessed his faith in his fellow man…and in God…

As they exited the stone church with the bell tower…Billy B. wondered how he would end up in Carbondale…when a 6 foot and 3 and 1/2 inches man passed him…and stopped and winked…

Jane said that she wished they had time to eat a Christmas Meal with Bob Cratchitt and Tiny Tim and family…once Mr. Scrooge had been visited by the three Ghosts. She would have thoroughly enjoyed witnessing the joy of the family after Scrooge became their benefactor. And…Thus…they walked into the front door of the Cratchit home…to a feast of Roast Goose and plum pudding and Punch…as much as you could drink…and meat pies…by the score… In came Tiny Tim…but he was no longer tiny…he danced an Irish Reel across the living room floor and when he reached the dining room table which was groaning with Christmas food and drink… his dad joined him in a dance of gratitude and joy and peace and hope…

Whoo said Chet when he looked up from the Christmas Feast at the Cratchit’s…to find that he was in front of the Bump’s television…and Scrooge was over. ‘Who wants Punch, said Neva J.? In walked Rosie and One-Eye…and they were bearing gifts for all… One-eye… whose name was Abigail…told of Christmas in her country…that she called the Old Country. She told of escaping the Nazis and that she had spent a year in Auschwitz Concentration Camp…where she had lost her eye by being struck so hard on her face that her eye had to be removed. She went on to say that at one time she had been very social and she and her husband had been professors at University…but that since she had been in the United States…she had never felt so welcome as she did at her friend’s home. Abigail said that her most precious Christmas gift was…Neva J.

Rosie told of being abused by her husband when she was young. She had Attention Disorder and had suffered from Depression since the abuse. She went on to say that she loved people but that she could only take them in small doses…and then required some significant solitary time…in order to re-charge her batteries. Rosie said, ‘No one has ever been as nice to me as Neva Jane.’ She went on to say, ‘I do not know if Santa Claus is real…but I know that Neva J. is…

Journey Through the Hallows

Dampness and chill and wind are the traveler’s companions in Little Egypt…today. Chancellor Lane called a halt to classes today on the Campus of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale. Four of our precious students have lost their lives in the past few weeks. The Chancellor called for a Saluki Care Day that will focus on self-care.

‘SIUC student Jacob Jurinek was 20-year-old junior studying journalism at the university. The Naperville, Illinois, native and his childhood friend, 21-year-old Franco Patino, were among eight people killed because of a crowd surge at the Travis Scott concert in Houston.’ Jacob is the most recent of the four students who tragically lost their lives. I considered today as I moved about Campus…that we are among the Hallows…the holy…and often do not realize it. When Freshman Keeshanna Jackson was shot and killed at an off Campus party…there was a memorial erected for her on Old Campus. I stopped and thought about the young person who had needlessly and unexplainably passed…at the Opening Curtain of Her Life… I saw a photo of her…just a few days before her untimely passing. She was on Campus and looked overjoyed to be there and to be a Saluki…

Many days we are tired or bored or disgruntle or dissatisfied. We fail to see the forest for the trees…we have our heads buried in our thoughts and are oblivious to…the holy…the hallows surrounding us at every turn in the road of life…

Tomorrow we will tear down our barns and build bigger ones… Tomorrow we will call our friends to check up on them… Tomorrow we will chill…and be happy…

Angels surround us…they are on our right side and our left…they walk before us and behind us…they shake their heads when they see us react obtusely to the life events that we encounter…

Sacrifice

Fall has now produced its luxurious ‘Leaf Carpets’ for those who dwell in Little Egypt. As I walked the Campus of SIUC this morning I could not hope but notice the strong wind was removing the leaves at a more rapid rate than I had observed previously…this season. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, ‘Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.’ I heartily agree! I knew that it was Veterans Day and I thought that I would walk over to the flagpole and see if I could catch some of the Vigil that the ROTC conducts for 24 hours each Veterans Day. As I approached I saw a young woman walking up to the two soldiers who were standing with their heads bowed…in a silent vigil of reverence for all of our Veterans…both living and dead. She appeared to be speaking to the soldiers…of course, they did not answer…but I imagined that she was expressing her respect to them and for what they were doing…and for what they represented. When I approached the Vigil I expected to be impressed with the homage that the soldiers were performing…but I was overtaken by tears as I saw their bowed heads and dignified observance for their fellow soldiers. I saw how young that they were…and yet how mature and supporting of the great weight of responsibility that they had been asked to perform. These members of our military we’re about one thing…duty…respect…and honor. I hearkened back to my high school years and remember so many of my classmates who served in the military and in Vietnam. I thought of the row upon row of headstones that MJ and I and Aunt Lauretta and, one time before his passing, Uncle Merle…had walked through at Fort Bliss in El Paso Texas. I remembered the perfectly aligned white rows of grave markers in Tunis, Tunisia…and our tour guide…weeping…when he recounted how the United States had saved his country and his love for us…

Women and men…girls and boys…much younger than our sons…lay in those fields of honor…they understood what supreme sacrifice that they had been asked to give… War is not like the movies. It is hideous and destructive of both mind and body. When I was a child I wondered how that there could be so many opportunities for me and…so we were told…anyone who would apply themselves in our great Country…and yet my friends…my cousin…and thousands of others…were drafted to fight in Vietnam…and many died…and so life I soon learned…is unfair…

We are the recipients of others’ losses… We are comfortable and enjoy peace and tranquility…on the backs of untold masses of humanity…women and men…who had the same dreams and hopes and excitement regarding their lives…as we did. In the Marathon of Life…they were cut down…just as they left the starting gate…

‘In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

In Flanders Fields.

Take up your quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw the torch; failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high, If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders Fields.’