Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Got Nothin', Nothin' at All


So to speak...

I was reminiscing, something I do from time to time. Sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes it's not. Tonight was a mixed bag.

I was remembering back in the day when lonely was my middle name. When my roommate's girlfriends would stop by the apartment. I'd take a walk. No girlfriend, no point in hanging out.

It was interesting walking the streets at night. Behind the windows there was light, there were people enjoying each other's company. There was life.

But in the stillness of the dark, there was magic as well as life. The sigh of the wind through the trees. The way the moonlight painted the houses and yards, giving them otherworldly colors, so different than the way they looked in the bright sunshine.

There, a darting shadow, pausing to see what manner of beast am I. Ah, it's the neighbor's cat, out prowling. What mouse will not see the dawn because of you fair feline?


As I walk, I think. I'm young, there is nothing but promise in front of me if I look at things the right way. The military beckons, when will I pull the trigger on that plan? I don't want to work in a factory my whole life and live in the same town until I'm old and grey. I want to see the world.

Eventually I wander back to the apartment, Charlie's girlfriend has gone home. Rick and his lady are in the living room watching television. I grab a beer and join them. We chat, we laugh, I eventually leave them to it. In the loneliness of my room I pull out a book, I have loved to read for as long as I can remember.

But eventually I have to go out and live life. Not observe it, not read about it. And I eventually do. I join the Air Force. I see the world.

One day, back in the old home town, I run into a friend, he asks where I've been.

"Oh, Japan. I just flew in from Tokyo last night, still trying to get over the jet lag." The look on my friend's face makes me realize, I've just got back from someplace he will only dream of. Perhaps read about.

I've watched the sun set over the East China Sea. Rode out typhoons in a concrete barracks, eating C-rations and playing pinochle with my buddies. Had a beer (or three) with guys who flew jets. They bought us the beer, for we maintained their fiery steeds.

Our skills kept their aircraft flying and their weapons systems deadly. They took the birds we sweated over (and sometimes cursed) and made them instruments of war. We watched and waited for their safe return. They didn't always come home.

I've strolled down the Champs-Élysées with the love of my life. Years later rode a gondola through the canals of Venice with her. In between we raised three incredible children, watched them grow, watched them struggle and watched them eventually become adults with lives of their own.

I've watched the changing of the Guard in front of Buckingham Palace with the WSO sitting on my shoulders so she could see. The two of us chuckled as we watched two radio operators of the Welsh Guards chatting at the rear of the formation in the courtyard of the palace. The WSO daring me to yell out "NO TALKING ON PARADE!"

As I'm still welcome in the United Kingdom you can infer that I did not yell out, much to the WSO's disappointment.


I've watched the sun rise over the Atlantic, well out to sea. Watching the water and wondering just how deep the ocean was at that point. Marveling at being completely out of sight of land.

I watched my son with pride as he graduated from Surface Warfare Officer School. Chuckled with him as we swapped stories. His are called "sea" stories, mine are called "war" stories.

I watched my oldest daughter with pride as she explained the operation of the sonar systems on board her destroyer to a group of defense contractors. Sailed on her carrier for a day. Seen the fast grey jets vault from the deck and then trap back aboard. Watched them drop their practice bombs and heard the low moan of their cannon.

I pinned wings of gold on my youngest daughter and watched with pride as she and her shipmates celebrated their accomplishment. Had more than a few beers with her and those same shipmates as the Missus Herself shook her head watching the old guy trying to keep up with the young'uns.

I've held my grandchildren in my arms and felt the tears of joy as they smiled at me.

I've buried my father. Carried him to his final rest with five other good men, two of whom were the brothers of my blood. One of whom was a brother-in-arms. I've felt the tears roll down my cheeks as the salute of the firing party echoed over the snowy Vermont hills. But I held my salute as the final strains of Taps faded. For my Dad too had worn the uniform in his youth.

So yeah, reminiscing can be a mixed bag, like the song says "Good times, bad times, you know I've had my share...". But all in all, the vast majority of my memories are good memories.

Nothin' at all? Not quite. No, not even close.

12 comments:

  1. Nothing at all?

    Much more than most.

    More to come!

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    1. Thanks Joe, one always hopes that there's more to come.

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  2. Very nice. It amazes me that we share many more than a few experiences, but then again: that's not so amazing, given who we both are and where we've been.

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    1. How true. (I won't say a thing about parallel universes. Oh, I just did.)

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  3. You've performed a service for me today, and I thank you. You've reminded me of how blessed I've been in life, overall, but particularly how privileged I was during my youth. My Dad was an airline employee from about my third year onward. As such, he and his immediate family flew free just about anywhere he wanted to go. And he took advantage of that perk, liberally. I got to see London, Dublin, Paris, Cannes, Rome, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Mexico City, and all corners of the USA, before my 21st birthday. Amazingly enough, I sometimes take that for granted. You've reminded me that I shouldn't, ever. You've made me, at least for today, a better man.

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    1. I feel rather humbled by that Jim. Thanks.

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  4. Funny how you speculated about the depth of the sea.
    There was many an occasion I did something similar, realizing the ship I was in was a mere speck.

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    1. There are times when I feel dwarfed by my surroundings. (Don't get me started on the immensity of the sky, or the first time I beheld the night sky away from all the city lights. Breathtaking.)

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  5. For nothin' that was a lot, thanks. You stepped out in life and you have been well blessed!

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    1. I need to occasionally remind myself of just how blessed I am.

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  6. A great deal more than nothing at all.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)