Memorial Day brings a certain kind of sadness beyond its meaning. The day itself should be dedicated to the men and women who died for this country but aside from some dutiful parades has become a day of commercialization. The Memorial Day sale ads for cars, mattresses, whatever, are overflowing your mail box (snail and Internet), in the newspapers, TV, wherever you turn.
The “holiday” also is a reminder of the most precious commodity, one we take for granted when young; time. Memorial Days of the past, memories of different neighborhoods in which we lived, and thoughts of aging now flood my senses. I wrote a piece about those feeling which I later turned into a short story, with Memorial Day at its conclusion. Some of the details are real and others are imagined. It was intended as a memory induced impressionistic piece and it can be read here.
I’m reminded of this once again, not only by the marking of still another Memorial Day, but my continuing walks through our Florida neighborhood and golf course. I walk early in the morning, out on the golf course before the golfers, frequently as the sun is rising. Although man-made there is a quiet beauty and solitariness about being there, observing the plentiful wildlife, birds ranging from Mallard and Muscovy ducks, Florida grackles, and White Egrets. The Muscovy ducks are dangerous when they fly low to the ground. Better watch out as their aerodynamics do not allow for much avoidance when in flight. I’ve almost been hit in the head at times so when I hear their unmistakable flapping, I duck (no pun intended!).
After walking the golf course, I usually take a turn in the neighborhood. Early in the morning I see some of the same people and so we sometimes talk. I’ve been doing this now for nearly 18 years. Although day to day changes are imperceptible, over so many years they are huge. Houses have been torn down and rebuilt; people have come and have gone. One of the common themes, though, is the process of aging. Although I would like to think that I’m an outsider looking in at the process, I’m in lock step with everyone else.
I used to see a man walking the streets, very briskly, at a pace which was mine 15 years ago, but he was older than me. We always smiled as we passed one another, but we were out there for exercise and it seemed that there was no time to talk. One day his house was for sale and he was no longer walking the road. Another neighbor said he was moving into an assisted living facility, that he had had some issues. After the sale of the house it was gutted and a young family moved in. And that was not the only one during these many years, and for the same reason.
A few days ago I saw this sad sign in front of a neighbor’s house at the very end of our road: Goodbye; Friends & Neighbors. We have Enjoyed Being Here These Past 43 Years -- The De Santis Family. I really didn’t know them, other than to say hello when the husband collected his newspaper in the morning, but they were one of the “original” people on the road, building their home 43 years ago. I’ve always admired their house as it reminded me of my northeastern roots and looking at it you would not know you are in Florida. Word has it that they are now going into a “graduated” independent, to assisted, to critical care facility.
Aging comes with several price tags, the increasing healthcare requirements, sudden emergency care, and, the worst consequence, to me, the loss of independence.
On this Memorial Day, there are these memories and thoughts, but there is also the increased awareness that our own turn comes now with gathering alacrity, every day lived to be appreciated, to be productive, but another day closer until we hang our own sign,” goodbye friends and neighbors.”
And Memorial Day should be a more fully realized day to honor those who heeded the call of Democracy and paid the ultimate price. I will not buy a car or a mattress this weekend. It is a time to think of them.