WWll

Hard to let this day pass without expressing my continuing admiration for those who answered the call after Pearl Harbor.

As a Navy vet myself, 1968-1972, I have grown to understand the incredible bravery and resolve that went into fighting that war and saving the world from a fate unimaginable.

The heroes that braved those years fighting for a cause so just, experienced conditions that were beyond comprehension. My respect knows no bounds. If you see any person in uniform, thank them. If you meet a WWll veteran, give them a hug. They are vanishing quickly.

One Bloody Christmas

I will tell you at the outset that while I don’t really like Christmas, I have enjoyed a few good ones in my time. My time is defined from age 30 forward, after the birth of my only child. There is reward and pleasure in giving, and to have made him happy by spoiling him was indeed my pleasure.

Perhaps being Jewish has something to do with my lack of joy at Christmas. After all, by definition the season lacks any spiritual relevance for me. But it is more than that. We make a big deal about feeding hungry people on Thanksgiving, and become more generous at Christmas. What about the rest of the year? Can’t we find the same moral or spiritual imperative to provide and comfort when it isn’t a holiday? There is also a political objection for me. In particular, it feels like it is about marketing and merchandizing, so companies can meet their bottom line. Always onward and upward with corporate America, and what an opportunity Christmas provides. All that aside, I did grow up a very bad Jew and Christmas presents were part of my upbringing.

I remember the grand total of one Christmas from my youth, and it will stay with me forever. When I was eight years old and living in a Brooklyn slum called Brownsville, my older brother and I were invited to spend Christmas with my father and his second wife, Pat. They lived on Long Island in a nice big home and not only would I get to escape the rat’s nest that was home, but there was also the promise of a meaningful present or two.

I didn’t really know much about Pat and think I had only been around her a few times. She had one son who was about my age but I didn’t know him either. Most of that weekend is a complete blur, but as Christmas Eve unfolded it would rock my world and scare me half to death.

At what point in the evening Pat started drinking is an unknown, but when we said good night, the door to our room remained open a crack and my brother and I could both see into the hallway and I caught a peek at the red bicycle that was being wheeled into the living room and put next to the tree. My heart raced at the prospect of that bike being for me as it would have been the greatest gift I ever received and was exactly what I was hoping for. I do know that I had great difficulty falling asleep and I was beside myself with anticipation and glee. Please God, let that bike be for me. Please God; I’ll be a good boy for the rest of my life. Please. Please. Please.

My brother and I were awakened to the sound of yelling. Loud yelling. Screaming. Through the slightly cracked door we could hear all of it, and see part of it. I remember Pat being incoherent, and reaching for the phone. I watched as my father grabbed it out of her hand and started hitting her with it. Hitting her hard enough to crack her skull and have blood flying everywhere. I was curled up into a protective ball hoping it was a dream, but it was real. When and how it ended, I do not recall. I don’t know if our father came into the room and told us it was ok. He may well have. He might not have.

Somehow, the next morning arrived and presents were opened. I have no idea what kind of gifts I might have received, but I can tell you the red bike was for Pat’s son. I was now broken hearted in addition to being exhausted and terrified. I have a faint recollection of that trip ending abruptly right after the gifts were opened. Remarkably, getting back to the decaying streets of Brownsville was ok. My mother’s indifference and ineptitude were better than the horror I witnessed that Christmas.

That marriage did not last long. Pat, as it turns out, was a significant alcoholic and my father remained challenged emotionally for all his days. My brother tells me he can remember the smell of all that blood.

I have owned many bikes since then; my current one weighs 650 pounds and can go as fast as I want it to. But never fast enough to lose the memory of that bloody Christmas.

The Children

explain to me

you smilers

and knowers

of truth

you who have mastered

right and wrong

explain to me

the children

crying at night

beyond comfort

they would suck their thumbs

if they had any

separated from their parents

who blew up

before their eyes

mother’s last look

father’s last touch

in pieces

while the children

lived

wishing they had died

blind, limbless, hopeless

beyond repair

explain to me

you masters of war

decision makers

widow makers

how you sleep at night

content

fat

rich

bastards

those children

would claw your eyes out

rip your guts out

claim your soul

if you had one

 

 

 

Heroes

called to service

from our great cities

and tiny towns

farmers, carpenters, fathers, and fishermen

at a time, when the risk of dying

held great purpose

and was so clearly defined

off to save the world

and our way of life

these men, boys mostly

walked for months

crawled through unspeakable horror

died in a million awful ways

leaving behind

wives

children

girlfriends

comfort

to march off

and save the world

so few left

they are all very old now

these heroes

they will tell you

they did nothing special

as they saved the world

many returned

limbless

shaken

crippled

yet prideful

respected

and loved

if you meet one

thank him

tell him you know

what he did

and who he is

tell him

he saved the world

All Gone

his father told him

not to worry

and to meet him

everyday

after dinner

by the fence

that separated

where the boys lived

and the men lived

and so he did

everyday

and the minutes

they had together

were all that was left

his mother

and sister

were somewhere else

in that awful place

where people screamed

and disappeared

and there was very little food

and it was cold

and he had to pretend

to be older

like his father told him

because younger boys

are taken somewhere

and never return

he did not know why

they were taken from their home

so many

such a long trip

filth

agony

sickness

pain

despair

death

so each day

he went to that fence

for many months

as his father grew thinner

and his mother

and sister

were somewhere else

I love you, said father

be strong

be brave

work hard

come tomorrow

my son

and so he did

except his father

was not there

that day

or the next day

or any other day

again

and all that he had

was all gone

in that awful place

called Auschwitz

joy, pain, aging, life, loss, living, dying

It is my hope to generate some discussion about life in general, and angst in particular. This thing we call life comes with so many surprises and then we become older and sometimes there is pain and angst mixed into the beauty and joy. Let me know your thoughts here, and I would ask that you avoid quoting scripture and instead speak from your heart and personal experience.