Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day, May 30, 2011

This Memorial Day has a quite a bit more meaning to me this year. Usually a day that I pay silent homage to heroes past and present, who fought and died to allow this country to be the finest on earth, in recent weeks it has also become a day to think of those I have personally lost, which, thankfully, have been few, but key.

For those that have noticed my lack of posting this month, that was primarily due to the unexpected passing of my father, Eric Einar Williams. He had been struggling with pulmonary fibrosis for some time, but was managing it. Until he injured his back, requiring surgery; things seemed to decline after that event.

So I was on my way to Ohio to see my dad, planning to leave on Saturday morning, the 7th of May; but before I was even up and ready to get moving, I got the call from my sister Anne. He was gone. But he knew I was on my way, so I have to be satisfied with that, and with the fact that I didn't see how bad it was at the end, unlike my sisters, who will have those memories to live with.

My father was a hard man to explain; I didn't see him the same way my sisters and brother did, when he was still married to our mother. There was a time, when I was small, that my parents were still married, but my sisters were leaving the house, and then "the Divorce" happened, and a lot of those years are gone from my memory (probably a good thing). But I did get my dad back later, when he was married to Cheryl, after my brother died, when he was retiring from teaching.

My father was a lifelong teacher, as were both of his parents. He instilled in all of us a thirst for knowledge, and especially my love of history. He was a photographer extraordinaire, who gave me a deep appreciation for the inanimate object (he had an album dedicated solely to his hot sauce collection - not to mention the Foot Album). He was an Airman in the USAF from September 1950 to September 1954, serving in Libya and at Hickham Field in Hawaii, working on radio equipment. He took me to the Dayton Air show often, and even more often, to the Air Force Museum, where I was even so lucky as to hear one of the Doolittle Raiders speak one night. So really, I guess it's no surprise when I followed in his footsteps and enlisted, too. My father did fail to mention, though, ever, that I did outrank him - he was an A1C when he got out, and I was a Sgt - probably a dynamic that our relationship did NOT need :) Besides, we had the good Colonel Williams, USAR, to give us our needed grief for joining - his words, not mine - "the wimp corp".

My dad was a lot of things to a lot of people - teacher, mentor, the man behind the camera, the Disciplinarian, jailer, King of Soup, the guy Clint Eastwood took all his cues from. I like to think of him as Dirty Harry Callahan, PhD, or Professor Man With No Name. He was NOT Ward Cleaver, by any stretch of the imagination, which is part of why it's so hard to sum up a life such as his, and why there will always be unresolved issues for me and my siblings.
Eric Einar WIlliams - 28 November 1929 - 7 May 2011

And while I was saying goodbye to my father, I visited my brother, whose death 29 years ago affected all of our lives, and set things in motion that I still think affect my day-to-day life. I hate that my kids didn't get to know their Uncle Eric, and I hate that, since I was just a kid at the time, too, that he and I didn't get the chance to be friends - we were still rivals, though since he was Mr. Uber-Genius and well, I wasn't, I'm not sure what the issue was :) His life - and it's tragic end - are what make me afraid for my kids, because you just never know, and it doesn't matter if you have the world in your hands, it can be gone in an instant. The lesson for those of us who remain is to not forget, and not to blame, and most importantly, to move on in a positive manner, even if you don't want to.
Eric Einar Williams II - 13 January 1961 - 30 June 1982

But back to the greater meaning of today, which is to remember those who have risked and/or sacrificed life and limb in service to this country - several of which I have already mentioned, but for the Williams family, also include my cousin Nevin and my nephew Daniel, who was a 3rd generation AF grunt :)

Arlington National Cemetery, where you will find my dad's cousin, Col. David Hackworth.

In Flanders Fields, by Moina Michael:
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

So to everyone who has served, or is currently serving, I thank you on the behalf of the American people, and others everywhere. I wish for peace, and hope we can bring home our brothers and sisters from all of the places they are currently deployed.

1 comment:

Terri said...

I am so sorry for your loss! My father passed away on May 5 this year and my sister on May 18, so I know how you feel. If it's any consolation, this was a beautiful tribute to your father and SO well written!

You are in my thoughts and prayers.