I have a confession.
My kids have an extra-long, four-day weekend ahead in recognition of Memorial Day and we’ve made plans to visit family, spend time at a lake and go to an amusement park. I’ve been busy getting ready for the five-hour road trip to make all that happen: I’ve changed the oil in the car, re-upped the membership in AAA that I’d let lapse, arranged for a dog sitter, and washed all the dirty laundry so we have clean clothes to pack.
Sounds great, you’re thinking. So what’s the problem?
The problem is the “in recognition” part. I forgot it. I forgot the real Memorial Day. This is my big confession. Really big.
Forgetting patriotic holidays is almost unheard of in my family. My dad raised me with a deep and somber respect for all of them—Veteran’s Day, Independence Day, and yes, Memorial Day. Have I become one of those Americans who use Memorial Day as a play day? My dad would be so disappointed in me. He was a wounded Vietnam Vet and hated what the day had become.
“Memorial Day is not for shopping or camping or barbecues,” my dad wrote in letters to the editor during the last several years of his life. “It’s for remembering.”
Dad has been gone almost four years now. When I remembered the reason for the season yesterday, I felt ashamed. Of course, it’s not too late. Memorial Day hasn’t happened yet.
I’ve decided to drive home a day early. Come Monday morning, I’ll be hanging the American flag out on my front porch, sharing what I can with my daughters and that evening, lighting a candle for peace.
Here’s the last Memorial Day letter to the editor written by my dad. I need his words now more than ever.