Tuesday, October 30, 2007

While in the waiting room at the auto mechanic this morning, I happened to start chatting with the other person waiting for auto repair. He was a lovely man, 90 years old with a quick wit and kind heart. We chatted about his life and where he was living now (with his daughter and her family). We started talking about his years in the Service, 1940-1945. Like both of my grandfathers, he fought in the Pacific (he called it the jungle and said for every inch they won, they lost a yard).

In my senior year in college, I happened to take a course on the New Deal and World War II with Professor Allen Koop (the son of C. Everett Koop). He was a marvelous professor, and I didn't miss one of his classes. That semester, I also found Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener in the stacks of Baker Library (there were nine floors of stacks at the library at the time... I adored wandering around each one of them). Michener made the war on the Pacific front really come alive for me.

That year for spring break, I took the train down to Philadelphia to spend the week with my grandparents. (In those days, you could take the Montrealer from White River Junction to Philadelphia overnight; it was a lovely way to travel.) My class with Koop and my enjoyment of "Tales of the South Pacific" prompted me to ask my grandparents about their experiences during WWII. Listening to my grandfather's tales is one of my most treasured memories. Most of the stories he shared were ones that had been silent for more than fifty years. I remember my grandmother exclaiming again and again, "I've never heard that story!"

My grandfather died two years later; I won't learn any more of his stories. I shared some of the humorous ones this morning with my waiting room comrade. We both chuckled over the long-ago antics of twenty year old boys.

Veterans Day is coming in just a couple of weeks. There will be a number of different local community celebrations for Veterans Day. I hope that some of you take the opportunity to visit with veterans and hear their stories. Reading the books or watching the movies will never give you the same experience.


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