Semper Fidelis

Today’s the last Monday in May, Memorial Day.  When I was a kid my mother would bring flowers to the local cemetery on Memorial Day.  I think the cemetery was called Mount Pleasant – it was our family’s “final resting place.”  Mount Pleasant is neither on a mountain nor particularly pleasant.  For my mother Memorial Day was an occasion to pause and remember all the dear departed, not just those who served in the military.  As a kid I thought Memorial Day should be called Cemetery Day.  My parents moved decades ago to another state far from family and friends and the Mount Pleasant Memorial Day tradition came to an end.  This year my father found his way back to Mount Pleasant Cemetery (and the company of his own parents) and sure enough, my mother arranged to have fresh flowers put on his grave.  I thought I’d post this new image today, another in the series of still lifes I began about a year ago.  And yes, this image does relate, at least indirectly, to my father’s military service (thus the timing/Memorial Day post).  He served in World War II with the marines that first occupied Japan.  At one point he flew over Hiroshima or Nagasaki (I don’t remember which) and saw the devastation from the sky.   My father spent a week dying this fall (as his organs failed) and was lucid for the first few days, during which time he talked about his time as a marine.  To the best of my knowledge my father never fought – was not in combat – he served behind the lines.  But I think his experience as a marine very much shaped who he was.   In many ways, it was probably the highlight of his life.  It made me wonder what I’d be thinking about on my death bed.

It seems my father’s health was deteriorating in the weeks before his heart attack that marked the beginning of the end. My mother said that he was complaining that his teeth were wiggly. He did not have many teeth left. The last time he saw a dentist he was a marine. It was 1944. All I know for sure is that war era dentistry left him shell-shocked. After he passed my mother found this tooth on top of his bureau. He obviously extracted it himself. How and why will remain a mystery. The newspaper is Japanese, published before the war ended. When my father retired, he bought a loom and tried weaving. I positioned the strands of blood red yarn to reference the WWII Japanese navy/army flag. The yarn was leftover from a scarf my father made twenty years ago. Seems like yesterday.