It’s safe to say that I don’t know a whole lot about sacrifice.
Sure, I didn’t get to go out binge drinking and pub crawling a hell of a lot, instead pulling all-nighters with a drooling, balding man (Ben, I mean, not The Daver. Who would like me to inform you that he does NOT drool). Maybe I didn’t get to spend my early twenties being frivolous and stupid(er), maybe I changed the entire course of what I had planned to do with my life for the fruit of my loins.
So fucking what?
The sacrifices I made are nothing, and I mean by nothing “whatever is possibly less than nothing, maybe like chicken poo or something” and while I occasionally I do bemoan them, even I know I don’t really mean it or deserve sympathy.
On a day like today, all that I can think about is sacrifice. REAL sacrifice. Throwing your own life on the line to protect something you believe in. That, THAT, is bravery.
I don’t know a lot of soldiers, but I do know that one of these days I’m going to get off my fat ass and start sending care packages to them, because they do something so beyond brave that I cannot comprehend it. As someone who occasionally expects sympathy cards for bug-bites and ingrown toenails, it’s safe to say that I am whatever the opposite of brave is.
My grandfather is the only one close to me who has served overseas. He died when I was eleven and the older I get, the more I realize how much I missed by not getting to know him. My middle son is named after him–the Joseph, not the Alexander part of his name–and I sometimes regret that I didn’t name him Joseph Alexander instead of the other way around.
What I know about him I’ve Frankenstein-ed from family members and I’m certain I have some of the facts wrong.
He graduated high school at 15, Harvard at 17 going on to graduate from Johns Hopkins Medical school at 21. At some point in his career, he contracted TB and had to spend my father’s childhood holed up in a sanitarium in the mountains somewhere.
My grandfather left his family to go serve in World War II as a doctor on the front lines, pulling out bullets and putting rogue guts back into their body cavity.
When the Allies invaded and Germany surrendered, my grandfather, whom my son is named for, helped liberate the concentration camps. My grandfather cared for those who were left as the walking dead, and he saw that the piles of dead were treated with more dignity in death than they had been in life. He saw horrors unimaginable and refused to speak beyond what I have shared with you.
But I loved him as a child not for his bravery but because he called me the apple of his eye. I loved him because he bought me the fancy train set that I’d coveted one Christmas. I loved him because I knew he worked as head of the pathology department at a major hospital and I thought that was wicked cool.
The older I get, though, the more I love him for all the things I hadn’t known of him in life. That my parents still have a pair of forceps somewhere that they use to get stuff off of shelves–they’re quite handy! Somewhere, I have his old dissection kit. That he tried out the new-fangled X-ray technology on my grandmother while she was pregnant with my father and as a result, we have a picture of my father in-utero. That he loved going to the symphony and loved fried chicken.
(who doesn’t love fried chicken?)
That he was the bravest person I know, and that I slouch here today at my computer, pecking out words about “bravery” and “sacrifice” onto my stupid little blog, no matter how brave and tough I am not, I still have his blood coursing through my veins.
Today, that makes me sit up a little straighter.
Today I remember.
Who are you remembering today?