A Toast: To Departed Soldiers
Today is Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day because those who lost and buried loved ones in wars took this day to decorate their graves with flags, flowers and wreaths of remembrance. I always take the day to remember my father, Jack Gordon, who served as a radioman in the Army Air Corps in World War II, and my father-in-law, Jay Julien, a Navy officer who served on the command ship for the invasion of Utah Beach during the Normandy invasion. Both were good men, avid readers, writers and storytellers who were generous in heart and, because they grew up during the Great Depression, frugal beyond, sometimes, belief. In my late teens in New York, when the drinking age was 18, if I asked my father for $5 to pay the cover for a bar, he would say, “If I had $5, I’d sit up all night and watch it.”
I’ll avoid waxing poetic today about either my dad or my father-in-law, except to say that I miss both of them, their hugs, their grins, and their oft-told tales. They are gone and buried, one in New York and one in New Jersey. Being that I am in Connecticut, I won’t physically be in either place to decorate their graves. But my heart will kneel there, planting flowers in the rain.
When my father was a young man, he frequented a bar, Henry’s, on 111th Avenue in South Ozone Park, in the New York borough of Queens. In a small, tattered diary I borrowed, unbeknownst to my father, from his sock drawer when I was a kid, I found this poem, written in his skyscraper scribble. I memorized it. Then, fearing discovery, I quickly returned the diary to its spot. My elementary-school arms strained to reach to stuff his socks back atop it, to conceal the evidence that a pilferer had been present.
On this day, I offer up this old poem from memory, along with a toast to my father and my father-in-law, one a devoted beer drinker, the other an oenophile. Here’s to warm memories of both of them.
Notes on a Barstool
By Jack Gordon
(A sonnet in need of a couplet)
Pass the Pilsner, Henry,
It’s the finest drink on Earth.
It’s good for lover’s ailments,
and envelopes trying hurts.
It makes a man poetic,
gives tongue to quiet souls,
and floats your troubles downstream,
to the very farthest poles.
I could stay right here forever,
and drink it dark or light,
But the blasted closing hour
Forces me to say goodnight!
For those moved to write, remember a family member or friend who served in a war, domestic or foreign, and write whatever you can remember of them. If you’d like to share your memory, please send it along to me.
Every week or so, I write a blog post titled Notes on Writing that includes a brief essay and a writing prompt. For past blog posts, visit janegordonjulien.com and click on Notes on Writing.
And please share this with anyone you wish. Those individuals who would like to receive the blog may sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org.