The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Summer Starts May 27, 2013

Elihu is in the bath, and I’ve snuck away to make a quick post. Spent the day readying our place for the warm months. Raked and rocked the entire garden and set up the bean poles. Planted flowers, cleaned out beds, secured the chicks’ outdoor run, plus a handful of other outdoor tasks. Needless to say I’m a good sort of tired right now. The lilacs have all gone by, so have the lily of the valley. Now we turn our attention to the growing of tomato plants and the swatting of mosquitoes.

Didn’t want Memorial Day to slip by without sharing this wonderful photograph of my father playing harpsichord for fellow army men. He was in his early twenties then. His was the Korean War era, and while he was never deployed, he had been trained for war. When greeted at Fort Dix by a superior he would hear “Private, what is your mission?” to which he was expected to salute and respond “To kill or be killed, Sir!”. When he related the story to me his face took on an expression I’d seldom seen. He looked to me for my shared disbelief and horror. “Can you believe that?” he asked. No, I could not. When he had shared this with his own father, hoping to receive just the smallest show of love or support, my grandfather instead surprised my dad by coldly reminding him “That’s what he was there for.”  (This is a time and culture in which my father and grandfather shook hands when saying goodbyes – and also when upon reuniting after long absences. No physical expressions of tenderness between these men in that day and age.!) All pretty horrific from my perspective today. I cannot even begin to imagine my son in such potential peril, not to mention sending him off in such a cold, unfeeling manner. A different time, a different world for sure.

My father took jobs painting the base’s chapel and playing harpsichord for services. I might not be here at all if he’d seen combat. Never know.

dad fort dix

Private Robert Conant plays harpsichord (this instrument is now in my living room) for the troops, Fort Dix, 1951

 

One Response to “Summer Starts”

  1. Eric Says:

    Well, it’s a good thing that he made it back! It’s also a good thing that you were able to be born. About military experience, my dad was in the army before I was born, in the years after the Korean war, and then in the Army Reserves for a few more years. He opted to not renew his time with them, which ended in September, 1963, just as they were starting to send Army Reserves over to Viet Nam. You could chalk that up to providence or just plain good timing. Either way, it’s good that he didn’t sign up again.

    Yes, war is a terrible thing, and it’s awful to imagine what parents of soldiers go through. There’s a lady we know who has three kids overseas in harm’s way, and they have the old-fashioned banner hanging in their front window with three stars to indicate the three who are still out there. There were a number of nights after we got into war again in 2003 (another decade- didn’t we learn anything from Viet Nam?) that I tucked in our then-five year-old son at night, and imagined how many parents out there were remembering how they had once tucked in their sons who were now coming back in flag-draped caskets. We should keep them all in mind, and not only on Memorial Day.

    That’s a great picture, and another fine post that you’ve written. You’re doing good.


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