I came to my first cousin’s door,
We discussed the effects of the war
Our parents give us a script
Which we can edit and clip
And make the good moments more.
I visited my only first cousin and her family on Long Island.
The drive out of New York frightened me. Tall building blocked satellite signals, rendering my GPS useless till I got out of the city. I’m used to low traffic flow, courteous drivers, and uncrowded roads. I stick to speed limits and I get nervous when I have to speed to survive.
Once out of the city and on Long Island, traffic became bearable and I drove the speed limit with minimal risk. I arrived an hour behind schedule.
I did yoyo tricks for the two children, my first cousins once removed, and I taught the nine-year-old the basics of yoyo play: the basic throw comes from the shoulder and ends palm up.
Over dinner, take-out Chinese, we talked about my father’s war experience.
Few people remember that before D-Day, the Allies invaded southern France.
My father volunteered for the Army in 1942; he joined the Texas 36th from a Replacement Depot (“Repple Depple”) in Oran in North Africa. He invaded Palermo under General Mark Clark; they fought north through Italy and in the spring of 1944 his unit transferred to southern France. From there he saw action into the Alsace-Lorraine. Captured by Germans during the Battle of the Bulge, he survived because he threw away the dogtags that identified his religion. He came back to the States and married the woman he’d met at the second mixer of his freshman year. My sister arrived in 1946 and I arrived in 1950.
My cousin and her husband listened attentively, we talked about how my father’s war experience colored the rest of his life.
Most families carry a degree of dysfunction; I recall reading that a functional family resembles Susquatch: reported but not proven.
Still, our family had more of its share of craziness. We talked about the cycles of insomnia, isolation, depression and drug abuse and what we do to try to make the world a better place. We’ve been in counseling off and on over the years, we shared what worked and what didn’t work.
In the final analysis, someone can accept responsibility for only one person. Our parents hand us a script we didn’t write but we can edit. Everyone can find good things in their past along with bad things; the object is to make a better script with a happier ending.
I left her home in the dark, driving under the speed limit and watching for deer, thinking till I got to the other side of New York City. I switched on The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich on my iPod. Time after time the Allies might have stopped Hitler and I have the urge to think contrafactually, but I would not have been conceived if the war had been different. In the end I want to live.