It was Thanksgiving week and Cheryl and I were visiting North Carolina. It seems like a lifetime ago, so many things have changed and yet some remain the same.
Ed (that's my dad) had been in a nursing home in Georgia since suffering a series of strokes a few years earlier. Those of us that are cynical may believe that we left our dad in this nursing home because we did not want to deal with him. While deep down some of that may be true, the real reason was he had a sister, an aunt, a girlfriend, a life there, that we hoped he could return to at some point. That did not prove to be the case and I can honestly say it was the worst choice I was ever involved in, but that is a tale for another day.
This particular Thanksgiving we were at the beach. David, Susan, Farren, Coleman, Cheryl, Jackie and if I recall we were having a very nice time.
And then came the phone call, Ed had taken a turn for the worse and was not expected to survive. David spoke to the phone caller and relayed the information to the rest of us, we called siblings, we prepared and waited for the next call. It came Thanksgiving night, our father had died, in that nursing home, alone. I remember looking at my mom and wanting to hug her. She said "don't, just don't". I saw the pain in her eyes for the love of a man that had left her broken so many years earlier. Realizing at that moment that my mom had never stopped loving the man that had hurt her so, how could I ever compare my heartache to hers? I saw my mom in a much different light that day, but that too is a story for another day.
After some planning, phone calls and tears we all piled into David and Susan's van and started a trek to Georgia, a final trip, after this there is never a need to go back. We dropped Coleman at school and the rest of us continued south and south and south. Calhoun, Georgia. A little dot on the map in the middle of nowhere.
We were joined by my sister Carol, decisions were made, people showed up at the funeral home. Told us stories of man we had never known. David said words at the service. Then we went on a drive. I remember it being long and winding, a crisp fall day with a beautiful blue sky. We arrived at the cemetery and like all veteren's cemeteries, is if full of white markers, with names inscribed, dates, placed in long rows, too many rows.
There were more words said, a folded flag given, guns fired. The stone for Ed was not there yet, but they showed us where he would be. Alone again, but on a hill overlooking those beautiful hills where he always wanted to be.
We left and I thought, well that is it. Never have to come back here again. Then a day comes when we remember our veterans and I feel an over whelming desire to go back and see this stone for myself and thank a man that did the best he could.