Remembrance Day

July 4, 2007 at 9:09 am 25 comments

He was the park caretaker when smokers could light up at their desks, even in our government building.  A familiar character limping up the gravel drive to the pool shed, always in need of a haircut and a shave, as thin and raggedy as last season’s scarecrow.  Lacking means or interest in fashion, we never saw him dressed in anything but wrinkled camo pants, shapeless faded t-shirts and one of a small collection of greasy ball caps or paisley d0-rags.  Accompanied by his equally skinny white dog and reeking of stale wine or yeasty beer, R never missed a day of work and was never late.  Respectable people avoided his gaze, small children were afraid of him, teenage boys considered him “prey”.

He lost his job at the park the summer we lost control of the teenaged hooligans in town.  Aimless and bored, they spent the warm nights tearing up picnic tables and shattering the lights in the shelter house and tennis court.  The next morning they’d follow R around the park laughing at him cleaning up their mess.  When the police couldn’t catch them, and no parents were stepping forward to control their offspring, R took it upon himself to stop the carnage.  He met them at the gate one night emboldened by Boones Farm and with a baseball bat sprouting nails.  The cowards ran for home to tell their mommies. 

R took his firing hard.  He dropped out of sight and we didn’t even see him around town much, until today.   A frantic call from the pool to the police department.  “Someone” had broken into the park shed and was mowing the grass.  He’d left his white dog by the open door.  By the time the on-duty cop had responded, R had carefully mowed all the way around the trees in front of the pool and halfway to the baseball field.  They took him away in an ambulance. His skinny dog, howling with fear and grief,  was locked in the retention cage to await the dog warden. 

Most people don’t remember that R was a star on the high school basketball team.  That he sang a solo in church when he was 12, or that he enlisted in the Army and served his country faithfully and with honor.  They don’t know that he was married once and she left him for another man while he was stationed in Viet Nam.  In a town filled with war veterans, including a medal of honor winner, nobody noticed that R lost his foot in war and was sent home with an addiction to pain pills and a purple heart. 

Today I cried for R, whose mind abandoned him, whose life passed him by and whose happiest times were mowing grass in a small town park.  How many more of our veteran’s are living lives like R’s?  Forgotten warriors, alone and lonely.   Sometimes I really hate that truth is stranger than fiction. 


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Opportunities and a Couple of Shout Outs A Good Book and a…chain tag?

25 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dave M  |  July 4, 2007 at 10:41 am

    Good post Kat which stirred a few thoughts. Very often society goes down the prescribed route, for good reasons, but I feel that there are times when a common sense approach is better. A bit more support for R and he would have carried on being a benefit to the community, he would have retained his pride and sense of purpose but now both are gone.

  • 2. katherine.  |  July 4, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    touching and well done. thanks.

  • 3. Dew  |  July 4, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    So sad. And beautifully written.

  • 4. Delmonti (Dave)  |  July 4, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    ….and I guess thats why you’re a writer. Marvelous.

    I dont think this kinda story is rare (apart from the telling I mean). Isnt it strange how singlely we are quite smart as a species, but collectively we’re complete arseholes.

    I wonder when the next evolutionary step will be? and can I get the day off to watch.

  • 5. J.  |  July 4, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    That is so sad, Kat.
    And the way you write, I saw it all perfectly in my mind.
    Poor man.

  • 6. Shelli  |  July 4, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Very sad indeed.

  • 7. Tim_Id  |  July 4, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    Heartrending portait of a person any of us could see on any given day in American. But we’ve conditioned ourselves not to look. Ironically it only takes a twist of fate for any of us to be in his place. You are a wonderful writer.

  • 8. frothingatlemouse  |  July 4, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    How heartbreaking. How beautifully written.

    Happy 4th, girl.

  • 9. John Linna  |  July 5, 2007 at 4:11 am

    Too many I am afraid. We tend in this country to use people and throw them away. I hope you are enjoying the 4th.

  • 10. Mr. Fabulous  |  July 5, 2007 at 6:18 am

    A beautifully written post and a sad story indeed. I read it three times.

  • 11. Stacy  |  July 5, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    A very powerful image, Kat. Stories like this always make me think of the song “What If Jesus Came Back Like That.” Makes you want to be good to everyone ’cause you just never know.

  • 12. QuillDancer  |  July 5, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    This is a beautiful tribute to R and a sad commentary on American values.

  • 13. Nessa  |  July 6, 2007 at 1:01 am

    Independence costs so much.

  • 14. Jon M  |  July 6, 2007 at 1:58 am

    Gorgeous and sad, Kat. Can’t think of more to add.

  • 15. hammer  |  July 6, 2007 at 2:01 am

    How sad. I’ve met some folks like R and there is help for them through the DAV and the VFW.

    Kids that prey upon others need to get payback.

  • 16. katherine.  |  July 6, 2007 at 3:13 am

    if you are so inclined…..

  • 17. rel  |  July 6, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    That was a heartfelt awesome tribute!
    I have no trite witicisms to offer.

  • 18. Therevdrkate  |  July 7, 2007 at 6:03 am

    What an important reflection to share – when we talk about war and its costs, we never seem to remember those still living with the aftermath after we have moved on to other things. Bless you for noticing and for sharing his story with us. Praying for peace for him and for all those like him.

  • 19. LJCohen  |  July 7, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    This really moved me. The poor man. What happened to him after his arrest?

  • 20. Velvet Sacks  |  July 7, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    Oh, wow! This is beautifully written, but it breaks my heart.

  • 21. Gela  |  July 8, 2007 at 6:35 am

    Well written, sad story. Even sadder, there are several more tales like that.

  • 22. bobciz  |  July 8, 2007 at 9:20 pm

    Your story reminds me of a similar character I knew when I was a boy. He was treated by all of us just as rudely and without care. You have made me ashamed for the way I acted then. How do I make up for that?

  • 23. hayden  |  July 9, 2007 at 3:18 am

    Heartbreaking. Just heartbreaking.

  • 24. Diesel  |  July 11, 2007 at 1:20 am

    Wow, that is really a tragedy. Thanks for writing this.

  • 25. Catch  |  July 11, 2007 at 6:36 am

    Kat this is so sad.


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