Monday, June 3, 2013

Section H. Row 45. Plot 14 (Father and Son Weekend)

(According to my blogger account, this was never posted. It took place 3 years ago)

After working under the threat of rain, in rain, or pouring rain, Justin and I slung our drenched, muddy clothing over every available rafter letting the wafting heat pg the wood stove do its work. In the morning we labored for a few more hours under dark skies slashed by light. In the afternoon we cleaned everything up, packed everything up, locked everything up, and started the journey back to Boston. It was Memorial Day.

During the drive back we listened to Justin's play list from his Ipod. My son is a throwback in many ways and likes a lot of the music from my generation. We talked about the lyrics, the musicians, and our response to the eclectic selection of tunes. Justin is a clever lyricist and musician in his own right. He knows the back-story of the songs and bards and provided insightful commentary about their poetry and journey. As the odometer clicked off mile-after-mile we talked about careers and business. Justin is pretty much fast-tracking in the tele-communication industry. I marveled at his ascension from climbing around on a caboose--to climbing cell towers--to a leader in his company.

Late in the afternoon we hit the outskirts of Augusta, Maine on Interstate 95. Justin excitedly said, "It's Memorial Day. Let's go by Papa's grave at the Veteran's Cemetery! What a great way to end our weekend!"

Section H. Row 45. Plot 14, is where Dad is buried. Soon, we were on Mount Vernon Drive entering the Veteran's Cemetery.

Wending our way along the ribbon of asphalt's lazy turns between fields and over undulating terrain, we quietly observed the resting place of thousands of our Nation's veterans. Fluttering vistas of red, white, and blue surrounded us. Each plot was marked by an American flag, while others were embellished with flowers and personalized memorabilia.

"There it is. Section H." Justin pointed to his left, and simultaneously pulled his truck to the grassy shoulder. Finding Row 45, we counted the headstones that lay flush with the glistening green sod. Birds chirped, the wind whispered, and swirling breezes curled the Stars and Stripes around their slender staff.

Six straight days of unrelenting rain meant soggy, water-saturated soil, squished beneath our feet. Arriving at plot 14, I was troubled--Dad's middle name, Vernon--the same middle name I bear--was stained by a dark loam-silted stream trickling over it. Getting down on my hands and knees, I scrubbed it away.

Silently, we stood over his grave giving thought to the drastic changes befalling him as a seventeen-year old. Dad's mother and father signed for him so he could enter the Navy before the age of eighteen. Volunteering to leave the wide-open spaces, fresh air, and countryside of Enfield, Maine, after a few months of training he lived in a steel tube beneath the sea. Sleeping on a hammock stretched above live torpedoes, air thick with the odor of diesel fumes, and the foul perspiration of shipmates scared spit less, young Burleigh went from shooting his .22 caliber, single shot rifle (that I still have) in the back pasture, to Gunner's Mate, Third Class, to moments of sheer terror as deafening depth charges, dropped from Japanese warships, exploded around a teenager barely old enough to shave.

Dad was a Plank Member on the U.S. Pintato sub. He and his crew received the Presidential Citation for their effort to bring war to an end. Papa and his comrades were First Class Heroes. In their minds, as was the case with my father, they were forever haunted by the memories of the brutality of war.

"Let's stay here until sunset." Justin said.

For the first time in nearly a week the sun was unobscured and brightly shining as it sunk toward the horizon. So appropriate. So appreciated. Such a God-thing. We took another walk among the hundreds of rectangular granite markers. The sun streamed from the heavens and afforded us the opportunity for one more photo--the shadowy forms of Justin and me. It reminded me of a dramatic truth; in this dimension we are alive and Papa is memories--a mere shadow of who he was. But in the Final Dimension, where Dad is, where the Hope of Faith is replaced with the fulfillment of Faith, Burleigh Vernon Shorey, GM3C, U.S. NAVY is beyond this shadowland. His redemption and restoration is complete. He walks  by sight--not faith.

It is we who live as shadows.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me...and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

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