Friday, June 13, 2014

One Last Hero . . .

The thing I came here to do is nearly done.  In about 48 hours I should be back on board Kintala and making plans to push north.  Its time to be on the move once again.

While it is long past time for me to be back among my own, I can't really begrudge the last six weeks, even if it did mean being back in a world I don't enjoy. Cars, traffic, noise, crowded buildings, TV, and along with the TV a snoot full of "news." I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but the world is kind of screwed up. The vast majority of the people in the news - world leaders, decision makers, and criminals of all types (some of them the aforementioned world leaders and decision makers) - are pathetically bad excuses for human beings. This is the best we can do? If so, it would seem the human race is bent on making its presence in the cosmos short, unpleasant, and utterly inconsequential. And I have come to accept as a brutal truth an idea I once held as a merely interesting observation: the more power one has, the less human one is. So far as I have seen there are no heroes on the world's stage, just the worst our kind has to offer doing all the harm they can manage.

But that has just been a side-bar observation to doing the thing I needed to do and, like I said, the thing I came here to do is nearly done. Part of winding things up has me joining my parents for their meals at the new home. Seating is arranged to encourage people to be part of the community and my parents share their table with the only other married couple in the place. At the table next to theirs a single woman has sat alone for every meal. That seemed a bit strange to me, so last night I pushed my chair back and met Mary.

Mary is a war widow. Yes, THAT war. As a newlywed she lost her young husband in the Battle of the Bulge. She never remarried. You can see why in the echo of the love that still shines in her eyes these seven decades after her loss. Her brother was killed in that war as well, though she didn't tell me exactly where or how.

Alone, Mary raised a daughter who never knew her father. She told me her story without a hint of self-pity or a single word of complaint.  In fact she smiled a lot, and laughed, and explained that she normally sat alone because many of the others are uncomfortable around her. Having spent some time with her, my guess is they are just worn down by her exuberance. I am 30+ years her junior and can usually hold my own when it comes to slinging words, but I was hard pressed to volley some of her serves.  Her court is no place for the timid or the shy.  And while I believe I held up the honor of telling sailor's tales well, I had no match for her life's story or the style with which she has lived it. Somehow, in a life marred with a hurt too deep for me to imagine, she found joy enough to share.

I'm going home soon, but I got the chance to meet one last hero before I do.


Robert Salnick said...

Wow. All I can say is wow.

Rharriscpa said...

Amazing story and you tell it so well. Mary sounds like quite a woman. While in Korea last year I visited the Korean War memorial and heard the stories of women from the US whose remains are being sent there to finally join their husbands who died in the Korean War.