Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Thoughts on November

It's November, the month when I know winter is coming and there's no stopping it. The days are suddenly shorter, the trees drop their leaves almost overnight, and the furnace cranks back into service. I start to complain, but then I notice those three special dates on the calendar: November 11, 21, and this year, 28. My mind shifts, and I imagine my dad at age 20.
It's the fall of 1944, and my dad is just a kid, younger than my own are now so everything takes on a new perspective. He's in a forest in Germany, hunkered down for a month, and in his own words, "miserable, cold, wet, muddy, and under fire." He's there because he wants to be there, fighting the enemy on foreign soil, alongside his buddies. 
I try to get a handle on the image. It's difficult to imagine my 89-year-old father celebrating his 20th birthday on November 21, 1944, in a foxhole. Thanksgiving that year, even with real turkey rather than the usual military rations, surely leaves an empty feeling without family. In another few weeks, he will be setting up mortars in someone's backyard when an incoming shell knocks him to the ground, resulting in an injured leg. I imagine an angry yet scared young man, disgusted that "they got him" and frustrated that he has to spend months transported from aid station to field hospital to a chain of military hospitals before ending up back in the States. With the war ending, his rehabilitation and service complete, my father, like so many others, resumes life in post-war America.
I pause to consider these three significant November dates. November 11, Veterans Day. We honor those who have served. Honoring World War II veterans takes on added significance as the memories fade and the survivors pass. November 21, my dad's birthday. An 89th birthday is worth celebrating as Dad continues to amaze me with his good health, sharp wit, and terrific sense of humor. November 28, Thanksgiving Day 2013.  I'm thankful for family and friends near and far, sharing good food amid lively conversation, in the land of the free and the home of the brave. 
I take it back, November. You're not too bad after all. 

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