My Dad was a quiet man of few words. He worked a job that rotated shifts, so many times he would come home at 7:30 A.M., see us off to school and that was the only time we’d get to see him. Due to his shift rotations, he didn’t get holidays off. Holidays meant extra pay, so he volunteered to take those days. On a particular 4th of July, I remember standing with an American flag in my parents dining room, trying to figure out how to hang it in front of the house. I was 17 and had marched in the 4th of July parade that morning. It was lunch time and my Dad saw me with the flag I had dug out of the closet. “What you doin’ Little Boobs?” he asked. “I thought I’d hang the flag out front.” I don’t remember why I wanted to do that, but it seemed important at the time. I’m 5′ 6″ tall and I started to unfurl the flag. It was a large flag and I wasn’t tall enough to hold it above my head without it touching the ground. My Dad reached for the bottom of the flag before it could hit the ground. I thought he was just trying to help me, but instead he turned to me and said, “Never let the flag touch the ground.” “Why?” I asked in typical teenager oblivion. “If the flag falls to the ground it means freedom and our nation has been defeated.” Dad proceeded to teach me how to properly fold the flag and store it. Being an ex Master Sargent in the Air Force, we practiced this folding and unfolding of the flag several times. Every time there is a holiday and we put out our American flag I remember that day with my Dad. It was a rare private moment between a father and his daughter. The American flag today doesn’t seem to have meaning for our society. To them it is just a flag. But if some of our flags could talk, what stories would they tell? My son’s Uncle Jon carried an American flag with him to Ghana on his tour with the Peace Corps. The father of my children carried an American flag aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise (CVN65) as he toured the world. What of those flags in my family, the one that was presented to my Grandma Luebke for her son’s service in WWII, or the one that covered my Dad’s casket at his funeral. These flags have personal meaning. I think back to a story of one of our Embassy’s being overrun and the Marines who would not leave until they had retrieved the tattered, bullet ridden American flag on top of the Embassy. Perhaps the next time you see an American flag you’ll wonder if it too has a story. The flag has stood by us like a Guardian on the Watch Tower as it holds its ground against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I am reassured by the presence of the American flag waving high on the wind. It is a reminder to me of honor and respect. I think about that day with my Dad. We never know how our actions will impact people or events in the future. This is a small piece of the legacy my Father left behind and I am happy to share it with the world.
I was flipping through television channels late at night searching for something new to watch when I came across a movie called “The Judge”. Out of desperation, mainly because I couldn’t sleep, I chose to watch the movie. As I watched this movie I found myself going back in time to when I had left my home and my parents. The movie had an uncanny way of bringing back memories of my life that I thought I had dealt with and moved beyond. There were so many moments in the movie that brought back painful childhood experiences that I began to wonder if it was just me or did everyone who watched this movie feel this way? I doubt I will ever know. What I did come away with was that in all things we come full circle.
I left home when I was 21 and after repeatedly trying to work through dysfunctional family issues via counseling, I realized I would never have the love I so needed from the people I was connected to in my family. I have not been home in a long time. My widowed mother will be 81 this year. My brother takes care of her when she needs something. She lives in her own home and goes about her life. I call her and my brother frequently to check in for updates, but for the most part life there remains the same.
I know the time is coming when I will have to return to my home town. When the day comes, I will go back to attend my mom’s funeral. I have resolved my feelings concerning my childhood. I wish things could have been different, but those events shaped who I am today. If I had stayed there I would not be the person I am at this moment. I will gladly go back to visit the places that live in my memories and in my heart. Perhaps as I wander those streets I’ll be reminded of who I would have been if I had stayed. I realize leaving my home town was the best thing for me at that time, and that decision helped me grow as a soul and as a person. Going home helps me reflect on where I am and where I came from.
Maybe that’s part of what the cycle of life is all about. Participating in events like weddings and funerals allows us to examine our lives along with who we are as we transition into new phases of life. These events give us the opportunity to really look at ourselves, to do the deep soul searching type of examination that people in our society rarely do these days because it is too painful to look at something that is true, much less real. In those quiet moments after the events, when all the people have gone, we are left with only ourselves and the reality of what has happened. We move on with our lives. If we get it right, if we do things the way they are supposed to be done, we have closure and we come full circle. Like the character in the movie, I left and will come back to my home town at the end to complete the circle.