Monday, May 31, 2010

Who Do We Remember?

Is this a field of dreams?

We all have loved ones who died. What dreams sleep with them, that they would have wanted to see completed?

The worst place to start writing is from the position of not knowing what to say to them.

My father lies beneath a modest marker of marble with the shield of a veteran with a dark patina of age upon it, indicating his status as one who fought for this country's freedoms. My stepfather now rests in a similar state, having passed away rather more recently.

Both men gave their best to this nation in its day of desperate need some sixty years ago. But what do the deeds of the past have to do with today?

I mentioned in passing to the grocery checker, as I was dating a check Dec. 7th, 20__, that this was an important day in history. I got an 'Oh?' by way of a reply. I elaborated that Pearl Harbor was bombed and got the reply: 'Oh, well I wasn't born then.'

That startled me. I suppose it should not have, but it did, nonetheless. Nonplussed, I said that neither was I, but we should know about them.

I have stood beside the graves of my father and my stepfather, each of whom fought in that mighty conflict, one in Europe and the other in the Pacific. Each stood in harm's way to repel and conquer those who would remove our freedoms from us.

It is interesting to note, historically, that both Germany (West Germany, before the wall fell) and Japan both became economic forces to be reckoned with, in part because we extended the hand of forgiveness that Lincoln taught us to use: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with power to do what is right, as God gives us the ability to see the right..." We helped bind the wounds of our enemies, having seen what the consequences of not doing so can bring; Hitler's rise to power might still have happened had not Germany been in such economic turmoil after the first world war, but he would have had a harder time of it.

So, what do we the living do now? Do we ignore what has gone before? Or do we do our best to learn from the mistakes and successes of the past?

The future holds a much different pattern than we have seen in the past. Some people say, and not without merit, that whatever the past can teach us, it has little to do with the current present, and the future, both near and far. Yet, whatever our global connectedness brings, people are still people. Singly, and in aggregate, people have their own self-interests and desires; it is ever thus.

I haven't written much in this blog of late, mostly I haven't thought I've had that much of importance to say. I still don't. But the lighting flashes now and again, and I try, in the brief shining moment, to write down what I see.

This moment's flash: learn of the past, the triumphs and tragedies, the loves and relationships. Learn from the past, throwing out the dross and gathering the gold an silver, not to mention the occasional pearl of wisdom.

Interesting; why is the pearl, of all gemstones, chosen to represent wisdom? I believe it is one of he few gems that have an organic origin, being made by shellfish, and one that takes time to create. And, perhaps most importantly, it is what the oyster does in response to something that causes it pain.

It's the oyster's way of making lemonade from the lemons in its life.

What is in the long past that you can learn from? What is in your immediate past? What can you make lemonade with? What can you make a pearl with?

What can you be proud of?

I am proud of my ancestors who wore the uniform of this nation, who fought and won through.

Remember those who gave their best. Remember especially those who gave their all.

Yes, you can!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Progeny and Peach Trees

"The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago; the second-best time is today."

That sums up the best view of the whole "regret" thing. You can wish that you thought to plant that tree (like I did, in a rare moment of foresight, and with thanks to my Father-in-law) years ago, or or you can plant it today for your children and grandchildren (and even maybe you) to enjoy twenty years later.

And those peaches (from the tree planted with Papa-in-law's help) are some of the sweetest I've ever tasted. It's not the tree's fault that Colorado springtime weather can play naughty tricks on it.

What prompted this?

I sat down and had a talk with myself: "Self," I said, "If your child grows up with just these qualities," I listed the sure-thing qualities the young one has, "Will it be enough?"

I didn't want to answer myself.

Every parent wants their child to grow up to be {President, Rich, Famous, Smart, Able to Leap Tall Buildings, etc.}.

But what if the child is destined to be loving, kind and sweet? Just loving, kind and sweet.

Does that mean I write off everything else? Don't encourage her to stretch her wings and fly as high as she can? Be as smart as she can? Be as athletic as she can? To explore all the possibilities within her reach, and beyond it?

Do I write off all those things?

The difference between an Olympic Gold-Medalist and an also-ran is often the stuff of inches, or seconds ... or milliseconds. The eighth-place finisher is still faster than I'll ever be.

But, the spotlight will only be on the ones standing on the podium. And while we remember Michael Phelps (or, in a different decade, Peggy Fleming and Jean-Claude Killy), most of us are hard-pressed to remember even the other medalists, let alone the ones that hadn't stood to receive the prize.

But, to be strong enough, fast enough, skilled enough to even compete, is it enough?

If even that pinnacle is far out of reach, is it enough?

A wiser man than me once told an Olympic hopeful: "If you aren't enough of a man without the Medal, you won't be enough of a man with it."

The peach tree has borne a peach or two, one year and another over the years. Squirrels got most of those. Once, a few years back, the Colorado spring had mercy on it, and we had the most glorious peaches in the world.

Yeah, I'm partial.

But, only for that one year. We haven't had even a single peach since.

So, do I cut down that tree, because it has not repeated the performance?

Of course not.

Spring frosts have prevented the tree's repeat performance, not its willingness to produce. Meanwhile, it still puts out leaves, making the sugars and starches needed to grow the peaches, storing them in it's roots. In its way, the peach tree is planting itself for later, literally "Making hay while the sun shines," not letting what opportunities it has get away.

It expects to fruit out again some day. Better be ready. Grow those leaves, make those sugars, hide it all away. It will produce fine peaches again.

But, never a pear, no matter how much I encourage it, despite how much I like pears. I like peaches, but I really like pears...

So, is it enough?

Is it enough for the peach tree to be a peach tree, to bloom and bear fruit when its preparation meets opportunity?

Of course.

Is it enough when my child does all she is capable of, admitting no limit until thoroughly tested, to bloom and bear fruit of her own?

Of course.

It is enough for me to have her grow as strong as she can be, in all her strengths, even if my pet desires are not achieved in her?

Yes, I can love her for what she is (it is most certainly enough), and be content.

Yes, I can.

(Movie to watch with your kids: "Kung Fu Panda". No, really. Do it.)