Essay

One of Fifty-Eight Thousand

By May 28, 2012 One Comment

Along about 1970, when I was in junior high,

A new friend invited me to hang out at his house.

Another invitation followed, to go downtown

for the Memorial Day Parade.

 

Who doesn’t love a parade?

In the car I noticed his parents looked older than my parents.

The mom wore a scarf over her dull gray hair

and the dad a dirty windbreaker over a sweatshirt.

 

After watching various beer-bellied codgers

from the American Legion and the VFW walk by,

there was a band playing, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.”

I started to sing along in an obnoxious voice.

 

The kid elbowed me.

I looked and saw his mother crying.

His dad was searching the sky, looking for something or someone from the past.

I shut up.

 

When we got back to his house he showed me a picture

in a back hallway of a soldier that sort of looked like him.

An older version of himself.

I had thought he was an only child.

 

He said he would show me his brother’s Purple Heart and other medals,

If I came back when his parents weren’t home.

I never went to his house again,

Not possessing the emotional equipment necessary to enter into that kind of pain.

 

Jeff Munroe is the Executive Vice President of Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan.

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