Lisa Hickey gives us a Memorial Day poem in remembrance of her grandfather.
He was decorated from each of the 20th century wars
that I’d been forced to study as a middle schooler –
World Wars One and Two; the Korean.
By the time Vietnam rolled ’round,
he was too old for battle, but still growled
commands from a continent away.
That spring, I wore a POW bracelet
etched with the name of a soldier I’d never meet,
the cheap metal turning my skin green.
I was an eighth-grade pacifist with a crumpled daisy
stuck self-consciously behind my left ear.
My days were spent daydreaming
how the world could be saved if only
I could doodle enough peace symbols on my jeans.
I didn’t know if he was proud of me, ever,
but I was proud of him, that day he died.
A series of strokes, then the bad one,
blood clot behind the eye – he could see only red.
The doctors later surmised it was why
he thought the hospital had caught fire.
For his final maneuver on earth he went staggering
from room to room, telling patients to get out,
get out, the building was burning.
I never knew who he killed all those years,
but I knew who he tried to save, at the end –
the gentleman on the gurney who could not rise to leave.
The Colonel in full hospital gown regalia shimmied
the shaking patient through the swinging doors,
one thundering leg set in front of the other, nurses flailing
their arms to stop him, astonishment rising up their faces.
Because minutes before, his vital signs had told them
that my grandfather should not have been able to walk,
nor talk – in fact, in their minds,
he should have already been dead.
1st photo—Old Marine saluting from Shutterstock
2nd photo: pastorbuhro / flickr