Saturday, November 18, 2017

Honoring a Veteran

So many wars. So many lives interrupted. So many men lost. 

So much to say to them. 

Last Saturday, November 11, 2017, I tried. I stood with the crowd when the emcee of the event I was attending stopped the action cold. He pointed to his watch. "It's the eleventh hour," he spoke into the mic, "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month." We didn't need the accompanying explanation to tell us this was the moment of the armistice signifying the end of the first great war. We had our poppies on our lapels to remind us. Saying "Thanks for your service," doesn't seem adequate, although that one single act goes a long way. 

I stood next to this man, Jasper B. Reese, the co-author of my book, Back in the Time, and a veteran of the Korean conflict. 

At Yokota Air Base in Japan
We were at the annual meeting of the North Carolina Society of Historians, an organization formed to collect, preserve and perpetuate North Carolina's heritage...and to recognize those persons who fulfill the society's objectives. That's why we were there, to be recognized. 
Jasper Reese holding our recognition award,
and me, holding the book
We received the distinguished Historical Book Award for this memoir of his that I helped him write. He wrote his part, describing growing up in the far western mountains of North Carolina, watching his father go to war in the forties, going to war himself in the fifties. I wrote my part, describing the schools in the Spring Creek community of Madison County. We subtitled the book, Medicine, Education and Life in the Isolation of Western North Carolina's Spring Creek, pretty much summing up the story line of the book.

Meanwhile I was doubly honored. Another of my books won the Historical Book Award as well. I wrote this one with Johnny Mack Turner. Racing On the Road and Off in Caldwell County and the Surrounding Areas. 
With Johnny Mack's daughter, Cindy Smith
This book needed no subtitle. The title says it all, and the book tells all, well, mostly all, since there were a few stories we decided not to include because maybe, just maybe, these men didn't tell their children and grandchildren about their escapades dragging on the road in the wee hours of the morning back in the forties and fifties. Historical? Indeed.

History isn't all wars, thank heavens. It's daily life. Daily living. Daily getting up and going about the business of making a life. 

That's what these historians found in both of my books. I appreciate the honor, but the real honor goes to those we wrote about. I salute them, veterans or not.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen



Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Missing Man Table

Armistice Day

Veteran's Day

Call it what you want, but today is a day to remember. The name matters little. The reason matters most.

Today I post a picture of a table, not just any table, but the Missing Man Table lovingly assembled by the curator of our Caldwell County Heritage Museum. 

The empty chair is one that will never be filled by the son who went to war and never returned. The red roses and ribbon signify the blood spilled. The upturned glass, never again to be lifted in joy and celebration. The unlit candle, life snuffed out. The salt on the plate, our tears. The lemon, war's bitterness.

I went to a lecture about Armistice Day given by Beverly Beal, retired Superior Court Judge. He told the standing room only crowd about many of the World War I veterans from Caldwell County. Beside him as he spoke was this Missing Man Table.

Silent.

A testimony to the sacrifice of those who went before us and gave all so that we could meet there on that day, exercising our freedom of assembly right.

When he finished he introduced me to read the poem In Flanders Fields. In his introduction, Judge Beal, knowing I was a writer, made the statement, something to the effect, "The greatest book will never be written. It died on the battlefield."

That stunned me and I barely could stumble through my assigned reading, but in honor of those who served and never came back, I made it through. I've copied and pasted here. Read it now. Read it again. Absorb the words. Most of all, appreciate a veteran on this day.


IN FLANDERS FIELDS

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow 
Between the crosses, row on row, 
That mark our place; and in the sky 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead.  Short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie 
In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe: 
To you from failing hands we throw 
The torch, be yours to hold it high. 
If ye break faith with us who die 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 
In Flanders fields.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, November 4, 2017

A Week of Celebrations

Hall of Fame

Yes, that would be my husband, Wesley Van Griffith,
inducted into the Caldwell County Sports Hall of Fame


I'm so proud. Excuse me while I digress from my usual blog posts and let the world in on an important part of my life.

His plaque identifies him as an educator, coach and community volunteer. The medal around his neck hangs as a reminder of all those years he spent working out his passion of serving others. If everyone just knew!

Hours of getting to the ballfield early, dragging the infield, mowing the outfield, counseling the players, teaching them not only the rudiments of baseball, but the rights and wrongs of life. There were dark times, but they pale with the many, many joys of being a coach influencing the next generation. In his acceptance speech he mentioned his satisfaction in watching former players step up and take their part in the workings of the world. This induction into the Hall of Fame is a validation of his many years of hard work.

So we celebrated. Both of his brothers and their wives drove to join us at the banquet. Sadly their parents didn't live to see this, but they knew. They were the ones who raised these boys to become men who were servants to others. 
Aren't we something!

Our daughter flew in from her home in Taos, New Mexico. Our son took the afternoon off and brought his family. Our college roommates drove in to surprise us. Numerous friends from our community attended the banquet to show support for my husband. He was humbled. So was I.
Aren't WE something!

The next day was Halloween and the grandgirls celebrated being kids. After sitting politely and listening to a couple hours of speeches the evening before, they earned the chance to have their day.

Wait! We weren't finished.

Not only was this the week of the Hall of Fame induction and Halloween, but it was also my birthday, and my son Allen's as well, so the celebrations continued. The only thing I requested for my birthday gift was a Thanksgiving feast, complete with turkey and all the fixin's. This would be the first time this century we celebrated Thanksgiving under the same roof, beyond the "put Jenny in the corner" Skype experience we had done a couple times. Reagan, my younger grand, baked a pound cake...all by herself...her first...the finest pound cake EVER! And did we take a picture???? No!

By the time we took my daughter Jenny back to the airport early Thursday morning, I was worn out from all the happiness. Hall of Fame, Halloween, two birthdays, and Thanksgiving! All in four days! But I wouldn't have changed a thing.

Life is good.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen