All these Memorial Day celebrations have reminded me of my childhood.
I’m thinking of my father, who was in the Navy during WWII. He left my mother when I was 10, for another woman. I was never close to him even before that, as he was generally away.
But I do remember visiting him in the Veterans’ Hospital when I was just a kid. The hospitalized servicemen were in barracks. There must have been 100 men in a “room.” Two long continuous rows of cots against the windows on either side of the rectangular room, with a wide space down the center. Nurses would bustle up and down with carts, and the men (the ones whose wives and kids weren’t visiting at the time) would call out flirtatious remarks to the young pretty nurses. It was summer, and of course nothing in those days was air-conditioned, so there were big oscillating fans everywhere. My father’s illness was considered service-related, but he was not wounded in the war.
Many, many, years later, he died in a Veterans’ hospital, of lung cancer. He’s buried in a military cemetery.