“The day Ileft, your grandma gave me this picture.”
The day mygrandfather passed away was the most devastating day of my life. He was like mysecond father. After the funeral, my grandma wanted me to have something thatwould bring good memories every time I saw it. She thought the crucifix fromhis casket would be the best thing. Of course, when you’re given something outof someone’s casket, you think “how can this bring good memories?” Well, theway my grandma put it, I now see why. She told me “don’t remember it as thecross that was in Pop-pop’s casket, think of it as life in eternity. Think ofit as what it is. When you see it, think of all the stories he would tell you.Think of the times you would sit for hours just talking… about everything.Think of one particular story that he would tell you, and relate it to today… Rememberthe picture of the crucifix he would always talk about in his stories? Rememberit as that; remember that you’ve been given it to remember him, like heremembered his family with the one I gave him.” Because of the placement of it in my house (right above his retiredAmerican flag), the story I think of when I look at it today is this, and thisis what I see, what I feel, and what I believe.
“Back whenI was around your age, maybe a little bit older…” this is how a lot of hisstories started, “… your grandmother and I were just married. It was during theSecond World War, and as you know, I was in the Navy. I didn’t join the Navyjust to go to war like some of the people around that time, I did it because Ihad a family to support and I did it because I was a proud American. See, atthat time people were ‘war hungry.’ What that means is they joined the forcesjust to fight the war because they thought they were tough, and they couldhandle it. Most of them didn’t have families back here in the states. As itturns out, if you ask someone that joined one of the services for that reason,it was nothing like they had expected. It was a terrifying experience theywouldn’t wish upon anyone, but they didn’t know that until they saw what it waslike.”
“Thesepeople that were ‘war hungry’ realized that it wasn’t all it was made out to bewhen they got there, and many of them went A.W.O.L. or deserted their companiesleaving us fortunate ones at home, with families to support, with no other choicebut to go fight the war…” At this part of the story he would always tear upbecause the pain of leaving his family for the war was so overwhelming. “When Ihad to leave for my tour of duty, it was one of the hardest things I’ve everhad to do, and being over 80 years old now, I’ve had to do a lot of hardthings. Because my job at that time was the only source of income, I knew itwould be a struggle and it would be difficult for both them and me while I wasgone… It was all a constant game of worry.”
“The day Ileft, your grandma gave me this picture.” And he would get out the picture ofthe crucifix my grandma gave him. “Anytime I worried or got scared, I wouldlook at this picture and know that everything was going to be okay.” Next cameone of the many lessons I have learned from my grandfather. “Some of the guysthat I was with thought I was crazy, that I was able to look at a picture, andknow that everything was going to be okay… These guys didn’t know religion anda lot of them didn’t have families back home to worry about. Seeing how itaffected me so greatly, but others it didn’t phase, taught me that something toone person, can me something completely different to someone else.”
Although mygrandfather knew he was teaching me lessons, I don’t think he realized how muchI took out of his stories, and how every day I think about something he taughtme and I apply it. In this story, he taught me several things, but two stickout to me. One is that seeing is believing; as the ‘war hungry’ people learnedafter they saw what war was like, they didn’t want to be there. The secondbeing that even a picture isn’t just a picture. Like someone once said “apicture is worth a thousand words.” To find out what it is, you really have tolook at it, you have to read it, and you have to feel it. Make it personal,make it your own.
BY: TIM BARNES, ENGLISH 101-50