I just executed a textbook hit-and-run, leaving just enough time to produce this literary upheaval. I frantically shooed a girl out of my bed because I remembered I had a deadline to submit this article. Then I got to thinking, I wonder how many times my grandfather gave some slam the heave ho before he met my grandma. The answer is: probably not too many. I’m not at all claiming I’m some kind of vaginal tactician and Gramps had no game, it’s just a different era and our generation of men is not the same as his.
The idea for this article came to me the last time I watched Saving Private Ryan. If you’ve never seen that movie, you don’t deserve the testicles hanging between your legs. The second scene of the film was Omaha Beach at D-Day. This scene depicts thousands of young US soldiers praying to God, crying for their mamas, pissing their pants because they’re so scared, drowning, and being mowed down by Axis machine gun fire. Yet those who survived banded together to overtake the enemy. If those men of valor didn’t win this battle, we could have lost the war.
It dawned on me that, even though the film is historical fiction, my grandpa witnessed this event with his own two eyes. This was just one day in his 93-year tenure. This one day definitely proved his merit more so than any of my 24 years on this planet. My highest ambitions pale in comparison to this singular event.
As you could probably guess, I like to write in my free time. I first began writing leisurely in college. I have legal pads full of words. Mostly, they are quotes from books that I’ve read. But I also include quotes and interaction from my life, a timeline to chronicle my awesome adventures, my original thoughts, song lyrics, things of that nature. This probably isn’t all that unusual in this day and age. Writing is simply something I like to do.
I’m realistic about my expectations for my writing. I don’t think I’ll be the next Tucker Max, nor would I want to be. And I certainly don’t want to blog about my feelings online like all those emo (/wrist) kids. Even though I’d like to supplement my income with my words, my “grand aspirations” is that one day further down the road I’ll be able to share these words with a grandson or someone in a future generation worthy of reading my tales and he’d appreciate them.
One day I thought to myself, “It would be so fucking cool if my grandpa left me legal pads full of his writing.” Reading his brutal honesty about his thoughts about life and what was going on at the time would be incredible. He rarely speaks of his war experience, but what if he wrote about it? I felt his thoughts would not only be entertaining, but insightful. I’m sure his words and perspectives could enlighten my own outlook on life. I relished on this prospect for a few moments…
Unfortunately I realized that it won’t happen. I’m not saying my grandpa doesn’t love me or care enough to will something like that to me, because I know he does and he would. The reality is that he didn’t have the free time that I have. When he turned 19, he enlisted in the army. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, he, like millions of other American men, wasn’t just a passive bystander. He took action. He served as a medic on three continents without complaint. On June 6, 1944, he was on the second wave at Normandy. If his orders had been to arrive on the first wave there’s a decent chance I wouldn’t exist. It’s funny how one moment in time could possibly have such a resounding impact. I don’t want to get too much into the idea of Divine Intervention, but the reality is he could have easily been one of the 12,000 casualties.
Nothing I’ve ever done in life can even compare. Sure, I got a college degree and do decently well at my job, but all of that was easy. My eyes have never witnessed thousands of slain 20-something year olds. My nerves have never been tested to the point where I have been forced to decide to risk my own life to save another by jumping out of a foxhole during a firefight. I don’t know how I’d react. I’m sure I would have been scared shitless. I can say, objectively, that in comparison to my grandpa, I’m a pussy. I honestly do not know how I would react in a life or death situation.
After the war, my grandfather earned two degrees thanks to the G.I. Bill and then worked his ass off as a physical therapist, enriching the lives of thousands of clients. My dad told me how he helped one man walk again after all other doctors assured this man that he had no chance of ever regaining the use of his legs. He and my grandmother raised eight amazing children. A wise man once told me that a person’s worth can be measured by looking at his children. By that standard, William [redacted] is one of the most successful people I know. Seven of his eight children are college grads, and all are contributing members to society. They all value hard work, honesty, integrity, and family. So do their children (and their grandchildren).
So, will I get some notebooks full of my grandpa’s thoughts and memories? I can say with almost absolute certainty that I will not. And I do not feel slighted at all. I know that William [redacted] didn’t have the kind of free time that I have. He never wasted countless hours on Facebook, not once did he check his favorite band’s Twitter to see when their new album is coming out, he never played NHL on X-Box. He didn’t write down his feelings. He was too busy being a man.
In conclusion, I would just like to sincerely thank all veterans. Thank you for being more of a man than I am. I would especially like to thank veterans of WWII. If you have never read Tom Brokaw‘s The Greatest Generation, I would suggest picking that up. If you have a grandpa who is a World War II vet, please thank him. Frank McCourt wrote, “All the grandmothers and grandfathers have stories. If you let them die without taking down their stories, you are a criminal.” One day, very soon you may become that criminal.