Hey guys, this was supposed to go up yesterday, but apparently I missed the button so you get it today. So, all this happened yesterday and I don’t want to go back to fix all the tense issues. Cool? Cool.
I went for a walk today. The bitter fall breeze bit my cheeks until they were cherries and Feel Like Making Love rang through my headphones, overpowering the lonely sound of my sneakers crunching through fallen leaves. Through the trees that line the trail, I watched various sea birds bob up and down on the Puget Sound, scuttling past sailboats named Freedom and Seas the Day.
The forest trail gave way to a park dotted with people and their dogs. I watched the shivering owners desperately wrap themselves tighter in their coats and shove their throwing hand frantically back into their jeans pocket after tossing their dog’s slobbery tennis ball. A few held coffee from down the street. One man stood in the center of a large patch of grass, a mirror ball gliding over his fingers in a manner that suggested years of practicing in his room had given him the idea that people would gather around and watch. Nobody had yet.
The park morphed into walkways that spanned the small inlets of water that scooped into the earth. A woman wearing a cranberry hijab stopped me and pointed towards deeper water where two black lumps were rolling through the waves. Sea Otters. I watched them for a moment, listening to the woman murmur to her husband about how cute the little creatures were.
As I walked on, my small Sigil of Baphomet necklace tapped rhythmically against my chest. I thought again of the sailboat named Freedom as I passed the small groupings of flags fluttering at half-staff, and I was grateful. I thought of the other places in the world where a woman would never walk alone and I was grateful. The tapping of Baphomet upon my chest reminded me that I am very lucky to live in a world where I am free to be whatever religion I choose, no matter how evil those may assume it is. I thought, naturally, of the military and all they’ve done, since the birth of the nation, to protect my right to be myself, and I was grateful.
Then I thought of the veterans in my life. My great-grandfather was one of the first responders to Pearl Harbor and once told me of seeing the smoke on the horizon, his heart turning the same acrid color. As I began to feel pride, a wave of anger washed through my arms and down into my fingertips. My great-grandpa was not, is not, an honorable man, nor should he be celebrated.
My great-grandpa should not be celebrated. He was cruel to his family and created rifts within the family that won’t be healed for generations. He abused his family. He threw unwanted kittens into rivers rather than fix his cat, first allowing his children to play with them. He was, and still is, a manipulative, horrible man.
I passed a group of runners going the other way. A few of them nodded at me while others stared straight forward, as if I weren’t there. I realized, then, what I was thankful for were the individuals who went into the military. They want to protect what the country stands for, which means fighting for things you may not believe in. I’m thankful for them and I gladly thank them.
What I refuse to do is blindly thank veterans. I’m sure this is where people will start to get irritated with me, but that’s okay. I understand that there are evil people in the military who have still given so much. I, too, understand people in the armed forces have raped and murdered their fellow servicemen. Am I supposed to thank them? I don’t think so and I won’t. A person can be part of a greater good and throw kittens into rivers.
The bitter fall breeze halted and my cherry cheeks grew hot as I stepped into my house from the cold. My cats ran up to greet me and I ran my hand along their tails, warming my fingertips on their heads. I knew I was glad for the good men and women who were protecting me, even though they didn’t know me or agree with me. In the end, there is more good than bad. I just wish we could do better.
So, on this Veterans Day, thank you for all you’ve done.
Except my great-grandpa and those like him.