I grew up the child of a submariner. I won’t say a “Navy brat.” My dad was enlisted and none of us were allowed to be brats. But we were fortunate to have a wonderful life as a result of his service. My dad is blessedly still alive (and happily with my mom after 52 years of marriage), so every Memorial Day I say “thank you” — to my dad (and my mom) and those who have served, are serving, and help keep the families together during all that service. Military families are a special bunch. They move a lot. Spouses are alone a lot. Children don’t know who to believe is the “authoritarian” parent.My mom scared the bejeezus out of us. But then my dad came home and he expected every order to be obeyed. It’s tough when you’re 7. But we figured it out. I had two younger brothers while my father served. My third brother was born when he retired from the U.S. Navy. My dad wasn’t even 40 (if you’re doing the math, my dad may have fudged on his age a bit at enlistment, but what do I know).
After the Navy, my dad went to work at General Dynamics Electric Boat. If he couldn’t be ON submarines, he would help to build them. That was the next 20 years for my dad.
What I remember about being a kid in my family was that we were broken down along pretty stereotypical lines: my dad owned the outdoors, and my mom owned the indoors. We actually had living room furniture with plastic on it. And we weren’t even allowed to sit in there! My dad was a master gardener (before that became a thing). He used to win “Yard of the Month” every month in Navy Housing. We were lucky to have really beautiful, clean and well-kept homes growing up. My parents were (and are) both such hard workers. Partly it was generational, I think, but partly it was just genetics, and as I look at my brothers and myself all these years later, I would say there really IS something to the genetics. We are ALL too busy. Overachievers, competitive, driven — every one of us. With kids, careers and full lives.
So every Memorial Day, I take some time to reflect. My life, as the child of a submariner, was pretty awesome. We went to provide schools for a while – certainly things were more affordable then. We played sports, and made family vacations to visit relatives and extended family. It was pretty bucolic. My parents loved and laughed and set an amazing example that I emulate to this day. I am proud to say that my husband and I are already very much like my parents. I reflect on how lucky I was to be born into such a family. How lucky I was to have such great parents who cared so much for the children they bore. How lucky I was to have the experiences I had that made me the person I am today. And I am proud. Proud of my mom for holding our family together with a strong hand. Proud of my dad for the service he gave and the sacrifices he made. The more I learn of him as a person, the greater those sacrifices seem to me.
Which brings me to those serving now. My dad served during the Cold War, which was a frightening enough time, but as the mother of two adult boys, I can tell you I wouldn’t want my sons serving today. I’m just too selfish. Times are so dangerous. So thank you – to all of you who are protecting our freedoms (and the freedom of others as well). And thank you to the families who are missing their mothers and fathers and sons and daughters. This country wouldn’t be what it is without all your sacrifices, and we wouldn’t have the freedoms we have either.
Yesterday, as on most Memorial Days, I was lucky enough to travel over to my parents’ home town to visit with them. It’s a time to be together, and enjoy each other’s company. We don’t really need an excuse, but it works as a reminder, and I’m pro-reminder in this busy world. It makes me so grateful – to know they’re healthy and happy and living in a beautiful home. And they’re close enough that I can quickly get there, should they need me, or should I just need to see them, and be in that place of my childhood.
I hope you spent some time on your Memorial Day weekend to reflect and appreciate, too. We are all so very lucky.
Oh, and by the way, if you’re curious, the baby birds are still doing well. Nearly fledged. Photo attached.