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Thursday, July 1, 2021

Introduction

My hope from this series is that we would be able to remember a journey. It's a journey which colored a man's life. Which I knew from his stories as a child lit up his eyes, but in a way which expressed caution. This journey he was careful not to relate as 'fun', because it wasn't. What is fun about not knowing if you would have your life in the morning? If you are going to come across a man dismembered from the waist and wonder what his mother would have thought at the sight? No, this journey was not fun. But it was one which defined a life.

My grandfather passed away at the age of 90 in the year 2009. He joined the military in 1941 and served overseas in the second world war for 4 years. He deployed to North Africa only 3 days after getting married, but maintained a commitment which brought him back home to a wife in Kentucky who waited for his return. They would go on to raise a beautiful family, two daughters and two sons, one of whom would be stillborn and one who was my father. This family has now produced 7 grandchildren 10 great grandchildren and a legacy which will walk this earth forever.  

In the year 2006, I started a journey of my own. Much less epic that his, but one which shaped my life in different ways. One of my freshman year English class projects was to create a 'multi genre' themed piece of writing which captured something close to me about which I wanted to learn more. After much thought, I chose 'Pop'. I was always intrigued by his stories. The way those few years shaped his whole life. About what a humble man he was even though he'd been part of the most epic struggle in human history.

If he were around now, I feel I may have the knowledge to let him know just how much I appreciated his story. Sure, I loved the man, but I did not know what a giant he was until after he had passed. He was in a generation that saved our whole race from tyranny. That stepped up and served because it was the right thing to do. That lived a life which served a greater good and not oneself. Pop was a hero. And I always knew it, but I knew it because he bought me toys at the 99 cent center, that he gave me a crisp new $5 bill from the bank every time I went to his house, that he walked me through his garden and plucked the best tomatoes he'd grown that year for me to bring home (although I didn't have the heart to tell him I didn't really like tomatoes). I always new, but boy how much more do I know now. 

Though this multi genre project, I set out to record a video interview of him. I sat down with pop for an hour and spoke with him about his journey in the war, his life, his stories that I'd always heard but never recorded. It was a clunky interview. I now listen to it and laugh at my sometimes silly questions, the self centered way in which I felt I knew his story (I was a WWII 'guru' after all) and just wanted him to fill in some minor details. I wish that I could go back and do it again, but often life only affords us one time to do things like this.

So I now have this interview, and despite its faults, it's one of my most prized possessions. It's not just a story of a veteran of World War Two... it's pop. In his element. With granny in the kitchen and the wind chimes making those familiar clangs which I knew so well from all of the days I spent there. As a freshman college student looking to fulfill a piece of my English project, I didn't notice those things at the time. But now as I look back at it, they fill me with so much joy and bring me back to Granny and Pop as they lived on West High Steet. In the home in which they raised my father and the Grimes family of whose name my son now carries on. 

This story follows a man's journey which in terms of years was just one small slice of his life. But on the whole, colored all of his decades as it did for the hundreds of thousands of men and women who served in those few vital years. I hope that through this we will be able to remember him a little more. To remember his friends, his brothers in arms and those who they left behind at home like pop's young bride Mary Lou. This was a time which we all stood together. A time which defined everything. But more so, I just want to remember pop. His smile. His unrelenting love for garage sales. His overflowing toolshelf. His artistic ability which inspired my dad, my brother, myself. His ability to take naps at any hour of the day on that comfy couch in the family room. This is for you pop.

NOTE:

I have tried to recreate a story which is as faithful to pop as possible. Some aspects of this story forever must be relegated to our imaginations: I do not know what was cooking in pop's house the hot summer night of June 17th during Franklin Roosevelts fireside chat. I do not know what specific projects his CCC group worked on in the summer of 1936 in Arizona.

Through his recounting, first hand accounts of those that were with him and in a few cases, personal experiences of my own, I've tried to retell a story which could have been pop's. I have been careful not to create a new or alternate history, but I have at times made him come to life in ways which I can only say although informed by my knowledge of him as a man and of the history of the time, came purely from my mind.