Sunday, June 6, 2010


My oldest best friend Pascal reminded me this morning that he had seen nothing on the news about D-Day. Here's something I posted last year, on my previous birthday:

The armada of American Allies invaded the coast of France at Normandy 65 anniversaries ago. Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, Sword Beach, Pointe du Hoc. Paratroopers and gliders floated silently from the sky into French farm fields and towns. Sainte-Mere-Eglise, Bayeux, Carentan. The charming fishing village of Arromanches was turned into an instant deep water port. Sixty-five birthdays ago for me, as I was born the same day. Sixty-five. Retirement age. It is too late for me to think about retiring, since I already left the employment roles three years ago when I was hospitalized, in a coma for three weeks, woke up deaf. Nowadays I stay plenty busy. I just don’t have a job. Lately, I have been remodeling the condo that belonged to my oldest sister, who died the day before Christmas Eve 2007. I am almost finished with that project and look forward to some quality time this summer with my grandchildren, spending some of their inheritance on sunscreen, floppy straw hats, and restaurant meals. I also want to re-read one of my favorite writers, Flannery O’Connor, do some research for an article. Retired is in the eye of the beholder.

Three years after my Daddy retired, I received a letter saying he would come to visit me in Europe, if I invited him. I worked for the U.S. Department of State in Brussels, Belgium, at the time. My Daddy had crossed the ocean borders of the U.S.A. only once before, in WWII when the Marine Corps had put him on a troop ship as cannon fodder for the invasion of Japan, just before Hiroshima. From Brussels, my wife and I took my Daddy to the Ardennes and Amsterdam. We went to Paris and drove to Normandy. We visited the American Cemetery, 172 acres of white markers, on a cliff, overlooking Omaha Beach.

We stayed at a charming hotel in the waterfront village of Arromanches, location of the D-Day Museum. My Daddy and I posed together for a photograph in front of the museum, with the large letters prominent behind us, 6 Juin 1944, D-Day. In the picture, my Daddy is 68. I am 35. At sunset, my Daddy and I stood each with one foot resting on the rail of the sea wall, wordlessly smoking American cigarettes and watching the ocean channel. Our hotel was four stories high across the narrow street from the waterfront. During the night, the crashing waves alternately kept me awake and drummed me to sleep.

At the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, my Daddy, drew stares by complaining about the crowded attraction in terms that would be overly dignified by suggesting an analogy to moneychangers in the temple. I can only think he believed that nobody could understand him, since he could not understand the other languages being spoken all around him. In France, the steaks were cooked too rare for him, and he missed his bacon and eggs for breakfast. “How long did it take you before you could stand this coffee?” he asked me. I was happy to tell him, “Daddy, the first time I ever put it in my mouth, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.” I always remember this as a substitute for the discussion we never had about French wines, which my Daddy never tasted, and the special quality of light in northern France captured by Impressionist paintings, which never caught my Daddy's eye.


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday - again! They never seem to end.

This entry brings back memories of my trip to France last May, which included the Normandy beaches and the cemeteries. I just returned from Washington, D.C. where we visited the World War II, Korean, and Viet Nam memorials. That again brought to mind how fortunate we are to have men and women of such patriotism to sacrifice for the rest of us. We are indeed blessed to be Americans.

margo williams said...

The first comment is from Margo Williams. I hope I haven't become anonymous yet - just hit the wrong button.


Hit Counter
Boden Clothes