Being home more right now means that my brain is actually spinning a lot more. And while I ponder this question every year, for some reason, this year it is even more present in my brain. Do you say Happy Memorial Day?
I know that I used to say it, especially when I was younger. But as I have gotten older, it just seems weird, almost like a sort of oxymoron to say it. It’s a day for honoring and remembering those who have fallen. And while you may have some happy memories of those people, it’s still a somber day to me.
When I was growing up, it was a good family day. My parents’ store was actually closed and it kicked off them also closing on Sundays until Labor Day. Otherwise, they were open seven days a week. It was also usually the weekend that my father would finally open up the pool. And he would cook steaks and hamburgers on the charcoal grill on the patio.
But it was also the day that Mom would go to the cemetery and often encouraged us to go with her. We always paid tribute to her father, and then also to Grandma after she passed. And we would always stop at Uncle Kenny’s grave. Grandpa was one of 11 children, and his brother Kenny is the one who did not come home after stepping on a land mine in WWII. It was very important to her that we knew that part of his story. She was very young when he was lost.
As I got older, I did the typical rebelling thing and didn’t necessarily want to go with Mom to the cemetery anymore. And then as I realized how social Memorial Day was, I was always going over to friends’ houses and wanting to have people over at ours. And I would blissfully call out, “Happy Memorial Day!” giving no thought to any significance to words or the holiday. It became a holiday of fun and sales.
And then I got older. I started to have more conversations with people who had lost people in the military. I began to listen to those who had served. I was very quickly schooled in the differences between Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Armed Forces Day. I started to educate others and used to have stupid arguments with people who would try to tell me it didn’t matter. I still like to get together with people on Memorial Day if something is going on, but I feel differently about it.
Maybe the biggest change for me in how I view Memorial Day came after my parents. I am not going to go into detail on this post, but it’s now a very difficult day for me with memories. In a nutshell, we found out on Memorial Day that my father was going to die. The last time I saw my mother and she was able to interact with me before she died was Memorial Day. So I have a different kind of grieving that happens on this day every year now.
Do I still say Happy Memorial Day? It comes out on occasion. I don’t think I have typed it in a long time, because those extra few seconds give me time to think before I say it. Have I verbally said it in response to someone? Yeah, probably. It’s kind of a reflex. Will my feelings about its weirdness change again? Quite possibly. Time changes feelings that will forever ebb and flow. And some of the loss is still a little too fresh in my mind.
So what about you? Do you go around wishing people a Happy Memorial Day? What are your thoughts?