But this Christmas will be slightly different for my family. It is the first Christmas without my grandpa and my uncle, as they both passed-away earlier this year: grandpa in March and Uncle Lawrence in August. While they will both be greatly missed this year, it is not the first Christmas this family has spent without Uncle Lawrence.
During WWII, Uncle Lawrence served as an intelligence officer for the allied advance; in both the African and Italian theatres. During our time spent together over the years, I often asked him about the war. Hoping to hear stories about the Nazis and battles in general, I never quite understood why he would avoid wanting to discuss it; at least, in-depth. After all, I was an avid movie fan and the Allies always came home victorious. Sure, there was the occasional antidote here and there about the Germans, but they were usually followed by a distant stare as his voice would fade; sometimes accompanied by a lone tear. It would not be until later in life when I would see the HBO documentary Band of Brothers that I would begin to better understand the painful memories he had harbored for fifty or more years, as those interviews which preceded each episode would evoke the same emotion in those men; American heroes.
But one Christmas season, just a couple of years back, our family was eating dinner at a restaurant and the song “I’ll be home for Christmas” was playing. As we each dimly hummed the melody in our own key, my grandpa said, “We used to listen to this song when Lawrence was in the war.” I don’t recall a word being spoken at that moment, as that lone sentence sent a tingling chill down my spine. For the first time in my life, I began to realize what a sacrifice it was for families to sit at home around the tree with un-opened presents while their family member(s), aliens in a distant land, were at war, and praying for their safe return. Grandpa mentioned how as a family they would listen to that song, a song meant for that very reason, and not say a word.
I read the joy in a family member’s Facebook status this week that her nephew was returning home from Iraq for Christmas, and this memory, as it always does, came to mind. I will probably never don military fatigues or learn how to shoot an M-16; suffice it to say – I hope things don’t get that bad. However, many of us have been touched by the sacrifice of someone in our family answering the call of duty, to defend America. Let us stop, this Christmas, be it the next time you hear this song or see a report about another I.E.D. or roadside bomb, and pray for those troops whom you will not see this Christmas; for they will be home with us, if only in our dreams.
Copyright © Holy Hoosier, 2009