Worth more than a thousand words

When my father died, he didn’t leave me a fortune. He left me something better: his memories, even the ones he never talked much about.

A few years before he died in 2009, he gave me a metal box filled with photos and home movies from my childhood. He handed it over when we were visiting him in Oklahoma, just as we were leaving. He said something offhand like, “The mice are getting to this stuff out in the barn. You should take it home with you.”

When hearts come home

During Ian Cairns’ first deployment to Afghanistan, he was moved by the poverty he saw there and conveyed those feelings to his wife.

“My husband would tell me about children walking around barefoot, and about families who couldn’t feed their children,” said Randi Cairns.

Across many Aprils

His was the first biography I ever read — at least the first one that had real chapters and more words than pictures. I was in the fifth grade, and I have not forgotten the story of his life, his writing and ultimately his sacrifice. His name was Ernie Pyle.

Faithful chronicler of military men on the front lines of WWII, Pyle covered the war from the Battle of Britain, even before the U.S. entered the war, to the D-Day invasion at Normandy, through campaigns in North Africa and Italy and to the cusp of victory in the Pacific.

Cherry blossom time

Four large men in full Bavarian regalia, alpine hats and all, were speaking German. At first, I thought nothing of it. It took me a couple of seconds to reach the Dorothy-esque conclusion, “Oh, I’m not in Germany anymore.”

In fact, I was in Washington, D.C., for an experience that comes from yet another part of the world. The German tourists and I -- and a few thousand other people -- were there to see the cherry blossoms.

Cross purposes

The cross was sitting on top of a cabinet in the basement between a dusty autographed basketball and a framed crayon drawing. Why I put it there, I don't know. We have a collection upstairs, but this one was relegated to a room where we have exercise equipment, a second-hand sleeper sofa and the third-best TV in the house.

The crosses displayed in our living room are decorative. One is Polish pottery in shades of blue and yellow. Another is polished olive wood. Others look like carved wood but are really plastic, more or less. A metal one was forged by my uncle, who is a blacksmith. Two are made of woven palm fronds from a long ago Palm Sunday service at a base chapel.