Remember the hot dogs, but never forget the heroes
Stars and Stripes May 27, 2022
"Why did I come into this room again?" I often mutter to myself while puttering around my house. At the commissary, I spend the first few minutes mumbling, "Now, what was it that I needed?" Without fail, an hour after entering a Target store, I find myself in the checkout line, inquiring, "Wait, what was that thing I came here to buy before I threw all this other stuff into my cart?"
I've been known to search for sunglasses that were perched conspicuously on my head. I've forgotten to take my kids to orthodontist appointments, piano lessons and sports practices. I've assembled an entire lasagna, only to realize I forgot the mozzarella. I've bumped into people I've known for months, and drawn a total blank when trying to recall their names. I've run a finger over my armpit while getting dressed, wondering, "Did I forget to put deodorant on?"
It hasn't always been this way. In my 20s, my mind was a steel trap. As I observed the world, all data was efficiently processed and stored for rapid recall. When someone asked if I needed to write down a number, list or appointment, I would say with all sincerity, "Nah. I've got it all up here," tapping a finger to my temple with confidence.
But somehow, after 28 years of marriage and military life, my brain cells are shot. Maybe it's hormones. Maybe my reckless college years finally caught up with me. Maybe I've ingested too many artificial sweeteners. Maybe raising three kids causes premature dementia.
I'm not quite sure what it is — or maybe I've simply forgotten — but I have enough smarts left to know that I must compensate for my intellectual decline.
Nowadays, my home office is covered in grocery lists, appointment cards, bills, schedules, recipes and a calendar the size of Texas, all highlighted in fluorescent marker and affixed with a garish display of souvenir magnets. It isn't sleek or stylish, but it helps me remember things. And besides, who needs trendy decor when you live in a house that hasn't been updated since the Carter administration?
Thanks to my gigantic calendar and kitsch magnets, one of which doubles as a nifty bottle opener, I’m reminded that there is an important national holiday coming up.
Although we never seem to forget the hot dogs, pickle relish and cold beer for our Memorial Day cookouts, we tend to forget the underlying reason we get the day off to begin with. On May 5, 1868, Major General John Logan declared that flowers should decorate the graves of fallen Union and Confederate soldiers of the Civil War at Arlington Cemetery, stating, “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
By the end of World War I, “Memorial Day” was being recognized across the country as a holiday to honor those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who gave their lives fighting for our country's freedom in all American wars.
Although more than 1.3 million Americans have died in battle or while serving in theater in all conflicts since the American Revolution, about 150,000 men and women voluntarily raise their right hands to enlist in the U.S. military every year. They take an oath, promising to defend the U.S. Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Whatever the reason they decided to enter the military — most join to serve their country, to get the GI Bill, to see the world or to learn job skills — when they take this solemn vow, they know that they could face danger, injury or even death. Monday is the day that we show respect for those who paid that ultimate price.
This Monday, I’ll make a list to remember hamburger buns, Cool Whip, plastic forks and charcoal briquettes. But if the heroes who fought for our freedom slip my scattered mind, I'll only need to glance up from my lawn chair at the American flag flying from our porch and remember —
Of course, it’s Memorial Day. How could I ever forget?
Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com, and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org