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In Memorium


It’s safe to say that I don’t know a whole lot about sacrifice.

Sure, I didn’t get to go out binge drinking and pub crawling a hell of a lot, instead pulling all-nighters with a drooling, balding man (Ben, I mean, not The Daver. Who would like me to inform you that he does NOT drool). Maybe I didn’t get to spend my early twenties being frivolous and stupid(er), maybe I changed the entire course of what I had planned to do with my life for the fruit of my loins.

So fucking what?

The sacrifices I made are nothing, and I mean by nothing “whatever is possibly less than nothing, maybe like chicken poo or something” and while I occasionally I do bemoan them, even I know I don’t really mean it or deserve sympathy.

On a day like today, all that I can think about is sacrifice. REAL sacrifice. Throwing your own life on the line to protect something you believe in. That, THAT, is bravery.

I don’t know a lot of soldiers, but I do know that one of these days I’m going to get off my fat ass and start sending care packages to them, because they do something so beyond brave that I cannot comprehend it. As someone who occasionally expects sympathy cards for bug-bites and ingrown toenails, it’s safe to say that I am whatever the opposite of brave is.

My grandfather is the only one close to me who has served overseas. He died when I was eleven and the older I get, the more I realize how much I missed by not getting to know him. My middle son is named after him–the Joseph, not the Alexander part of his name–and I sometimes regret that I didn’t name him Joseph Alexander instead of the other way around.

What I know about him I’ve Frankenstein-ed from family members and I’m certain I have some of the facts wrong.

He graduated high school at 15, Harvard at 17 going on to graduate from Johns Hopkins Medical school at 21. At some point in his career, he contracted TB and had to spend my father’s childhood holed up in a sanitarium in the mountains somewhere.

My grandfather left his family to go serve in World War II as a doctor on the front lines, pulling out bullets and putting rogue guts back into their body cavity.

When the Allies invaded and Germany surrendered, my grandfather, whom my son is named for, helped liberate the concentration camps. My grandfather cared for those who were left as the walking dead, and he saw that the piles of dead were treated with more dignity in death than they had been in life. He saw horrors unimaginable and refused to speak beyond what I have shared with you.

But I loved him as a child not for his bravery but because he called me the apple of his eye. I loved him because he bought me the fancy train set that I’d coveted one Christmas. I loved him because I knew he worked as head of the pathology department at a major hospital and I thought that was wicked cool.

The older I get, though, the more I love him for all the things I hadn’t known of him in life. That my parents still have a pair of forceps somewhere that they use to get stuff off of shelves–they’re quite handy! Somewhere, I have his old dissection kit. That he tried out the new-fangled X-ray technology on my grandmother while she was pregnant with my father and as a result, we have a picture of my father in-utero. That he loved going to the symphony and loved fried chicken.

(who doesn’t love fried chicken?)

That he was the bravest person I know, and that I slouch here today at my computer, pecking out words about “bravery” and “sacrifice” onto my stupid little blog, no matter how brave and tough I am not, I still have his blood coursing through my veins.

Today, that makes me sit up a little straighter.

Today I remember.


Who are you remembering today?

33 Comments to

“In Memorium”

  1. On May 25th, 2009 at 11:56 am Fiddle1 Says:

    Here here! I’m remembering my Grandpa, a cook, in the 29th Division, 115th Regiment, G Company, who was in the 2nd wave that came onto Omaha Beach @ Normandy. I’m also remembering my Grandma, who is still with us at 92 years old, who had her first baby on her own while G’pa was fighting. Thanks Grandma and Grandpa!

  2. On May 25th, 2009 at 12:39 pm RJ Flamingo Says:

    I’m remembering countless numbers of my family – men, women, and children – who died, and those who survived those very concentration camps. Therefore, I remember the soldiers who liberated those camps and cared for the survivors. I would not be sitting here today, pecking away at my little laptop, if it weren’t for those very GI’s.

    So even though I never met him, I’m remembering your grandfather, too. With much gratitude.

    BTW – if you’re serious, go to to pick out some service people to whom you can send care packages. I’ve been sending packages to our troops through for several years. Sometime you hear back from them, via e-mail or snail-mail, and sometimes you don’t (they’re a tad busy out there, dontcha know) but either way, you’re performing a great service. If you decide to do it, give me a tweet and I’ll be happy to give you some helpful hints!

  3. On May 25th, 2009 at 12:20 pm swirl girl Says:

    enjoy this day of rememberance…

  4. On May 25th, 2009 at 12:22 pm a Says:

    I’m honoring my husband who served in Iraq, Honduras, and Afghanistan in his 20 years in the Reserves. I’m honoring my sister, who has travelled around the world with the Air Force (OK, really only the US and Europe, but still).

    I’m remembering my Dad who was in the Coast Guard during WWII – helping to ferry wounded soldiers back home.

    Let’s not forget all those people who are away from home and serving in a war zone today.

  5. On May 25th, 2009 at 12:27 pm mumma boo Says:

    Priceless post, Becks. Your grand-dad is proud of you.

  6. On May 25th, 2009 at 12:28 pm Dana Says:

    You may not know many active duty soldiers, but you might be surprised at how many veteran’s you know. Both my husband and I served during the Gulf War. My father served during peace time. My uncle during Vietnam. I have a family history of service to country and hope that my son someday makes that choice!

  7. On May 25th, 2009 at 12:31 pm Mimi Says:

    Happy Memorial Day, Becks. Beautiful post.

  8. On May 25th, 2009 at 1:40 pm Sunny Says:

    Lovely post. I too am overcome with appreciation when I see men in military uniform. I am the jackass wiping tears from my eyes when I stand next to our troops at the airport. They are going somewhere to serve our country so that I can have the freedom to fly home and see my family.

    I am remembering today both of my grandfathers, who served in the war. We don’t have a lot to donate to charity, but I always make sure to give to the veterans.

  9. On May 25th, 2009 at 2:51 pm Westcoast Weirdo Says:

    Even if we don’t support the war, we need to remember to support the soldiers. All the men in my family have fought in one of the wars, except my brother. My dad is a Vietnam Vet and I’m proud of him.

  10. On May 25th, 2009 at 3:22 pm Ms. Moon Says:

    Nice post, Ms. Becks.

  11. On May 25th, 2009 at 3:15 pm kalakly Says:

    Leave it to Aunt Becky to make me cry…again. I honor my dad a retired Air Force Pilot, my husband an Iraq War Vet and my husbands granddad who served many times and places and who also shares the name Joseph and who passed before I met him in real life but who into his 90’s kept up a wicked email correspondence with me, a sassy irish lass he’d never laid eyes on. I couldn’t be any prouder than to be and to have been, a part of their lives.
    Perfect post. I’ll bet you’re still the apple of your Grandpa Joseph’s eye.

  12. On May 25th, 2009 at 5:39 pm Ginger Magnolia Says:

    I always think first about my father, who served in the Marines in Viet Nam as a records keeper in a hospital, recording casualties. I have also been thinking a lot about my friend, Brett (a diver in the Corps of Engineers), who’s in Iraq right now, and even my douchebag ex-husband, who’s in Afghanistan.

  13. On May 25th, 2009 at 7:05 pm Mrs.LaLa Says:

    Wow, what an awesome grandpa!!

    Both of my grandfathers served in WWII. One in the Navy, and one in the Air Force.

  14. On May 25th, 2009 at 7:26 pm Erica Says:

    My grandfather, who’s been gone for almost 13 years now (*gasps* that long already?) was there too. He had photos of his various travels in Europe during WWII and of the…unspeakable horrors. I am the oldest of his grandchildren and a few years ago, my grandmother was looking for his photos of his time in the war to show to my youngest cousin, his youngest grandchild. She was surprised to learn that he’d showed them to me – apparently, stories of his time in the war were things he kept very close to the vest. I also learned that I was the only one of his 9 grandkids he’d showed the photos and told the stories to. I feel privileged indeed.

  15. On May 25th, 2009 at 7:38 pm Elaine at Lipstickdaily Says:

    Thank you for this Memorial Day tribute!

  16. On May 25th, 2009 at 9:34 pm Meghan Says:

    I awoke remembering my grandmother who passed away 9 years ago now, who never got to meet any of her great-grandchildren. Having sucumbed to a rare brain disease at the age of 62, of which there is no known cure and there are only 150 known cases in Canada at this time( not sure about the US).

    Makes you take a moment to step back and remember the happy times with them and not take for granted the time you had with them as well.
    I miss her every day and am belssed to have had her for the time that I did in my life.

    I found out today that my mother is giving me her cedar chest. I can only hope that I can place my own memories in it as she did hers.

  17. On May 25th, 2009 at 11:43 pm Tara Says:

    Someone already mentioned this, but I had to put in another word for The website will make you so much more grateful for the bounties of your own life, because so many people ask for the simplest things — aspirin, fresh socks, deoderant…. And putting care packages together is so much fun!

  18. On May 25th, 2009 at 11:39 pm GingerB Says:

    My friend’s husband served in Afghanistan as a helicopter pilot. Exposure to a variety of noxious crap seems to have afflicted many soldiers in his section with various diseases. He came home with leukemia and died eight months later. Even though he was a crappy husband and father, I couldn’t help thinking about him today, with respect and regret for what he lost by serving. And I feel all conflicted posting this about the part of his life that wasn’t good for my friend, but I guess I am a little stuck on it, you know, thinking about the randomness of life, and how so much doesn’t make sense, and how bad it was for my friend to lose him, and the sons to lose their dad, blah blah blah I don’t know where I am going with this, except that the guy got a raw deal. And now I have friends a bit older than me, who have kids in the various services and that blows me away. I cannot imagine worrying about my kids being in harm’s way so the rest of us can drive our SUVs. I kinda suck.

  19. On May 26th, 2009 at 5:43 am SciFi Dad Says:

    That was an awesome tribute. I wish I had the opportunity to meet your grandfather; he sounds like an interesting guy.

  20. On May 26th, 2009 at 6:11 am charmedgirl Says:

    i always cry when i think of my grandparents, and now you got me crying about yours too? goddamn you!

    my father’s family is from the italian alps. during wwII, my grandfather was involved with a small militia group who brought jewish families into switzerland. he used to sometimes drink too much wine and tell me about carrying children on his back for 6 months at a time…while my nonna yelled at him to shup up in italian. when i was 13, i went to visit family in italy and i was shown the church where they got married, which also happened to be where they lined up villagers and shot them one by one before the entire town…to try to get someone to give up the militia. i am also so so so sad (and angry- but that’s a totally different can of shit) that i didn’t get to know them better while they were alive. fuck this death thing…really…

  21. On May 26th, 2009 at 7:58 am Badass Geek Says:

    I’m remembering my Grandfather, who served during the Korean war. I miss him terribly, as does my father.

  22. On May 26th, 2009 at 7:59 am Dot Says:

    A great tribute to your grandfather. Not only was he tough and brave, but incredibly smart, too! What a great contribution he made!

    More cowbell, please.

  23. On May 26th, 2009 at 8:34 am Lola Says:

    My grandfathers and my father. Great post, girl!

  24. On May 26th, 2009 at 9:21 am Kristina Says:

    I loved this post. We’re lucky to have men like your grandfather, both of my grandfathers, and every single man and woman who has served our country and kept us safe and free. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to read your “stupid little blog” (which it is not).

    By the way, I think you’re pretty brave and tough. You’ve gotten through a lot, sounds like you’re more like your grandpa than you think.

  25. On May 26th, 2009 at 9:48 am Sara Says:

    I went to a funeral for a non-vet, and kissed my husband who IS a veteran. And I emailed some jerk whom I love dearly as the older brother I never wanted who is on his way home from a deployment.

    All in all, (minus the funeral) a normal day in my life.

    And I spent it with my favorite veterans, my mother in law, husband, and father!

  26. On May 26th, 2009 at 9:55 am lady lemon Says:

    Your grandfather sounds like a really awesome man. I was never very close with my grandfathers – as one died before I was born and the other was terminally grumpy.

    Today I’m remembering my friend who died in a car crash almost 4 years ago to the day. He was a smart, cute boy whom I had had a crush on in my younger years. One night he called me up on the phone and died a couple hours later. I might have been the last person to talk to him, but I won’t ever know if that’s true.

    Today I am missing him and wishing he was here so I could buy him a beer.

  27. On May 26th, 2009 at 10:26 am Mrs Soup Says:

    Thank you for your Grandfather.

    My grandfather also served in WWII at the Battle of Peleliu. I remember kissing his bald head and sitting with him in his chair. I also remember his shadowbox with a folded American flag and his medals. I wish I knew who had it to look at it again with eyes that understand what he did.

    Unfortunately, his later life was tainted with a messy divorce from my grandma, marrying someone the same age as my mother, and a painful funeral where his new wife was escorted by police, because she had been in jail for stealing beer.

    The only light in that memory is after the Marine handed his wife the flag, she turned and gave it to my Grandma, the woman who was married to him for 45 years. It brought tears to my eyes.

  28. On May 26th, 2009 at 2:19 pm Hope Says:

    I remember my uncle who stormed the beach at Normandy on D-Day and was wounded there, then was patched up and continued to fight for another 6 months, until he was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge – very badly wounded, and then spent the next 4 years in a VA hospital. He won a Bronze Star during the Battle of the Bulge, which I, his closest blood relative have yet to see because he married a woman approximately 10 years older than I am a year before he died in 1988, and she won’t let me have that and his Purple Hearts until she dies (even though she’s now remarried). And, I have to send her a Christmas card every year, just to make sure she has my current address. Well, let’s not get too bitter about that. The object here is honoring someone, not being bitter.
    And, I honor my son-in-law for his 9 years of service in the Army, including 2 tours of duty in Iraq. And the 7 years he has left to serve under his current re-enlistment. After which time doing another 4 years to get a decent pension will be a no brainer.

  29. On May 26th, 2009 at 2:45 pm Sue Says:

    Thank you for sharing your memories of your grandfather. He sounds like an amazing man. You tell his story beautifully.

    I come from a long line of not-military, but I do try to thank servicemen and women for their service when I see them. I was in college during the first Iraq war and cried every day watching the news. It’s a priceless gift they give. Thank you for reminding us.

  30. On May 26th, 2009 at 6:24 pm Betts Says:

    That was beautiful… really beautiful. Two of my uncles served in WWII. They’re both dead now and neither of them would talk much about their experience there. One served in the Phillipines and was shot through the chest while he stood in water up to his next, but he survived. The other served in Europe and arrived on the beach in Normandy three days after the big battle. I wish they would have told me more, but I understand why they couldn’t.

  31. On May 27th, 2009 at 1:09 pm Sarah Says:

    I was remembering my uncle, because going to Thailand is so much cooler when you get together with your uncle who was there in the ’60s, sip whiskey, joke around about That Dog, and know that so much more is being said, without a word being spoken. And all of my great uncles – I loved their stories and I miss them.

    All my brothers and sisters still serving in the Navy… and all of them who got out like I did, before things got ugly! “My” Marines.. the boys I went to aircraft mechanic school with in Memphis, my four dear girlfriends, and their husbands… three of their husbands are Soldiers, one is serving on a sub. My brand-new girlfriend whose husband is a Marine, serving now in the National Guard, and getting ready to go back to Afghanistan for a year or so.

    When I think of the sacrifice you’re talking about, like your grandfather, like my great uncles, like my girlfriends’ Soldier hubbies… I have a hard time claiming to be a Veteran.

  32. On May 27th, 2009 at 5:02 pm Betty M Says:

    Great tribute. My grandfather (who I never met as he died before I was born) fought in WW1 and was slightly too old for WW2. He was in the firts tank regiment. My father says he never spoke about it, ever. Reading the history books I can see why.

  33. On May 28th, 2009 at 8:10 am Kendra Says:

    Thank you for that beautiful tribute, Becky.

    When I was little, I used to take piano lessons at a house that had beautiful lilacs out front. And I always thought when I grew up, the thing I wanted more than anything was a lilac bush. When we were house hunting just a few years ago, it was February, and nothing was blooming. But the realtor assured us, correctly, that the two big bushes in the backyard were lilacs.

    Not surprisingly if you know me, I can never remember when they bloom; it catches me by surprise every year. But I remembered after a year or two what my grandpa had told me: that they always bloom around Memorial Day, so you can put them on a grave.

    Until you mentioned it, I had forgotten that he was a veteran; that wasn’t the way I thought of him. But he was my dad’s dad and one of my favorite relatives. He lived in Maine, and I’ve spent most of my life in Minnesota. He’s buried there now, and I remain here. But every Memorial Day, I look at the lilacs and think of him, and I always try to give my dad a bouquet of lilacs, so we can remember him together. I can’t put anything on his grave, but I can remember him with his son.

    (And my father-in-law is a Holocaust survivor. Having grown up long after the war was over, and here in the US, my life has been largely unaffected by it. But when I read about your grandpa’s experiences in Europe, it made me think of my father-in-law’s experiences and how much it took to lead to his survival–and the lives of my husband and my children. It’s true, facing that down is true bravery. Thank you, Grandpa Joseph.)

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