by Joseph Walker

Memorial Day is the surest, clearest evidence that I have become my father.

Sort of.

I donít poke at my potato chips to break them up into smaller pieces before I eat them like he did.I canít make eating scrambled eggs crunch like he could.I canít make a single glass of soda last through the day and all the way to bed time like he could.And Iím not as everlastingly nice to everyone as he was.

But in almost every other respect Iím pretty much him.

I snore.I embarrass my children by singing too loud in church.I tend to wander Ė a little Ė around the road while Iím driving (the way I see it, the lane is 14-feet wide, and weíre legally entitled to use all of it).And lately when Iím at a restaurant and the waitress asks if Iím enjoying the meal, I just canít keep myself from responding: ďYouíre a good cook!Ē

Thankfully, Iím not calling the waitress ďhoneyĒ yet.But at the rate Iím going, thatís probably only a few weeks away.

Oh, and I have a hard time remembering things Ė which doesnít seem like that big of a deal to me.I mean, Iíve lived more than half of a century, and everyone knows the human brain is only good for about 49 and a half years worth of remembered stuff.Physiological mathematics tells me that whenever I learn something new Ė which is pretty much every hour of every day Ė something old has to be forgotten in order to make room for it.Thatís just common sense, isnít it?But for some strange reason, my children seem to think that in the midst of all this learning and forgetting, I should at least be able to remember their names.

And I do.


But itís the Memorial Day thing that makes me think that my father didnít really pass away last August Ė he just dumped that 94-year-old body that was slowing him down and moved into this younger, larger, significantly less athletic body of mine.

Lock, stock and diabetes.

Take the lilacs, for example.Every Memorial Day Dad would roam the neighborhood harvesting (with permission, of course) lilacs from bushes that were bursting with the fragrant flower.Then we would haul the flowers to the family grave sites, where he would lovingly distribute them among the dearly departed Ė usually in Mason jars filled with water.

Through the years I grew to hate those smelly flowers.I hated how they smelled.I hated how they looked.I hated how they seemed to start wilting the second you clipped them from the bush.And I hated how dorky it looked to stick a Mason jar filled with wilting lilacs on the grave of someone who Ė Iím just guessing here Ė probably hated them as much as I did.

Still, we took them, Memorial Day after Memorial Day.And the dreaded Mason jar lilacs became as much a part of our holiday tradition as Aunt Hazelís graveside smooches, Momís cold picnic chicken and the stories about the cousins who died in The Big Flood.

The other day, however, my 13-year-old son found me standing by our back fence, where our neighborís abundant lilac bushes spill over into our yard.I tried to explain the reasons for my long-standing contempt for the flower, but I donít think Jonathan was buying any of it.Something about the fragrance-induced smile on my face betrayed me.

ďI donít think the neighbors will mind if you clip a few flowers to put on Grandpaís grave on Memorial Day,Ē Jon suggested gently.

Now, if only I can find a few Mason jars . . .

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ó © Joseph Walker

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