My parents were divorced when I was three.
My mother remarried when I was 26. Interesting dynamic when your mother marries again after all those years.
Her new husband was different. Our relationship would take time and refused to fit into some kind of mold. Gil’s not my step-father, I introduce him as my mother’s husband. That may sound odd, but I don’t know what a step-father is, seems like a ridiculous label when a man comes into your life at 26.
I will say, he’s an important part of our family, we have a similar sense of humor, I’d be there for him in a minute and I wouldn’t hesitate to call him if the crap hit the fan. There’s really no label for that, he’s Gil.
He is almost annoyingly quiet, steady, secretly a little crude, famously regular, I still think it’s weird he fills my mom’s gas tank, and I love him. Our relationship has grown over many years into something quite genuine.
Gil served in the Army during Vietnam. He was drafted at, I think 18.
There have been several years that he and some of his friends, other veterans, have done a motorcycle ride from California to Washington DC to be in the capital for Memorial Day.
It’s a pilgrimage to remember.
I always picture sort of a flags flying, Easy Rider thing, but knowing Gil I’m pretty sure that’s way off.
He rides to honor those that didn’t make it home and those that are still lost. He flies his flag and his POW flag. He has a purple heart license plate.
Serving in the military is something completely foreign to me. The bonds formed, the tradition, it all seems quite Special Ops, camo pants, Saving Private Ryan. A brotherhood.
But on Memorial Day and sometimes when I look at Gil just the right way it feels a touch tragic. Part of the bond appears to come from going through a particular kind of hell most of us will never see. That kind of thing must change a person forever.
Don’t get me wrong, I would never want to paint him as a martyr. He’s still here, he survived and married my mother. He makes fantastic red chili and is my constant companion as we lose just about every card game played at their house.
Gil lives by the beach and has a good life, but every Memorial Day I think about him. I know the sentiment, “honoring those we’ve lost” means something completely different to him. He was there, he lost many and as with all soldiers past and present, I respect that and I’m grateful.
My thoughts from the laundry room. I’m Going Up.