Serious Stuff

Nurse Patty 1969 and 2015

When we fabulousover60 women graduated high school and college (mid-sixties to mid-seventies) the major careers for women beyond homemaker were three: secretary, nurse and teacher. It struck me as I have attempted to “nurse” my husband post his knee surgery on January 7th that so much has changed and will continue to change since I made a decision to definitively NOT be a nurse.

Wearing my white stockings, shoes and shift dress of cheap polyester with a “Peace Now” button I entered the hospital as a would-be nurse’s aide with some trepidation back in 1969. My peace button was quickly removed by my supervisor in the first hour of my shift, and my “career view” of nursing was formed in just a little more time. “The drill” was taking orders from male doctors who you stood up for when they came to the nursing station, and doing tasks of compassion that made you feel central to the patients care, but also isolated from doing much about the overall medical outcomes or the obvious inefficiencies of some hospital routines. This was when nursing joined being a homemaker and/or a grade school teacher as definitely OUT as career choices. Business looked all shiny and new then didn’t it?real1604[1]

What this recent blip in the road of our lives (Bill’s surgery and recovery) has reminded me, is that the most mundane things I undervalued as a nurse’s aide are what is most helping Bill’s comfort and recovery. True, the surgery performed required skills beyond mine, but caretaking and support for the day to day activities of life matter more than I imaged. Making a cup of tea, straightening the sheets, helping him to the bathroom, listening to his complaints about the pain, and drying unreachable places post a shower are very good uses of my time and energy. While certainly not often stimulating, these “chores” are giving me informative reinforcement for my earlier life decisions and helping me make better decisions going forward.

My decision not to do anything for a living that was connected to serving others who were young (school teaching), dirty (everyone – cleaning is not my thing and yet I love cleanliness), ill or disabled (nursing), hungry (cooking) or disorganized (secretarial/clerical work) was absolutely the right one. I live most happily in my mind — and I love to listen to and analyze the quandaries of people’s lives and/or work—and then support efforts to improve the situation. Another good result of not choosing nursing or other direct care/support work was that now, at 65 (January 20, 2015), I am not worn out from years working in these support fields and can experience these roles freshly — rather than as an extension of an earlier career.

6576336-L[1]

Clearly, whether we did or did not choose nursing, teaching, administrative work professionally — we are going through more of just those things as we age. Our lives, and the people in them dictate that. From spouses, friends and partners needing care, younger family members needing help with young children or teens, or our inevitable downsizing/re-invention efforts requiring more organizational skills and planning we need to be close to the ground executing what we may have thought of as “mundane” or “beneath us” activities rather than working in the relatively detached vacuum of executive and professional work.

This means as fabulous women we need to think a great deal more deeply and realistically about our own abilities and our limits for caring for others, being in an educational role for younger generations or organizing and supporting downsizing strategies (rather than just deciding on them) for our lives. Few of our moms worked outside the home and for many of this “greatest generation” care-giving was natural—or at least extremely familiar. As for being an organizer and downsizing wizard, many of our parents didn’t quite handle these tasks well — some of course did, but not a few of us cleaned out our parents home after one or another crisis, and in some cases made decisions for them on next steps since they obviously, in denial, did not plan to age and/or die doing anything other than what they were doing 20 years before the crisis.

Denial[1]

We know we want to do better dealing with aging – but I wonder if being fabulous is going to help us actually do that or just push us into a different form of denial and inevitably messy if not dangerous situations of being ill-prepared to care for and plan with those we love; and/or become too cheap or poor to pay others to do it well. We all know boomers who are convinced becoming a 24/7 exercise fanatic will eliminate aging for them — or are still holding on to a lifestyle that was getting outdated in 1990 — along with their furniture.

I do not envy those of you who chose careers of care and are now faced with caring for those in your own life. Can’t decide if you are more at peace with knowing that your life’s work inevitably becomes everyone’s job at some point or if now in hindsight wish you too had let others do it professionally. As our mothers often said “time will tell”. But along with other decisions, we have to hurry up and make some decisions on new roles and efforts. It is easy to criticize our parents’ lack of “appropriate” planning, but I wonder if fabulous or not we are sliding into similar tracks of denial and side stepping the realities of being older and having to play nurse.

Patty

Being a Bit Naïve – Not Always Funny!

I am not a “been there/done that” sort of woman. Things have and still seem to surprise me. When young, naïve was an understatement to describe my lack of sophistication and savvy. My all time “who knew” story was being asked by a guy at 22 to meet him at the Harvard Club. Yes, I did manage to find it, and yes, I asked for “John Smith” who promptly appeared in the lobby area.

Unfortunately the idea of Harvard as a private club somehow eluded me — I commented to him and a few of his friends that it was interesting that the “Harvard Club” – a public place in my mind – looked and felt like everyone on the walls in those rather grim portraits, and right now standing in the lobby could have ACTUALLY GONE TO HARVARD. Looking at me now as a sophisticated woman of a certain age it seems impossible I could have uttered this HUGE faux pas — but yes sister fabulous women, I did.

harvard_club1

Harvard Club

Needless to say John sneered and sent me packing. I tell the story to remind myself and others in my life that I was not born at Saks Fifth Avenue nor raised on the main line of Philadelphia. But interestingly, though much more “seasoned” and exposed to all sorts of people, places and things, I remain more or less a trifle naïve. Not necessarily about which fork to use, or knowing Peter Michael is a great chardonnay not just a guy’s name, I mean naïve in the sense of wondering what in the world is going on here — how could this be happening?

Here are some recent shocks to my system. Am curious if you share my shock or just want to shout to me Patty, snap out of it – don’t be so naïve! More pointedly: when is it OK to be naïve and when does it literally become dangerous?

Shock One: Ben Bernanke was turned down for a mortgage. Yes, it seems the bank he applied to used an algorithm to block new loans to those just changing jobs — even if he is in the one percent and the former head of the Federal Reserve Bank.

President_Barack_Obama_meets_with_Federal_Reserve_Chairman_Ben_Bernanke_4-10-09

This article makes the point that common sense needs to come back into the mortgage system. Can you blame me for having missed the fact that human factors are no longer used in giving people mortgages? That amazed me — sure you can get a line of credit or a mortgage online, but when did your ability to demonstrate your reliability and financial responsibility lose out to a formula that excludes any personal judgment? This knowledge allows for a great deal more empathy to those who are still being told they can’t have a mortgage. Just laughing at the stupidity of the bankers who rejected Bernanke is not the point.

Shock Two: A long ago corporate client called me out of the blue this weekend. The call came 10 years or so after he had a personal crisis and retired from corporate life to get his life back in order. He indicated his wife was scheduled for surgery this week that is extremely serious — and he wanted me to know that even though we hadn’t seen each other in forever he was using the “wisdom” (his word) I had imparted to him years ago about corporate change and transformation and was using it to help he and his family deal with this stunning negative turn of events in their lives.

I was hugely flattered but amazed. I certainly never thought my corporate consulting work would help someone deal with the possible death of a spouse. Or, maybe I did or at least hoped whatever good I was doing went beyond just good things for the institution. And, it reminded me that what we say – and what we have said – really does matter always.

I was wrong to underestimate the impact I had on people I worked with and naïve to think that my words and actions at work did not have enormous impact.

Shock three: The Canadian capital of Ottawa is the scene of violence today and the story continues to unfold. Terrorism seems to be at issue here. Watching the historic Ottawa Parliament building in lockdown is unnerving. While ISIS did seem far away it is getting unnervingly close. The whole idea of people being “radicalized” and traveling to join various terror spots makes me uneasy. How could the story of freedom and democracy we grew up with fail to connect with a troubling number of people here, in Canada and Europe? What part have we all played in alienating some people so much that they want to join in a crusade against what we see as decency?

While being naïve can be very funny, it can also be dangerous. It can leave us unconcerned with issues that we seriously need to reflect upon and take action upon. As fabulous women we have to know when to laugh, but also when to stop laughing at women wanting to marry ISIS soldiers – and rather contribute to creating bridges of understanding in our own communities so even the thought of this is impossible. Fabulous women know when to be serious and take responsibility for modeling important interest and passion. Or we should.

Patty

“Happy” Memorial Day?

Last year I posted a blog about Memorial Day. Since it seemed to resonate with many of our readers at that time, I thought I’d post it again as we head into 2016’s holiday.

I confess. I wasn’t thinking about Memorial Day as anything other than a holiday. I was busy with a house remodeling problem. I had a deadline for a company project. I was thinking about what to wear to a Memorial Day party.

And then Ray reminded me. As a Vietnam veteran, he never forgets what Memorial Day means. It doesn’t mean parties, rug sales, outdoor barbeques, baseball games or the opening of swimming pools. It isn’t even a holiday to thank veterans for their service (that’s Veteran’s Day). In fact, it’s not a “happy” day at all. It’s a day to honor those who died in our country’s many wars. It is a day of memorial and remembrance.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial - Washington, DC

Vietnam Veterans Memorial – Washington, DC

I know that I’m not the only one who wasn’t thinking about it that way. In fact, I think it might be the most misunderstood “holiday” of all.

I looked it up. I learned that the first official Memorial Day observance was May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. I learned that until 1971, Memorial Day was observed on May 30. Then, the National Holiday Act of 1971 was passed and Memorial Day began to be celebrated on the last Monday of May.

I learned that the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) believes that the change of date that created a three day weekend has “undermined the very meaning of the day” and has contributed to the “public’s nonchalant observance” of Memorial Day.

I realized as I thought about my own nonchalance that I have been very, very lucky. I have never been directly touched by death from a war. My father and uncles were in the service at the end of WW2 … no action for any of them. Even though my college years of 1968 to 1972 were key Vietnam era years, no friend, boyfriend or classmate was killed in action. In fact, few of them even went to war. My brother and cousins were too young. And, I didn’t have sons who could be sent to Desert Storm or subsequent wars in Afghanistan or Iraq.

I’m glad that Ray reminded me about the day’s meaning. It’s unlikely that families of men and women who have been killed in war – or veterans who came back when others didn’t — wish anyone a “Happy Memorial Day” or spend it shopping for bargains.

Cathy Green

A Short Story: My Dad’s Ugly Fish Tie – Christmas 1987

Fortunately, Mom snapped a picture of Dad. Otherwise, I might not have remembered the fish tie on that Christmas Day, 1987.
 
In the picture, he is standing with his arm around my grandmother, a goofy grin on his face and one of his traditional holiday Manhattans toasting the camera – probably his second or third of the day to judge from the twinkle in his eye. And he is proudly wearing the ugliest necktie I’ve ever seen, before or since. It’s a bright multicolored fish tie, much like this:

Fish Tie

Vintage 1980’s fish necktie

Its head is lying on dad’s ample stomach and his sports coat is pulled open so that mom can capture the tie in all its glory.
 
Grandma Bernadette (“Saint” Bernadette we grandkids called her because of her daily walk to the local Catholic Church) is smiling sweetly and indulgently into the camera. This is the eldest of my five babies, she seems to be thinking, and a few Manhattans and an ugly fish tie are perfectly fine with me.
 
I remember that Christmas Day clearly. I was 37 years old, living hundreds of miles away from my Cincinnati family and working 50 hours or more a week. Career woman, extraordinaire. I remember that I wore expensive clothes to show off for my aunts, uncles and cousins. They would prove, I thought, that I was grown up, independent and well on my way to making something of myself in the world.
 
I should have known that wouldn’t work. At Grandma’s house, I was just Cathy – daughter, godchild, niece, grandchild and cousin to a whole bunch of people I had grown up with. They were proud of me, I suppose, but I was still Cathy.
 
Mom, dad, brother Tom, sister Chris, five aunts, five uncles, fifteen cousins, a couple of cousins’ babies and lots of spouses and significant others made for a cozy party in Grandma’s small one-bedroom apartment. Maneuvering through the crowd to get to the kitchen for drinks and food was an ordeal, especially since hugs and “what have you been up to” discussions were required along the way.
 
Dad’s tie, that year, was the center of attention. One of his brothers gave it to him, but in the deafening roar of gift-giving mayhem it was impossible to know whether there was any particular significance to the gift. Dad loved it. He whipped off his church tie, put the new one on without benefit of a mirror, laughed loudly as one after the other of us told him it was ugly, and promptly began a fish tie raffle. He announced that by the end of the day the highest bidder would be the tie’s proud new owner.
 
My youngest cousin offered 10 cents – an insult, my dad said – and the bidding began. As the drinks flowed throughout the afternoon, the apartment got noisier but dad’s voice boomed above the rest. All of the cousins were encouraged (actually, bullied) to bid. First, though, each of them was required to admire the tie closely and appreciate its beauty.
 
Uncle Louie and Uncle Jerry, no doubt after their third or fourth martinis, decided that enough was enough and badgered the bidders to buy the stupid tie and get it over with. But by mid-afternoon, it had become a coveted prize.
 
I remember the fish tie raffle. I remember the laughter. I remember the smiles of raffle bidders. I remember my dad having a great time.
 
And I remember realizing that this wasn’t going to last. My grandmother had fallen that year climbing the steps to her apartment. There were hushed discussions on that Christmas Day. Was it time for her to move into a “nursing home”? If not, who could take care of her?
 
And I remember looking at my cousins. They were growing up and getting married. Some of them were moving away and might not be coming to Cincinnati next year. Some were having babies and starting traditions of their own.
 
And I remember looking at my mom and dad. They were in their early 60’s, getting older and grayer, but I was glad that they had plenty of years left to enjoy the holidays with us.

cathy dad

I don’t know how much money my dad finally got for the fish tie. I’m sure it wasn’t much, but I remember that he graciously handed it over to the highest bidder at the end of the day.
 
We laughed about that fish tie all the way to home. We agreed that is was truly the ugliest tie we had ever seen. But I think dad secretly wished he had kept it.
 
I do, too.
 
It was dad’s last Christmas.
 

I first wrote this short story in 2005 and sent it to my mom. The photo I reference is in one of the unpacked photo album boxes from my move to North Carolina. But here is a similar photo of my dad and Grandma Bernadette in her apartment that year… minus the fish tie!

What We Learned In 2013

  1. We still love writing ‘Fabulous’ and are more excited than ever to be sharing our own discoveries of life in our 60s. We think we’ve just begun to get in the groove of this project.
  2. Losing people we love hurts even more than we thought it would. But, rather than just causing sadness, it is helping us to live with purpose.
  3. Millennial’s are the next Boomers. We are OK with that. Their tastes will prevail — except when it comes to the décor of “senior living” homes.
  4. We can say with absolute certainty we no longer look “hot” — but we still seem to “simmer” for a couple of guys — let’s call them Bill and Ray.
  5. Time has sped up. We know that’s true because we have a hard time keeping up with everything – even though there is less to keep up with.
  6. Letting ourselves off the hook is OK, as long as we don’t stop remembering birthdays of dear friends, celebrating the holidays with some style, and embarking on our perennial new year’s diet.
  7. Work is still fun and a hoot. But in small doses. We wish Hillary well — but we are too exhausted to even think about running for neighborhood association chair much less President.
  8. We care more about important things and less about nonsense – but the definitions of what those are keep shifting.
  9. There is always more good in the world than bad. Unfortunately, the bad seems to trend on social media more often than we like. (Miley Cyrus is the number one trend. No comment.)
  10. A new year is wonderful — we can still pretend we are starting all over again despite evidence to the contrary!

happy_new_year_color

 

Patty and Cathy

Why Women Over 60 Are Not Just “Over 50”

When I turned 50, I got an invitation to join AARP. I was officially “old”, I thought. From then on, I would be a “woman over 50” – a category that would define me for the rest of my life.
 
My 50’s started out well. I was healthy, active in business and traveling between homes in Florida and Maine. I was kayaking, scuba diving and working out three times a week with a trainer. Life was good – even though AARP magazines began showing up regularly, more and more young people were calling me “ma’am”, and I found myself avoiding the bathroom scale.

Scuba-diving

Around my mid-50’s, I realized there was more to come. I began to have what my mom called “women’s troubles”. Menopause was hell. I dealt with brittle hair, weight gain, iron deficiency and high cholesterol. I lost my mom, an aunt, two uncles and a friend. I found myself pulling back from my Type-A business lifestyle. I spent more time reading and writing and learned to play golf.
 
Then it happened. I turned 60. I was surprised to find that I felt very different than when I turned 50. Now, three years into this decade of my life, I have decided that being over 60 is NOT the same as being over 50. In fact, we deserve our own category. (That’s why my friend Patty and I started this blog site!)
 
What’s so different? Everyone’s experience is unique, of course. But here are some things that are true for me and probably true for many other women in my age group:

  • Business isn’t at the top of my list… family and friends are
  • Aches and pains are much scarier… is my body telling me something?
  • I’m increasingly concerned about contributing something positive to the world… do I still have time?
  • Illness and death are front and center… enough said
  • Politics and world events irritate me but don’t make me want to march or protest… or even talk about them much
  • Days are slower paced, but the weeks and months go by quickly… really quickly
  • It surprises me to look in the mirror and realize that plastic surgery could help… but not enough
  • Keeping my body flexible and toned is more important than keeping it thin… assuming I even could
  • Looking “good” is what I want to achieve every day… Looking “hot and sexy”? I wish!

I might have begun to think and feel some of these things in my 50’s, but they are now solidly in my life and here to stay.

TIME OUT: I was just editing this blog and received a phone call with a recorded message: “Hello, Catherine, this is John. You have been selected to receive a free senior citizen medical alert system ……” I hung up quickly. Am I being overly sensitive or did they know I was over 60? Would a 50’s-something woman have received this call? I doubt it.

Magazines and websites like to gear their articles and advice to women over 50. It may be convenient for them, but it’s not my reality. At 63, I think, feel and behave differently than when I was 53.
 
Will I advocate a category of over 70 women in eight or nine years? I don’t know, but I’ll keep you “posted”.
 
Cathy Green

If In Doubt…. Don’t Press Send!

I was reminded this past week about the potentially destructive power of email. Two couples … friends of ours and of each other … are no longer speaking. The rupture is so bad that it’s difficult to imagine how it can be repaired.

 

The issue isn’t as important as how it was handled. The first couple – who now admit that their first email was a mistake – sent it anyway. The response from the second couple was highly emotional – “scathing” is a word I’ve heard used to describe it. In fact, the clear message was that the friendship was over. The first couple sent another email apologizing and explaining. There has been no response.

 

I haven’t actually seen any of the emails and I’ve only talked to the first couple about them. However, I think I understand the situation well enough to say that the emails … all of them … should never have been written or, more importantly, sent. In fact, I suspect that they were difficult to write and that both parties wrote at least a couple of versions of them. I also suspect that if everyone was being totally honest with themselves and others, they would say that they wish they could take them back.

email

 

Not too long ago, I was angry with an out of state friend. Again, the reason isn’t important. I immediately sat down and wrote an email. Then I wrote another version. I didn’t think I had the right tone, so I wrote it again. This one was better, but I still had a nagging suspicion that it didn’t capture the issue well enough. I decided to wait and try later. The issue weighed on me the rest of the day. I composed different versions of the note in my head. And then I began to think about receiving it as if I were my friend.

 

That’s when it hit me. This issue was not an email issue. It required a phone call… a real discussion. So the rest of that day and the next I thought about the conversation rather than the words I’d use in an email. It was difficult to pick up the phone to call… but it was absolutely the right thing to do. I learned that my friend felt conflicted by the issue too. We had a great discussion and resolved it easily. A weight had been lifted off my shoulders and we were better friends than ever.

 

I can’t say that I’ve never sent an email I regret. But I think I’m even less likely to do it in the future given the recent sad story of my two friends.

 

When I talked to Ray about it, he said that Billy C. Owen, his Master Chief in the Navy, used to say: “Once you pull the trigger, you can’t get the bullet back in the gun.”

 

The wrong email is like a bullet you can’t get back.

 

So, I have a new rule for myself: If an issue is potentially emotional, if it’s difficult to write, or if it could be misinterpreted, I’m going to pick up the phone or … even better, if possible … have a face-to-face discussion.

 

I wish one of our sets of friends would do that now. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not too late?

 

Cathy Green

 

It’s Almost My Birthday: Reflections on Aging and Insurance

“Dear Ms. Green:

In September, you’ll turn 63, an age when many life insurance companies will begin to look at you differently. From now on, when you need financial protection for your family, you may find the health questions will be a lot tougher… Getting accepted a lot more difficult … the coverage offered to you of lesser quality… In fact, rates are already set to go higher for you the moment you turn 63 in September. That’s only days from now.  Time may be running out on good life insurance offers available to you.”
 
OMG. Time is running out? Rates will go higher THE MOMENT I turn 63?

cloud

I didn’t feel so “fabulous” as I read this unsolicited letter that arrived in the mail yesterday.  I wasn’t looking forward to turning 63 … but I wasn’t dreading it either.  In fact, I didn’t think there was anything especially problematic about that age. I had a hard time when I turned 60 … and was looking ahead to the probability of having a hard time at 65 … and an even worse time at 70. But 63?
 
I needed some perspective, so I googled famous people who are 63 in an effort to feel better about myself. The good news is that the list of famous 63 year-olds who are still alive is longer than the list of those who checked out at that age. Among the women, there’s Twiggy, Morgan Fairchild, Victoria Principal, Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Cole, Sigourney Weaver and Cybill Shepherd – all of them looking pretty good and doing fine as far as I can tell. On the male side, there’s Richard Gere, Bruce Springsteen, Richard Branson, and Gene Simmons. Gene looks a little worse for the wear, but the others are looking pretty good and hanging in there, right?
 
Just for fun (and because I was pissed off at the life insurance company for making me feel old) I googled life expectancy in the US. What I learned is that just by making it to age 50, I have given myself a couple more possible years. Here are the numbers from the web site of the Social Security Administration:

SS table

So, it looks like I have a shot at living another 18.5 years beyond this birthday. The downside is that if I make it, I’ll have to deal with turning 75 and 80. Hopefully, no one will care by then about surprising me with birthday parties.
 
The thought of living to 81, however, made me think that it actually might be worthwhile to lose some weight and get a face lift. I’ll just skip the insurance and apply the money I would have spent on premiums to a personal trainer and a plastic surgeon instead.
 
Cathy Green

Apparently Lots of People Are Struggling to Get Along With Others

A close friend sent me a link to a website called SpiritLibrary, where a contributor noted that people were “pulling in” and often choosing only to be with those like themselves—the same politics, similar views on food, climate change, gay rights—or this that or the other issue. **(See link below if interested in this type of thing.) The observations make a good deal of sense to me—and perhaps may explain my own “drawing in” behavior.

yoga11

 

Being overly sensitive has always been a challenge for me. One reason I have pulled in and try not to “communicate” much with those whom I perceive to be totally different than I am is my attempt to stay calm and centered. The fallout of “discussions” led to some very tense moments—including a “flip out” on my part with some friends and THEIR friends—all of whom were stunned at my major meltdown after a political “discussion”. Good news is I don’t melt down much—bad news is when I do it is a mess—and I just don’t stop. Anyone else do that? Well sure—those of us that are extroverts can go crazy—you lucky introverts suffer silently—not good for you but a joy to others.

CoupleFighting

I recently got an email from a close friend—the husband in a couple we love. It included a blazing indictment of my team and its leader—and I mean blazing! It shocked me and hurt me. And yet I love this guy and know he is a fine person—just don’t love his politics. What to do? After MUCH writing in my mind, I decided to WRITE NOTHING.

Still guilty for not holding up my end of things in the universe, I am hoping that some very sophisticated and appropriate thing comes to mind so I can write a Dorothy Parker-like reply. Chances are I will simply pretend it never got to me and hope he doesn’t mention it in our next get together. With so much sharing you can claim you didn’t see any particular piece of shared information. To us fabulous women this seems like a blatant lack of consequences; to others it is just how it is.

Maybe the millennials are on to something. Just keep writing about yourself, sharing photos, short ideas or concepts that appeal to you. But, and this is key—do not expect any serious reply or long rejoinder (a word of the past). I always believe that the world is getting better and dislike talk of how the old days or older people were superior. But sometimes, I truly miss people’s consideration of others and how it made for closer, more in-depth and detailed conversation. I felt more so engaged and less like a voter on what’s good, bad, or who cares. Repeat 100 times: It is all good. Let it go.

**Referenced SpiritLibrary article

“Happy” Memorial Day?

Yesterday was Memorial Day.

I confess. I wasn’t thinking about Memorial Day as anything other than a holiday. I was busy with a house remodeling problem. I had a deadline for a company project. I was thinking about what to wear to a Memorial Day party.
 
And then Ray reminded me. As a Vietnam veteran, he never forgets what Memorial Day means. It doesn’t mean parties, rug sales, outdoor barbeques, baseball games or the opening of swimming pools. It isn’t even a holiday to thank veterans for their service (that’s Veteran’s Day). In fact, it’s not a “happy” day at all. It’s a day to honor those who died in our country’s many wars. It is a day of memorial and remembrance.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Washington, DC

Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Washington, DC

I know that I’m not the only one who wasn’t thinking about it that way. In fact, I think it might be the most misunderstood “holiday” of all.
 
I looked it up. I learned that the first official Memorial Day observance was May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. I learned that until 1971, Memorial Day was observed on May 30. Then, the National Holiday Act of 1971 was passed and Memorial Day began to be celebrated on the last Monday of May.
 
I learned that the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) believes that the change of date that created a three day weekend has “undermined the very meaning of the day” and has contributed to the “public’s nonchalant observance” of Memorial Day.
 
I realized as I thought about my own nonchalance that I have been very, very lucky. I have never been directly touched by death from a war. My father and uncles were in the service at the end of WW2 … no action for any of them. Even though my college years of 1968 to 1972 were key Vietnam era years, no friend, boyfriend or classmate was killed in action. In fact, few of them even went to war. My brother and cousins were too young. And, I didn’t have sons who could be sent to Desert Storm or subsequent wars in Afghanistan or Iraq.
 
I’m glad that Ray reminded me about the day’s meaning. It’s unlikely that families of men and women who have been killed in war – or veterans who came back when others didn’t — wish anyone a “Happy Memorial Day” or spend it shopping for bargains.

Cathy Green

May 28, 2013

%d bloggers like this: