Saturday, September 5, 2009
I always enjoyed the television show, The Wonder year. It was a pretty accurate portrayal of my preadolescence. I never knew a twelve year old boy as sweet and sensitive as Fred Savage, but they got every thing else right. The music was great, the clothes were hideous and the nightly news was sad and violent. I was watching TV with my family the night they broke in to say Martin Luther King had been assassinated. And when Bobby Kennedy was killed, we watched his funeral train roll across our TV screen over and over. I had two big brothers in Vietnam, so most nights the war footage was just too hard to watch.
One late July day, my best friend, Ivy and I were making plans for a sleep over at my house. We had been at the pool all day and my sister came to pick us up instead of my mom. When we got in the car I asked if every thing was OK and she said no, and we should cancel our plans. She didn't want to tell us why, but we persisted. She said Billy, one of the neighborhood boys, had been killed in Vietnam and Mom was taking it very hard. I was devastated. I had never known a young person to die, and Billy was like a brother, with the exception of always being nice to me.
I remembered stopping to talk to him on my way to school. He would be working on an old car or an old go cart, and I thought he was lucky he didn't have to go to school anymore. I didn't know he was just waiting to be shipped out.
The summer was nearly over before the army got him home for his funeral. It was Labor Day and school was about to start. I had a fight with my mom that day over some socks I didn't want to wear. I think she thought I just needed to cry, But I really didn't want to wear those socks.
At the funeral, my throat hurt so bad from trying not to cry, but I didn't think anyone would understand why this eleven year old was so sad. I missed Billy, and I missed my brothers. It was kind of an end to Innocent times, a realization of how cruel life could be.
It's Labor day again and I'm thinking of Billy. I'd like to say all that patriotic stuff people say, like "Thanks for your sacrifice". But I also would like to say thanks for being so nice to an eleven year old girl. You made her feel special.
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