I hardly knew my grandfather. He passed away when I was 3, maybe 4 years old.
What I do remember about the immigrant from the former Yugoslavia were his valiant attempts to translate and communicate his thoughts from Croatian to English and his love for my father, the youngest of his six children. George embraced life in the U.S. Despite the debilitating arthritic aches and illness that resulted from decades working in a coal mine, he’d conclude grace at every meal with a spoken prayer that God would continue to bless America.
His favorite story described a young sailor in a Navy uniform walking down the unpaved street toward the modest home he’d built for he and his wife to raise a family in a tiny Illinois mining town. From his chair on the front porch, he squinted at the sailor, searching for signs of recognition, hoping that his prayers were about to be answered.
“Boy, oh, boy, I was so happy,” he’d say, tapping his cane on the floor between his feet. “My Johnny had come home!”
Four years after Pearl Harbor. Three years in the South Pacific. My Dad returned to his father and lived his life.
Memorial Day remembers all the sons reunited with fathers, all the fathers who celebrate their sons’ return.
And those that don’t.
Thank you for your service and sacrifice.