Dearest Pop

The “Saturday Night Fights” on radio,
Boiled shrimp, peanuts and cold beer.
Baseball in the summer, football in snow.
Long quiet talks that brought us near

The dreams and tears of early years,
The enchantment of growing up.
But as the day of departure nears
In some ways we wish it wouldn’t show-up.

I remember when you left that day
So very long ago.
There was so much I had to say
But the words I didn’t know.

You looked so very sharp and clean
From head right down to toe.
Smartly dressed in woolen green,
“Why did you have to go?”

They said there was a war somewhere,
A fight for liberty.
But of that war I didn’t care,
It was across the sea. 

I remember when you left that day
So very long ago.
There was so much I had to say
But the words I didn’t know.
 

I wondered why you went there,
To that cauldron of misery.
In a land that didn’t care
For either you or me.
I thought and pondered
This great hyperbole.

I remember when you left that day  
So very long ago.
There was so much I had to say
But words I didn’t know
.

At Christmas I mailed a canned meat,
New socks and underwear.  
A mystery book I thought was neat,
Some candy and cookies to share.

A basket at Easter,
Food stacked tier by tier.
And beneath for the feaster
Some strong liquid cheer.

As the day of “Homecoming”
Drew reluctantly near,
I began grandly planning
Your first day back here.

I remember when you left that day
So very long ago.
There was so much I had to say
But the words I didn’t know.
 

Counting down I reached day ten,
A warm and calming spring day.
All of my counting ended then,
For a ‘Cable’ sent springtime away.

“Special Delivery…” The Marine Officer said.
“We regret to inform….” The cold printing read.

With a vengeance that grief couldn’t suppress,
I roamed and wandered–never ahead.
Dwelling on undeservedness, 
Questioning “Why He didn’t take me instead?”

I remember when you left that day
So very long ago.
There was so much I had to say
Now all words lost their glow.

News of Khe Sanh I frequently read,
Reports all criss-cross indexed.
“Valiant proof of legacy’s worth,”
Many said.
“Interference,” cried others, “in
lands long hexed.”

I remember when you left that day
So very long ago.
There was so much I had to say
But the words I didn’t know.

Then I received your letter, it started

Dearest Pop,
I’m fighting for what’s better,
This enemy to stop. 
So small children can grow stronger
Laugh and drink a ginger-pop,
Without fear that some warmonger
Might burn the farmers’ crop.
That’s why I must stay longer
In this ‘Human Butcher Shop.’

With pride I told the neighbors
Of your comradery.
I bragged about your labors
To keep a country free.

Then as the scoffers chided,
I tried to keep my wit.
From deep down I’d decided
They didn’t have the grit.

Cynicism and deep anger remained
As the era came and went.
Then the ‘letter,’ all crumbled and
Stained, was delivered, repeatedly
Stamped, “Mis-Sent.”

Postmarked the same as that day of
dread, with your name on the return
Letter head.
A light-headed eeriness through me
spread.
As I cautiously opened, then eagerly
read.

Dearest Pop,
How are you doing Pop?
Great as always, I’m sure.
We’ve been going non-stop,
To keep this Hill secure.
I’ve got to keep this short 
Dawn’s less than an hour away. 
That’s when ‘Charlie’ has his sport
Almost every single day.
Before things get too busy,
Here’s something I think you’ll like
It’s a Fable a Monk here told me,
One tough day before a strike.

“After it has already passed, what
ever happens to time?” The Sage
Aeon was once asked.
“Nothing!” came his timely reply,
“For we can never forfeit what we
have truly had, no matter how hard
we try.  As we can never forget
what has never been. Upon this you
can always rely.”
Sorry Pop, I have to go. Charlie’s
starting his morning show.

I remember when you left that day
So very long ago.
There was so much I had to say
–I’ll tell you when I get there–
Those words I finally know!

 

 

 
Richard Fleming

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