Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Spirit of the Day

The tiny town where I grew up is one of those places that should only exist in a movie. 

It still has the limestone courthouse and corniced buildings that have served the needs of area farmers and small businessmen since the 1800s, it has a Chautauqua Park at the edge of the river, and many of its streets are the original bricks. 

And every Memorial Day, it has a parade. 

This parade could not be cornier if it was drenched in melted butter. There are  Boy Scouts carrying the flag and the old veterans in their special seating area on town's main intersection struggle to their feet to salute that flag. 

There are flatbed trailers bearing reunion classes, and young-looking grandmothers holding babies and waving to relatives. 

There are enormous, gigantic vehicles that cause me to ponder whether I am using the term "compensating" correctly.

And there is the band, which practices a half hour each year and still sounds amazing on its Sousa marches and patriotic medley. The band exists only because my father, at age 89, organizes the music then badgers and cajoles his friends and loved ones to participate. Each year he beams with pride as he gives the downbeat to "Washington Post March" and the national anthem.

This year, though, Dad had cochlear implant surgery a few days before the parade. He tolerated the anesthesia well, but the device hasn't been activated yet so at this point his poor hearing is even worse. Reluctantly he turned the directing duties over to Much Older Sister. He sat with us who don't play band instruments as the parade rolled by, and in a rare moment, looked his age.

The final car had passed by and the band was striking up "Stars and Stripes Forever" for an encore when I heard my sister calling my name.

"Get Dad!" she called, and I took my father's hand, leading him across the street to the front of the group. He looked at me, confused.

"Go ahead," I told him. "You know what to do."

Suddenly he was standing straighter, looking prouder, and he began to mark the beat. He was the very spirit of the parade.

It was a moment that should have existed only in a movie.


  1. Oh I can hear Peter over them all, The best! He will always remember that. So sweet.

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