Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Flag

On my way home from work my commute takes me past a hill upon which the American flag has flown since shortly after 9/11.

The first time I saw the flag there, I felt it spoke to deep and heartfelt commitment to freedom, liberty, courage and justice.  Our nation was reeling in shock, anger and grief over the devastation of 9/11.  Life in the United States would from that day forward, be reframed by those horrific images of terrorism.  Safety within our borders would never again be taken for granted.

This week as I drove by I was again struck by the quiet presence and inspiration of the flag.  The flag had been flying there all day in the hot summer sun.

Who protects it from harsh elements and shields it from harm?  What must be done to enable it to withstand foul weather?  What is it made of that gives it such resilience?  The noble values that our flag stands for must endure hardship too.  Humanity can produce abject failure in its efforts to survive.  Gross missteps sometimes linger on for generations.  Fear and ignorance often produce disturbing and painful history.

There are rules that govern the proper display of the flag.  There is such a thing as “Flag Etiquette.”  Displaying what the flag represents is also a kind of etiquette that can become a part of who we are as a country.

Honor.  Respect.  Duty to community and service to country.  Justice.  Liberty,  Peace and compassion.  And, dare I add, Love.  The symbols we hold dear are best displayed in the actions that we exhibit towards those around us. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Dad

My dad was born in Kentucky and was 25 years old in 1945 when he was hired on at the then called, David Taylor Model Basin.  He took me there once before kid-to-work-day was fashionable, and showed me the huge tank used to test model ships for the Navy.  I thought it was spectacular.

Dad taught me to look broadly at the world and he made it a point to spend time with me on a regular basis.  On frequent trips to the museums in Washington, D.C. he would say to me as we entered, “Go wherever you want,” and he would follow me around, letting my curiosity guide us. 

He took me fishing.  Once.  That story ended with me giving away our bountiful catch to the people fishing next to us.  

I owe my love of photography to my dad.  He bought everything needed to develop pictures at home and I monopolized our only bathroom developing my black and white photos.

I watched as he struggled to care for my mom as she suffered the agonies of mental illness.  Such a confusing, conflicted time when it must have been tempting to cut and run.  But he didn’t.  He was a reliable presence in my life.  After I left home and his children no longer required anything from him he stayed with mom, as difficult as she was to live with.  He sheltered and supported her until she died in the home they shared.

Of course he wasn’t perfect.  Mistakes were made and apologies for them came as his own death confronted him.  But I will always be deeply grateful for the balance, stability and assurance that adulthood would be attainable when I was ready to get off the teeter-toter of childhood.