My grandfather passed away nearly seven years ago, well past the doctors pre determined due date for his departure into the next life.  Apparently being stubborn and Irish does have it’s ups!  Frankly, if he hadn’t felt like dying I don’t know if he ever would have.  Papa taught me to never settle for anything, even for the “damn Grim Reaper.”  If you “truly” want something, all you have to do is “truly” choose.  We can do anything, and thinking otherwise is just another form of settling.  So decide and fight for what you love, don’t wait, cause everyone is going to try and tell you what you love along the way!  That’s why so many end up unhappy, they follow the “what if’s” instead of following their hearts…and the older you get the harder it is to tell which is which.   To Papa, everything you truly need is already in your soul.  Anything beyond who and what you choose to love, is part of the glamour.  It’s funny the things we carry with us, the pieces and memories that become a part of who we are, the weights in life that press and morph us into who we become.  Today I share my grandfather’s memory through story.

Dear Edward McClusky,

Your dog tags. They are small, smooth and oval, constantly hanging near my chest, close to my heart. The engravings read “Edward McClusky, Type A, 606384,” yet they say so much more. I find myself pretending sometimes that I am you, I’m back in the Korean War, I’m older yet I’m still afraid. You use to tell me there was nothing wrong with being afraid, in fact sometimes it was the best course of action. A man that could admit his fear, showed no weakness. It was the ones that were scared to blush, that ended up forgetting how to, and once you forgot how to…you were already lost to the war. You knew that that was the real point, the real reason why they tried everything to make you tough, make you afraid of your own tears. Because once you forgot, there was no coming home, even if you returned with your life. Weighing a little less then an ounce, your dog tags hang close to my heart. But the lettering on the front of them weigh something greater then I can put to scale. “Edward McClusky, Type A, 606384,” you were there in that jungle. I can remember sitting out in the backyard, discussing back and fourth, sometimes just to consider each others presence. You would smile and cock the rifle in your lap, actually a bee bee gun, but a rifle in our hearts none the less. Then you would fall silent, and your eyes would target something that was only a ghost to me. BANG! A squirrel would scamper off, and you would chuckle under your breath something about your peach tree. As the day wore on your shoes would slowly come off and you would sift the grass through your toes, pondering yet another ghost that I could not see. “Rainer,” you’d say, “die young.” The engravings etched into the metal, seem to slowly etch their way into me. “Edward McClusky, Type A, 606384.” I wake up in a cold sweat, my mind dwindling in some far off realm belonging to some far away time. The jungle heat pressing in around me, chocking the life out of me, I want to cry…but I’m afraid to blush. My feet grow sore from all the theoretical walking and I find myself chewing on a piece of grass underneath a stout tree, clasping your dog tags tight…my dog tags. When I close my eyes it’s like a pulse, not a pulse that descends through my veins, but a pulse of something I may never understand. A man’s body spattered with jungle red, quiet on the ground. No movement, no thought, just heat…unbearable heat. The weight at my side beckons to me, and I turn to face the gun, like black malice, in my hand. It takes only a moment to drop the weapon, yet silence seeps in somewhere in between, and I realize that the weight wasn’t the gun…but my own hand. “Edward McClusky, Type A, 606384,” I see you in the hospital, jungle green overcome by medical white. Even though your eyes seem far too blue to be human and your voice far too distant to be here, I see you, my grandfather. Faces sweep in and out of the room, some of which I know and some of which I had never seen, bringing frailty, like a dark veil into our serene encampment. Yet somehow the frailty doesn’t seem to touch you, as if the only thing really frail about the situation was ghost like faces sweeping in and out. Your skin seems far to thin to hold your memories inside and your veins far too small to only be carrying as much as you have. Still I sit by your side, holding your hand, wondering just how much it weighs, not to me, but to you. The man spattered with jungle red, quite on the ground. Then you shift inside your sheets and rest your head back onto the pillow, so much to say with no reason to say it, for somehow you’ve managed to say it all. “Die young.” So I am writing this to you, saying all the things that never needed to be said. Letting you know that I finally found its okay to blush…even though I couldn’t manage it when you finally left. And that whatever your hand did weigh, is of no matter to me or to you any longer. Only jungle green, not red, not medical white, only jungle green, pristine, perfect, backyard green. “Edward McClusky, Type A, 606384.”

Written by Rain Jundt