Dear San Diego,
You would've thought the old man used them instead of plywood to frame the old house.
Built in '67. Sank pitch covered pilings to support the foundation. Sponged side yard, a partial bog, made diving for footballs less risky.
Shelves around everything. Built around the television, doorways, windows, the furniture. It was more a library than a house. Probably why I ended up studying literature.
Books meet life more often than you think. People, the past, the future. Collisions of coincidence captured in aged passages and replayed.
Different characters, same ending.
Remembrances. The way the sun shone through the windows in the morning and bounced off all the spines. A kaleidoscope of colours on the ceiling. The old man insisting I read all of Churchill's Second World War series. Snuck in Nabokov's Speak, Memory along the way. In the middle of the night take it down and remove the jacket and then put the jacket back so it looked like it was still there.
Unsanctioned book removal - high crime.
Cornelius Ryan. That orange cover. The silhouetted transports and parachutes. Images burned into adolescent memory.
It means traitor in Dutch.
Mr. Potatoes did a little jail time after the war.
Germans were supposedly gonna line up the Potato clan and shoot them, so they kept the potatoes coming.
What're you gonna do? Join the resistance? Blow up railroad tracks? Help hide and move British special operation lads?
Wait it out, Mr. Potatoes. Eventually farm boys from places with names like Wilkie, Saskatchewan, would roll heavy on the Scheldt estuary. Free up Antwerp, finally capture a deep water port.
Great uncle Lou, Great uncle Jim. Both drank themselves to death. First Canadian Corps, the insignias on their uniforms and vehicles removed to disguise them, the army's shock force, the Gothic Line did them in.
Never talked about it. Pops was airforce, never talked about it. No one talked about it. Just a plaque in the basement leaning against a wall from the Queen. Twelve siblings, five served, including my great aunt.
There was a video years ago. American teenagers on vacation traipsing around Juno Beach, drinking, pissing on a plaque, laughing.
I think about dad's library and the lost lives counted up in all those pages. Endless, like logs stacked in a thousand mill yards.
I think back and realize that if they taught me anything - you can't be for and against the same thing.
Like Alexander Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederacy who, after serving a token hotel visit at Fort Warren in Boston, was elected to the US Senate a year after the Civil War's end. He wasn't allowed to serve given restrictions on former Confederates, but the fact remains that he would have returned to the very establishment he abandoned to defend the rights of slave holders. Stephens would ultimately return to Congress in 1873.
Mr. Potatoes, the lot.