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Along about 1970, when I was in junior high,
A new friend invited me to hang out at his house.
Another invitation followed, to go downtown
for the Memorial Day Parade.
Who doesn’t love a parade?
In the car I noticed his parents looked older than my parents.
The mom wore a scarf over her dull gray hair
and the dad a dirty windbreaker over a sweatshirt.
After watching various beer-bellied codgers
from the American Legion and the VFW walk by,
there was a band playing, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.”
I started to sing along in an obnoxious voice.
The kid elbowed me.
I looked and saw his mother crying.
His dad was searching the sky, looking for something or someone from the past.
I shut up.
When we got back to his house he showed me a picture
in a back hallway of a soldier that sort of looked like him.
An older version of himself.
I had thought he was an only child.
He said he would show me his brother’s Purple Heart and other medals,
If I came back when his parents weren’t home.
I never went to his house again,
Not possessing the emotional equipment necessary to enter into that kind of pain.
Powerful story, Jeff. Thank you.