In the small New England town where I grew up, the Memorial Day Parade was something I looked forward to for weeks. All the children in town were invited to ride in the parade, and we always decorated our bikes to the nines with crepe paper and streamers. Red, white, and blue were the colors of choice, of course, for the bikes, our clothing, and anything else that presented itself as possibly holding still long enough to be decorated. One year I rode my brother's pony in the parade. Flags were everywhere. We'd ride from the elementary school to the town hall, pause for a solemn service at the war memorial, and then gather at the firehouse where ice cream and candy were provided for all the children in town. That was my favourite part as a child, but through the years I came to appreciate this day even more for the chance it gives us to pause, and remember.We always called my grandfather "Bestefar", which is Norwegian for "mother's father." His heritage was something of which he was deeply proud. More than anything else, he taught me to love my country, to be proud of being an American, and to honour the service of those who have made our freedom possible. It has been nearly a year since he died, and he is on my mind today. He loved this country, and never let a Memorial Day go by without making a point to remember and honor those who have served and died to keep us free. He had three brothers, and all four of them served in the military. I don't ever remember him talking about his experiences. I know that he served in the Army, his brother Paul was a pilot, and that his brother Mark was killed in action in France. His brother Norman served as a navigator in the Korean War.
Because of Bestefar and Grandma, who also served, Memorial Day has always been more than just a long weekend to my family. Today we went downtown for our local parade, and my children squirmed through the service, understanding little of it, I'm sure. It wasn't so long ago that I fidgeted through these things myself. I hope that, as they grow, I can teach them that freedom never comes without sacrifice, and that each generation must work to preserve it for the next. I hope that each of them, in their own way, will bear that out in their lives. I hope they always remember Bestefar.