Monday, May 26, 2008

We remember.......

1964.... Madame x lived in the oldest dorm on campus.... A solid ivy covered brick fortress filled with three floors of young women. There for a brief few years of her life, Madame x met and bonded with 23 women known as the "3rd floor sisterhood". This is where she met Sandy, an upper class mate, so full of energy and fun and Mischief she often made Madame x tired.... Sandy had an equally fun boyfriend named Charlie. Sandy and Charlie were the 'perfect couple'..... beautiful and privledged and open and generous and 'unprotected'. Soon Charlie's grades failed as well as his condoms. Madame x was not able to attend Charlie and Sandy's wedding but heard it was a raucous affair (indeed) lasting almost four days. Charlie was drafted four months before the now infamous tet offensive and landed in Vietnam at just about the worst time in the history of the war. Charlie was killed three weeks after his baby boy was born.

Madame x did not hear of Charlie's death for another six months....the news came in a note from Sandy's mother (responding to Madame x's own wedding invitation).
Madame x was struck by a story she heard years later during a little mini renunion of 'the 3rd floor sisterhood'.
"During Charlie's funeral service when the flag was removed from the casket by the military color guard, it was folded and given to Sandy, holding her infant son.... She held tight to the flag for a few moments clutching it to her breast. Then turned and gave the flag to Charlie's mother."
How could a young mother, so torn in her own grief, know how much that gesture would mean to her husband's mother. An amazing act of generosity and empathy. It is an exhausting story to tell because of the stark cognitive emotion for Mx. Ten years ago, on a business/pleasure trip to New York it was decided(on the spur of the moment) to take a side trip to Washington D.C. to the Vietnam Memorial..... to look up Charlie. He was there....in what seemed like the very middle of names etched in miles of wall. It was a gut wrenching experience.

Here is the disturbing part.... Right now, today, this minute, Madame x cannot recall Charlie's last name.


This is how we begin to forget......if we don't memorialize.

3 comments:

Chellie said...

How amazing that you located his name on that wall.

You made me reminisce my college dorm life which was the 6th floor hall of emotions...one dance major left with bulemia, another dropped out, another got pregnant and went back to MO... our hall was crazy. But, of course, nothing like what you just shared during your times of the vietnam war.

Grandma J said...

But madame x did remember Charlie. Here you are some forty years later memorializing Charlie's honor and service to his country.
You never forgot.

foolery said...

Surnames are not as important as the sacrifice, and THAT you remember perfectly. And thanks to your eloquence, now we remember it, too. Thank you for sharing this painful memory.