Wednesday, September 5, 2012

History Comes for a Visit

This summer has been filled with several visitors from the East.  My daughter Lisa flew here in June for a week, and we had a great time shopping and showing her the sights here in South Texas.  We drove out to Marble Falls and toured Longhorn Caverns, an unbelievable mini-Carlsbad right in our back yard.  If you’re ever driving around the country looking for pop culture like the Largest Ball of String or the Barn Made of Corn Cobs, or a Store Shaped Like a Duck I highly recommend Longhorn Caverns.  We also have one here in the Austin area called Inner Space Cavern, right smack dab underneath Interstate 35, but I have to say I prefer Longhorn. 

Lisa spelunking.
Daughter Melanie came in July to celebrate her 10th birthday and we spent a week at Disneyworld (no, it wasn’t 1000 degrees, 1000% humidity and there weren’t billions of people there, not my definition of hell on earth).  We had a fantastic time in spite of the less than ideal conditions, including dinner with Cinderella and a night at the Cirque du Soleil show “La Nouba”.  Melanie was thrilled.  Being the youngest in a large family, it was a treat for her to be the main attraction.   

Melanie schmoozing with da princess.

In early August my two sons Quentin (junior in college) and Christian (sophomore in high school) hit the road and DROVE here from North Carolina.  I had imagined for them a “bros hit the roads” trip of bonding and extraordinary experiences.  After a stop in Mississippi with their grandmother (and a midnight trip to the ER after Grandma sliced her hand open in the spinning blades of an antique fan) they rolled into our driveway, road-worn and weary.  With their older brother Colin (who lives in Austin) they had a day at the Schlitterbahn water park in New Braunfels, a trip which can only be summed up with the immortal words “It's all fun and games until you find a colostomy bag in the Lazy River!”  The End.

Christian is a Man After My Own Heart, in that he, like me, is a World War II fanatic.  When he was about 9 years old we visited the D-Day Museum in New Orleans.  He walked up to the docent who was decked out in authentic WWII uniform.  Little Christian looked up at him and pointed at his rifle, saying “That’s a M1 Garand, isn’t it?” The guy’s eyes flew open and after a pause he said, “Why YES!  It is!”  I would like to say he learned this all from reading history books, but it most likely came from video games.  Who says they aren’t educational?  Now he’s pondering some sort of military career.  Can you say proud mom?

Christian and the Very Large Weapon

Christian brought his copy of “The Pacific”, a companion series to HBO’s “Band of Brothers.”  We watched the entire thing while he was here.  I had no idea that the series was based on real books written by the real people who fought in the real Pacific.  Even with what I thought was pretty comprehensive knowledge about the war, I had never heard of Peleliu, Pavuvu or Cape Gloucester.  Apparently I still have a whole lot to learn.  We took a drive out to Fredericksburg and spent the day at the National Museum of the Pacific War, or the Admiral Nimitz Museum.  I could have spent a week there, it is so impressive.  And again, right in our back yard.  As I often do after learning something new, I had to snatch up all the reading material I could find about the subject.  I just finished “With The Old Breed” by Eugene Sledge and am now ensconced in “Helmet for my Pillow” by Robert Leckie.  I will never be as enthralled with a book of fiction as I am with these books.  Real life is much more interesting and impressive.  The horrors these men went through and lived with for the rest of their lives are unimaginable.  The numbers of surviving WWII vets is getting smaller and smaller these days, and the opportunities to thank these heroes are becoming more and more rare.  Don’t miss the chance to shake a hand, although most of them are as humble as humble can be.

I asked my mom why, when we lived in the Philippines, we never visited Corregidor or Bataan. I think she was miserable in Manila; the heat and the pollution did her in, and she was just biding her time until we could leave, four years later.  No energy for sightseeing.  We did live a stone’s throw from the American military cemetery at Fort Bonifacio.  We used to drive through it on the way to the airport, and I do remember being somberly impressed by the neat rows of white crosses, but their real meaning escaped the teenaged me.  I’m just glad it’s not to late for me to learn as much as I can about this important part of history; I’ll never be done.  

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness.  When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement; and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual.  Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  --George Santayana

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