THREE PAIR OF GLOVES
The words “Thank you for your service” seem to be the best we have to thank our service men and women. It’s what I say when I see one in uniform and I reach out to speak to this stranger. It’s meaningful, and it is always appreciated.
It’s also what I say to the veterans I know when I want to express my gratitude for what they have done for me, for you and for our country.
If I dug a little deeper, put a little more heart in it, I might find something like this:
“There are no words strong enough to express my gratitude for the sacrifices you have made. I want you to know how much I appreciate your service.”
I have one veteran in my family. My father-in-law Marvin served in the Korean War. I called him yesterday to offer my gratitude on Veteran’s Day.
I sent an unspoken thank you to all the others.
Just like Thanksgiving Day, we should make Veteran’s Day every day. We should go out of our way to thank them. Be it for their service, or any other gifts from any other giver, we can never express gratitude too much.
The words “I am sorry for your loss” seem to be the best we have to express sympathy. I say it to some people, but now that I have been on the receiving end, I try to dig a little deeper.
In the 150-plus cards I received after my parents died, there were three friends who sent cards—not even close friends—who wrote these words of gold I will never forget, and words of gold I now use: “My heart breaks for you.”
I cannot find words that go any deeper in my heart.
If it is a parent of a friend or loved one, I also offer this:
“We are never old enough to lose our Mom/Dad,” because we aren’t.
Our dad escaped the draft because of his flat feet. Now, several of his seven children—including myself—have flat feet. I don’t complain; I may not be here without them. He was never outfitted in a military uniform, but he did wear another uniform for very special occasions. The gloves were part of the uniform, and if not for a third pair of gloves, I may not be here either.
I wrote the following piece earlier this year.
I will never forget the gloves. I gave them to Mom as she sat under the green tent at her mother’s funeral. It was a cold, but bearable early March day in Wichita, Kansas. I was standing behind her, and I noticed she had her hands clasped tight in her lap. I wanted her to have them; she was burying her mother and I wanted to comfort her in whatever small way I could. So I gave her my gloves. Her hands were in mine, so to speak.
I wore those gloves five days later as I stood under another green tent—it’s always green–to bury my father and my own mother, the woman who, just five days earlier had these same gloves wrapped around her living hands as she buried her mother. I held the hand of one brother and one sister; we held on to each other literally and figuratively in order to get through.
I retired the black leather gloves soon thereafter. I panicked for a moment when I thought I had lost one of them, but it showed up. I tucked them away in my bottom dresser drawer alongside other keepsakes.
My father was a Fourth-Degree Knight in the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization. They were knighted and outfitted in a regal, caped tuxedo with a plumed hat fit for a prince, a red-white-and-blue band that stretched from shoulder to the other side of the waist and a sword in a sheath on the opposite side of the waist. The final touch was a pair of thin, bright-white gloves.
The Fourth-Degree Knights would stand in full regalia in a majestic honor guard fit for a king when one of their own died. Knights from nearby towns would come if they were available. It was a solemn duty; one to be fulfilled if at all possible.
I remember my dad donning his tuxedo and all the extras. As a child, it seemed mysterious when he would leave the house for a funeral fully garbed, but as I grew up, I saw the majesty.
I didn’t realize it until his own funeral, but apparently, he was the one who would cajole and beg other Knights to find a way to travel far and near to stand guard for one of their own. One of the other Knights told me this, and took it upon himself to assume his powers of persuasion, and assemble a sizeable group for my dad’s funeral, since he did it for everyone else.
And it was sizeable. He had a salute fitting for the earthly, humble king he was. The Knight and his dame of 50 years got a special salute—women don’t normally get the honor guard treatment.
Along with other precious possessions, we were left with his tuxedo and accoutrements. We turned in the tux, the sword and the hat in order for some other Knight to use it. My brother was going to take the gloves and band and turn them in as well, but I stopped him.
Do we have to give those away, or can I keep them?” I asked.
“No, they are his, we can do whatever we want with them,” he said.
So I kept them. They are sitting in the bottom drawer, next to my black leather gloves that Mom wore. They are sealed in a thin plastic bag, apparently they had just been professionally cleaned. I kept the band too. It bears the insignia of the Knights of Columbus.
I plan to let them rest there.
I started writing this after I found a little ditty I had already written about my gloves some time ago. I felt like writing more, so I sat down and let it flow. Not knowing what was coming, or what I would eventually do with it, I just kept writing. It felt good. The part about Dad’s gloves came to mind, and it seemed fitting to add that to the story.
I sent the first part to my older sister, ending just after describing Dad’s gloves. She is my sounding board, my cheerleader, my positive and constructive critic. What she replied back with took my breath away for a moment.
I had forgotten the story about Mom’s gloves.
My parents met on a blind date. They lived three hours apart; Mom in the city and Dad on the farm. They wrote letters to fill the hungry gaps of time when they didn’t get to see each other as often as they wanted to.
This was 1955, and long-distance telephone charges applied. So letters it was.
Mom saved hers, and Dad saved his. When they married, they combined them in a box. When they died, we got the box. I couldn’t bear to read any of them early on, and my sister took the box.
“Don’t you remember the story about the gloves?” she asked when she replied with immediate feedback. “In one of the letters, after one of their first dates, Mom said she left her gloves in Dad’s car on purpose so he would have to get in touch with her again.”
Without those gloves, I may not be here.
I knew I needed to honor my gloves that Mom wore. I knew after I almost lost one of them that I needed to keep my black leather gloves in a safe and special place, and then place Dad’s white gloves next to them.
I wish I had Mom’s pair of gloves from their date.
I wish I could offer my gloves to my mom again.
I wish I could see my dad in his Fourth-Degree Knight regalia again, gloves and all.
I wish I could hold both their hands right now.
I wish the damn cemetery tent could be orange or maybe even yellow sometimes. Perhaps a little twist with a paisley print or maybe some tie-dye would brighten things up a little.
First, Dad wasn’t drafted. That kept him here to meet Mom. Next, the gloves. Finally, to complete the trifecta that fate perhaps orchestrated, I must tell another story, just like the one about the gloves, one I recently learned from Gail.
Mom and Dad met on a blind date. This I knew. What I didn’t know was that Dad was not the first choice in this fateful match.
We’ll call him Fred. Fred was the man my uncle had lined up to meet my mom, but Fred apparently had too much fun the night before. By the time the scheduled date came around, Fred was in no shape to meet my mom. My uncle rounded Dad up as a fill-in at the last moment, and the rest, well, you know.
I am so thankful for the series of events that allowed me and my siblings to be born.
I am so thankful for the service of all veterans that continues to allow me to live freely in the United States of America.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.
I wish you the peace I feel now over nine years later, knowing their hands are guiding me along my path every day, in every way. Hands that no longer need gloves.
I wish our veterans peace every day, peace of mind to continue to live their lives to the fullest, despite the sometimes unimaginable pain and suffering they have seen as part of their service.
MY HEART BREAKS FOR YOU.
Gail’s beloved mother-in-law Mildred passed away peacefully on Tuesday with her family at her side. She was an incredible woman whose smile will never be forgotten. She became the Thanksgiving Matriarch for my family at Gail’s when Mom was gone.
Mildred is pictured below with Gail’s daughter Lydia on her birthday 3 years ago.
She will be missed, because we are never old enough to lose our mothers.
My heart breaks for her family.
Recall that my plan was to dress as Rosie the Riveter at Halloween. Because this blog is dedicated to optimism, Rosie will be my final image and thought:
WE CAN DO IT!