Dale Says

March 12, 2012

Good People

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dale @ 11:26 am

My father loved the VFW! He was proud of his overseas service during World War II, and to him the Veterans of Foreign Wars stood for country, the flag, and a belief that the U.S. is great. He was a long-time, steadfast member of the VFW, and over the previous 60 years he had attended most meetings of his local Post, and he held every office at least once. VFW meetings were also an important social outlet for him, offering him a rare night away from us kids. He knew everyone in his Post, and there were several members he counted as close, personal friends.

I was fortunate to take Dad to his last VFW meeting. He had skipped a few as his health declined, and his macular degeneration and Parkinson’s had reduced his vision and his confidence. But he thought maybe he would like to go to one more meeting, and I arranged a trip home around it.

Dad was a planner, and he always liked to know in advance what was expected of him so he could think it through, so the night before the meeting we rehearsed when he would get up, what he would wear, and what time we would set off. The morning of the meeting the weather forecast indicated it could rain, and it started to drizzle as we got ready to leave. I pulled the car next to the house so Dad wouldn’t have to walk to the street, and we got him into the car, buckled up, and off we went.

On the drive to the meeting he lost his confidence, and said maybe he shouldn’t go after all. He was worried, he said, that with his macular degeneration he wouldn’t be able to tell who the other attendees were. I suggested he should sit down and stay in one place, and let the others come to him. It was fun to watch him mull that over, and as the idea sank in he visibly relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the ride.

In those years, Dad’s VFW group, which consisted of a couple dozen middle-aged men, met in a dining room in the back of the town bar. The Brandin’ Iron, as it was then known, was a typical small town country bar with stools, 25 cent beers, and killer curly cue fries. It also had a back area that served as a meeting room, and which smelled vaguely of beer and cigarettes.

I parked in front, got Dad through the bar and into the dining room, and settled him in a chair. A few early arrivals greeted him on their way in, and he started to relax and enjoy himself.

As I recall, the agenda consisted of the Pledge of Allegiance, a brief business meeting, and a luncheon. During the lunch, Dad and I ate our roast beef and drank our pop and visited with the other men at our table. Dad answered questions about his health, and he and I tried to participate in discussions about the weather, the price of crops, and the local football team.

After lunch there was a discussion of some business items, followed by a couple of speeches, and the meeting broke up. At that point, the men sort of lined up, as I remember it, and took turns saying hello to Dad. When their turn came, each man told Dad who they were, how glad they were to see him, shook his hand, and wished him well. They all meant it.

When the line died down Dad and I said our good-byes and made our way to the car. He was quiet on the drive home, but I could tell he was pleased. When we pulled into the driveway and stopped he simply said, “Those are good people.” He was choked up.

Dad didn’t get to another VFW meeting, although members of the local Post visited him in his home, and later in the nursing home. Their friendship and kindness meant a lot to him and to his family.

I think back to that day often, and each time I do I get a warm feeling inside. It was a special day for Dad, and a memorable day for me. And I agree with Dad – those are good people.

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