The Rubbermaid tote makes my small home office all the more cramped.
It’s heavy, too, a sturdy block of plastic weighed down by contents that could be a door stop for iron gates.
I’ve scanned through them a few times: worn letters, photographs, a few sketches, a lunch menu, sheets of 6-cent stamps, newspapers.
It’s basically a diary that lacks cohesion, a just-opened 1,000-piece puzzle. It’s my grandpa’s. He fought in the African and Mediterranean theaters during World War II, tasked with cataloging and burying the dead, and writing to their families.
I’d all but forgotten it was there until I heard a familiar bit of information on the radio this morning: World War II veterans are dying, and a lot of them still aren’t talking about what they experienced.
My grandpa, who has been dead for seven years, was just like that. I only knew the basics of what he did because of my mom. His unit was called the Graves Registration Service or Mortuary Affairs. He fought at Anzio, got seasoned with shrapnel during a firefight. That’s all I had to go on.
Then he died. His letters, newspaper clippings, and other WWII-era artifacts got passed on to me. I even have his Bronze Star. It’s magnificent to hold and know the distinction it carries.
But beyond this writing and a few scattered others like it, I’ve done nothing to keep his fading memory alive.
And in thinking about today, what it means in terms of real bravery, real sacrifice, it’s terrible that’s the case. I can’t offer an excuse, not even just outright laziness. Why I haven’t opened the box of my grandfather’s weathered belongings is as unplumbed as it is.
Considering the bravery these people had, memorabilia like that deserves at least an attempt at assembly and being shared.