To the editor:
Valentine’s Day is proof that love breaks the cycle of life and death because love is as strong as death. Love cannot ease every anguish in the world. But tenderly applied, it can transform fortunes, light up faces, turn the tide. History doesn’t only just exist on the pages of books rarely read. It can be with you everyday, it can torture or it can teach.
There is something about old friends that fills the corner of my life unable to be touched by any other kind of relationship. They stay with me whether I know it or not, tucked away in the back of my mind like a note my mother once put in my lunch box. And perhaps as with that note, I keep reading the writing long after I have memorized what it says.
Because the truth is, I carry them with me wherever I go. They ride piggyback on my consciousness. Their names pepper stories I tell. If it weren’t for one friend, I’d know nothing about learning to ride and fight from horseback during World War II. If it weren’t for another, I wouldn’t know what it was like to be not of General Patton’s lieutenants at the Battle of the Bulge. Others would tell me of unbearable cold but unmatched courage in Korea. And the disillusionment of Vietnam which still makes for a tortured relationship between this generation and history. I hope you find a way to make friends with the world again. You deserved so much more.
I cannot shake them, and perhaps that is why I adore them. For they are with us for the long run, whether their presence is acknowledged or not. They will outlast failed marriages and fast infatuations. Friendships of convenience and friendships where we never really figured out what went wrong. They will find their way to us when we do need them and often when we don’t. They will offer advice and commentary from the backs of our minds with the gusto of someone who has made himself at home.
Our veterans are family of a different sort; distant enough that we have taken them by choice, but devoted enough that we need not fear their desertion. And as with family, sometimes, we see them most clearly when we need them the most. These are the friends who recur in my photographs and in my dreams. Who I reach for infrequently but who touch me all the time.
You reach an age where life stops giving you things and starts taking them away. They fill my brain and I don’t want to be without them.
To all the veterans here and now gone in a quiet Valentine’s Day prayer. And thank you! S.W.A.K. (sealed with a kiss). Semper Fi.
16 Rosita Ave.