in memoriam: Joel A. Metts

I hung a flag out on the porch yesterday, as I always do for Memorial Day and the Forth of July. It’s the flag from my grandfather’s casket.

Pop, as I knew him, was a gentle old man with a drinking problem. He returned from the Pacific after World War II, where he had served as a SeaBee (the Construction Brigade’s, or CB’s). A carpenter by trade, he had helped build bridges on islands I can not name in military actions he never told me about.

Pop didn’t talk about the war. But his loss was great, nonetheless. It was not the loss of life or limb, but of joy. Like many men in his time, he returned to a wife he no longer knew and who no longer needed him in the same way. Divorce and drinking drove them both to despair.

After that each had several partners—marriages, as my parents put it euphemistically. And though late in life they both recovered some of their dignity, the war cost them a great deal. It costs us all a great deal.

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