Remembrance: Lessons Learned at the War Memorial

Janice Luckey

, Lifestyle

This remembrance about the wisdom of our elders from Author Janice Luckey, seems particularly appropriate for today — National Grandparents Day (September 13th). Reach out to your grandparents or to older friends/relatives and let them know you love them today and every day. — EH Stafford, Managing Editor

 

Lessons Learned at the War Memorial

The War Memorial recreation center on Maple Street in Mooresville is a sprawling 15 ½ acre site that is composed of a gymnasium, meeting rooms, kitchen, picnic area, pool and the adjoining Liberty Park. The complex was the vision of local civic groups who came together in a bygone era to build a memorial to WWI and WWII veterans, completing the main building in 1949.

 

Fifteen years ago

I first trudged to the recreation center to walk laps in the old gym built in the 1950s. It still had gleaming wood floors and provided a safe place to walk indoors bypassing the sweaty competition of a commercial gym. I came in a season of ill health to begin a gentle walking regimen.

 

The rich history of the center also appealed to me

It felt very personal because my father and stepfather were both WWII veterans. The bronze plaques adorning the inside and outside walls reminded me of all those who fought to preserve our freedoms. It wasn’t exactly a sacred space; it was too utilitarian for that description. It did however embody the American spirit — this place that had faithfully met the needs of its community. I voted there. My grandchildren learned to swim there.

 

Walking with the ladies

For an hour every day of the week I joined a group comprised mostly of ladies in their sturdy Rockports clicking away on their pedometers counting the 22 laps it took to equal a mile around the gym. Though we all ambled along at different speeds, I usually brought up the rear.

 

A new friend

One day a stooped petite woman with a short crop of curly grey hair fell in step beside me. She asked my name, told me her name was Rowena and just that simply we became walking partners. Very quickly I developed an affection for my new friend. She reminded me of my grandmother, a face with craggy lines, well-worn. Over the next several months her mellow voice, slow and wise from years of accepting what came next, would speak truth to my heart.

 

Rowena’s story

One morning Rowena relayed a story she saw on the popular new talk show. She couldn’t believe  that a “grown man” wept on national television because he never told his father he loved him. She paused a beat and then said, “You know, that got me to thinking. I never told my father I loved him either.”

I knew Rowena led a simple life dedicated to visiting her friends in nursing homes and assisting a 92-year-old blind neighbor. She said she had been “trained up right” by her parents who were “hard and ’umble.” She continued in a trembling voice, “I could have told him I loved him that last night when I took him supper, but I just didn’t know. He died the next day before I could finish my shift and get to the hospital.”

 

We need to say the words “I love you”

We stopped walking and sat on the bench in silence. Rowena dragged in a heavy breath as if to power her next thought. “My father never told me he loved me either. Oh, I’m sure he did. He provided the best he could for us, but you know, we need to say the words – we need to tell our families we love them before it is too late.”

 

Pay attention

Rowena’s words stirred up a physical commotion within me. My breathing skittered. The hair on the back of my neck prickled. My broken body whispered, “Pay attention.” I thought of all the unspoken in my life, the silence of fathers that never loved out loud. I tasted the metallic taste of all the words dammed behind my own lips.

Would I reach 78 years of age and wrestle with guilt like Rowena? Could I break the long-held silence?

 

My simple truth

After all these years, I still walk laps at the historical center. Mostly seniors come determined to live an active life despite disabilities. I’m glad a place like the War Memorial exists. It has certainly met my need in sickness and in health much like a dedicated spouse. And sometimes when I walk I hear Rowena’s — and now my — simple truth. Say the words. Say the words now.

 

Change is coming, but we know not when

Sadly, the War Memorial recreation center is due for change. After 70 years it suffers from electrical, mechanical and plumbing problems. Several options for replacement or renovation are being considered. However, until the financial impact of COVID on the Town is determined, plans may be put on hold. Pam Reidy, Director of Parks and Recreation stated, “I can’t venture a guess at this time when a new/renovated War Memorial will be funded.”

 

Grandfather image courtesy of Pixabay.com
All other images courtesy of Janice Luckey

 

 

Janice Luckey, luckey2000@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

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