Memorial Day was called Decoration Day when I was a small fry. I don't exactly recall when the name was changed but it definitely has held many meanings to me as I have grown older. It used to mean marching in the town parade and the beginning of warmer days. Later, it was about remembering those who died in the wars Americans fought. Born seven years after the end of World War II, I didn't know anyone who died in it but I did grow up knowing widows with their children. This Memorial Day I would like to say I remember Donald Messier but I cannot. However, I can vividly recall his widow, my "Aunt Lucy".
Donald Messier was from Watervelit, n the US Naval Reserve. He never made it out of the war to meet his namesake, young Donald Messier. I think he died on an aircraft carrier in the US Navy. I found information about him on the New York State Military Museum site:
There is his "next of kin", his wife, who I always called "Aunt Lucy". Aunt Lucy lived in Green Island during the world and my mother and she became close. I am not certain how they met, perhaps she started going to my mother's beauty salon on Swan Street in Green Island. When my mother married dad at the end of the war, in 1945, Aunt Lucy was her matron of honor and witness.
I remember Patty well to this day though I haven't seen her in forty years. I remember how I couldn't believe that the world could be so unfair and so unkind to Aunt Lucy, the war widow who had suffered so much. And now Uncle Bill, the man who always smiled and made me laugh, suffered too. For more than ten years or more after Patty died, I never heard my Aunt Lucy mention Patty's name. Finally one sunny day, my mother and I paid an unannounced visit to Aunt Lucy and Uncle Bill's in Poestenskill. While we sat in the yard all afternoon, we shared laughter and smiles. I went inside the house to use the facilities before leaving and was shocked to see the interior walls and tables covered with pictures of Patty. It took about five more years until we could talk openly and remember Patty with Aunt Lucy. She grieved in her own way and finally made some peace with her circumstances in the years before her own death. Donnie and his wife had a wonderful baby boy and I think the presence of a grandson in Aunt Lucy and Uncle Bill's life was ultimately restorative. We shared many stories and memories of Patty.
Memorial Day for me is remembering the randomness in war and peace, life and death. There are no guarantees or bargaining. Aunt Lucy survived widowhood and the loss of a child and with her kindnesses she overcame bitterness. She made the world a better place. Uncle Bill did too.