Stangl

Judging by the headline, one could believe that I am a supporter of our senior citizens.

A controversial viewpoint like saving a grandmother is about as hot button as saying one believes kittens and puppies are good — who is going to argue?

No, gentle reader, I come not to save grandma, but to tell a Memorial Day story.

The holiday, the unofficial start of summer, arrives next week.

All over our state and the nation, volunteers are working to make cemeteries look spectacular. Grass is being trimmed and flowers of all kinds from fresh to artificial are being placed in remembrance of loved ones.

Dedicated members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion, as well as their auxiliary units, are getting the flags out of storage, researching and finalizing lists of deceased and finalizing the numerous details of the programs. Uniforms are being checked and cleaned, speeches are being written and rehearsed and rifles are being cleaned for the ceremonies at the cemeteries.

Band students have been rehearsing songs and the trumpet players that will be selected to perform “Taps” are making sure they don’t miss a note. The location and acoustics of the “echo” player are being determined as well.

Memorial Day is a big deal. Every detail needs to be just so.

The holiday dates back to the Civil War, when the custom of putting fresh flowers on the graves of the fallen began in America.

This custom, decorating the graves of fallen warriors, dates back over 2,500 years to ancient Greece. Many use this time to remember all loved ones who have passed and the custom of decorating the graves with flowers is still alive and well.

In my hometown, I performed in marching band and participated in many Memorial Day ceremonies. I even had the honor of reciting the Gettysburg Address when I was a junior. I remember struggling with the inflections to give the proper emphasis in one of the most famous speeches of all time.

But just because Memorial Day involves a great deal of solemn observances doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t be funny.

I know it is disrespectful to laugh at inopportune times, but hear me out.

And yes, we are finally to the place in the column where we can talk about grandma.

A co-worker early in my newspaper career returned from Memorial Day weekend with a story that we all had to stop what we were doing to hear. This is a true story.

A friend of hers had taken the entire family to the cemetery for Memorial Day observances. The friend, her husband, their four year old son and grandma (the friend’s mother) found a spot to watch the ceremonies.

Grandma had come with a folding cane chair. The folding cane chair is just what it sounds like, a three legged stool that folds into a cane that can be used for support. Grandma had difficulties standing for extended periods of time and getting up from sitting on the ground.

They found a spot and settled in for the ceremonies. When it came time for the gun volleys that are fired out of respect to the dead, grandma became startled. Sitting on an unstable folding cane chair, she quickly lost her balance and fell to the ground.

Her grandson shouted “The sons of bitches shot grandma!”

Grandma was fine. The rest became legend.

Happy Memorial Day.

As always, I welcome your comments. You can reach me by email at tstangl@theameryfreepress.com, telephone 715-268-8101 or write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery, WI, 54001.

Thanks for reading; I’ll keep in touch. Feel free to do the same.