December 27, 2004 Monday
I know you have said that you do not read very much, and I cannot say too much on this, as I have read only sporadically since college, without sounded like a bother instead of brother Have you ever though read anything that you so thoroughly enjoyed that you actually do not want to read any longer as you approach the conclusion, the pages in your right hand quickly disintegrating to your left? Very few books have had this effect on me: Flowers for Algernon, We the Living, and yes, the Harry Potter books sticking in mind most prominently. Yet last week I was browsing in the Waldenbooks at McArthur Court in downtown Norfolk while Christmas shopping, that I decided to pick up a few books for myself to pass the time during this slow stand-down period and the cold winter in general. The three I picked up: Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, Tuesdays with Moorie, and The Travels of Marco Polo. After flipping through them I picked Diary to begin first, and a week later I am nearing that fateful time when pages remaining are scarce. Of course the story of Anne Frank was very familiar to me, and I believe I have read several excerpts while in school, but I had never taken the time read it all. Immediately I was struck by its eloquence, its young author with such a natural talent as to put seasoned scribes to shame. In the beginning I didn’t feel I should be reading it, as it was meant to be a private record, but continue I did.
Thumbing through, I know that the last entry is on August 1, 1944, and I am now less than a half-year away from that date. When I was young I had a book called There’s a Monster at the End of This Book, a Sesame Street book with Grover. The storyline goes that Grover discovers there is indeed a monster waiting for him on the last page, so he vainly tries to halt the turn of the pages, attempting to tie, nail down and wall up each page. In the end, though his fears are relieved to find he is the monster at the end of the book. Shadows of such a scenario are with me with this diary, and as silly as it may seem, I may not read to the very last entry. To add to the oddity, before I simply knew her as the unfortunate casualty, yet from within she seems very much alive.
I feel I have reached a Renaissance, owing in part to a few factors. For my history class, which ended a few weeks ago, my instructor, a Mr. Thomas Franklin, apart from looking remarkably like Kris Kringle, also possessed a jolly disposition. He had such a zest for life, from food to travel, to most notably books. I hope to have his outlook if I am lucky enough to ever reach his age. He brought me the excellent Benjamin Franklin biography “The First American”, which has been my first step in my self-education. Even the books I have read have been an inspiration. I have often felt, at times to a point of self-pitying, trapped in my present life, only waiting to begin living once I have regained my freedoms of movement and choice. I have now little more than two years left (perhaps less, but that is another story), which is in parallel with the two years spent in hiding by the “Secret Annexers.” I had not imagined before reading Diary that the families had at least in some ways continued on with their lives, in the prospects of improving themselves for when the war would be over and they could finally emerge. They studied French, English and history, learned short hand, and read many books. I know it is only foolish to cast myself in their lot and I do not intend to presume I have it so, but the essence is there.
I know if I am to be happy in the next years it will be despite of this place. I am not one to fatalistically complain about this ship, “The Ridiculas,” (Nicholas) as many sailors do. Yes, our command does have more of a desire to grind its axe, and often other ships’ crews do stream past us in the late morning with their days complete while ours will undoubtedly go the distance; yet when we do go through the gamut of an inspection we often get exemplary marks, if not the best the inspectors have ever seen. This seems to do little to quell the unrest in many. Mine though has little to do with the workload, which does not bother me; I quietly go about my work without complaint, because it is a job and what we are paid to do. My unrest stems from the lack of an outlet. I keep so many things bottled up inside because I already know this is no the place to reveal any of it, because an episode of a show on MTV is on.
I know I will always feel vexed for the Navy and never entirely at peace in its employment, which as more to do with the nature and causes of my enlistment. During the fall my mind wandered one day, and I found myself considering the consequences of my death (many, many years from now, I should add). What would be said and who would bother to show, and I realized I will have a military burial. To this I found myself somewhat repulsed. In February, when Grandpa Connors finally succumbed to Alzheimer’s, he received a wizened detail of riflemen to pay respects, for which he fully deserved. Not only as a volunteer enlistment in the wake of Pearl Harbor or merely in uniform during the Second World War, he actively assisted in the liberation of the Philippines (for with the word “liberate,” these days an overworked axiom, can truly be said). What have I yet to do? What could I wish to do or be a part of in this, our modern work of Tragedies? In connection Reggie White died yesterday, often for me placed in the role of villain for his dominance as part of the Green Bay Packers, and today they speak of the stellar football player, yet he must have been so much more than his Sundays labors.
I had considered wearing my own uniform home for Grandpa’s funeral in honor of the connection we share, and I was asked by family why I ultimately declined to do so. I did not know Grandpa as a soldier, and that is not who he is to me. It is what he did long ago at a time of great need for such men, but it was only a fraction of the composition of his life. After some thinking I came home to him not as a sailor, but as simply his grandson. And this is in the vein for myself. This is only a small part of my life, and more likely than not a part I will ever exalt. That Fall day I realized I do not want the military to be involved in my eventual death, because it would be a lie as to the extent for which it played a part in my life. I live, I must say, despite the Navy. And as I am on the subject, I am chilled by the age of White’s death (43 as of only last week). Even John Lennon once said he didn’t want to die at 40. This should be taken in by everyone to live as much we can every day, and live wisely to extend our years as long as we can. I do think often of time, aging, and mortality, but I would consider myself a failure without having lived a satisfying life.
As to time, the near future seems rife with possibility (of my own making) for which I am excited. Honestly I have little in the way to complain about at all, though I do really wish I already lived out in town and no longer on the ship, yet this inconvenience seems a bump in the road. Could things truly be so much better on the outside? I don’t know. My two closest friends from college, Tom and Collinsville, are soon to be laid off from their office denizen jobs in Chicago, and this gives me pause. Has it really been that bad? I know it could have been worse, and I am not alone.
Even though I wrote religiously for many years and compiled a behemoth journal of three shorter installments, Is Anybody Out There?, Memoirs from the Edge, and The Distance from Here, this is my first true exposition of thought in nearly five years. It is very freeing