Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Met A Piece of History That Continues To Live

Around August or September 1994 an elderly woman we all called Big Mama ask me if I would be her traveling companion to go check on her son. Big Mama was 93 and used a cane and her son was about 72. I thought it strange but said sure. I found she used the cane for walking, but also as a lethal weapon if needed. She was a delightful travel companion and a great story teller. The history that woman could remember was better than any history class I had ever sat through.

You guessed, it we got on a Greyhound Bus headed from Buffalo, New York to Washington State, up around Puget Sound. Too bad Greyhound doesn't give frequent miles, I could have rode for years. Well, we got loaded one fine day, excited for the journey ahead of us. Big Mama was from the old school of travel clubs. You know the type, bring the cold chicken, drinks, fruit, and some wipes to keep yourself clean. Life was good. I found she didn't really need a travel companion to help her, she just wanted some company and didn't want to take her grand kids that was my age.

I must admit that the trip from Buffalo to Portland, Oregon was long and unimaginative. The route was like expecting sausage gravy over home made biscuits, but having grits without butter instead. Just plain boring. So I got back to my bus routine, and we rotated people around to tell stories and have some fun. Then we got to Portland, Oregon!

Wow, what a beautiful city to fall in love with. Clean city, clean air, friendly people, and just an exciting and yet calm place to be. I will never forget the route leaving Portland as we started to climb the mountain passes into Washington State. Forests like I had frequented in Utah--I was back home. A light rain began to fall, and the fog was rolling in. But it was beautiful, like traveling through a wonderland. Then after many hours, the bus slowed and e looked out at the majestic Mt. Rainer. All you could see is this massive white mountain. We were allowed to get off the bus and get the full view. Breathtaking! I could understand how mountaineers would be challenged to climb it, photographers not getting all the angles, and tourists just gasping at God's artistry.

We finally got to to Tacoma, Washington. A wonderful man and his wife met us and took us to our hotel to make sure we got settled in. Then we went in search of Big Mama's son. He was a trip! Fred was a 72-year old retired military officer, who after years of abuse and surgeries was a bit senile. It was now my "job" to be his companion and make sure we all got back to Buffalo, New York in one piece, and for me not to loose Fred.

During our week in the Tacoma--Olympia, Washington area was relaxing and peaceful. During the mornings, I took a swim and walked through the area. Afternoons we all went sight-seeing and tasting the fresh fish, visiting the naval yard. That was a trip down memory lane to be sure. It hadn't changed a bit since World War II, and was still serving the veterans and active military of the area. They were the most friendly folks one could imagine. More stories and first hand tales of the first black soldiers at Normandy, the war efforts and the mis-treatment.

These men were fighting a war not only for the freedom of their land, but a war amongst the people they were fighting with. Now how insane is that? Some of the stories still make me have teary eyes and I remember the faces as they told the stories. What a special place in my heart they have! They have died over the years, but their memories continue to live within me.

I realize even as I share this memory with you that God has allowed me the privledge to watch and be part of history in the most interesting of ways; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he was marching in the south, my father disowned me as a teenager for being sympathetic to a bunch of (you fill in the space) and I was no longer allowed to eat with him at the same table. He was a red neck all the days of his life; I had the joy of listenening to vets who had served America for 20-30 years without regret; and I have now watched an African-American man come front and center with the possibility of being the President of the same America all of the others have fought to defend. It is my prayer that we do not lose sight of the battles of all Americans. And that we can retain our freedoms and Constitutional values in these trying times--no matter who we say Mr. President to in January.

I for one believe in the right to freedom and the pursuit of happiness that our Constitutional fathers wrote about. Washington State has been a place I will never forget, it was a rededication to the vaues of what America has always stood for--that we should never forget. Freedom has a price.

I appreciated Big Mama more than ever after that trip. And yes, we got Fred back to Buffalo in one piece, it was after he got back in Big Mama's house that he became loss. To this day I don't know what happened to him. I will assume by now he has gone on to whatever he chose to do in his next life--heaven or hell, never quite sure what he chose.

Tomorrow I want to take you to a place where you can kick off your shoes, relax, and become one with the world. Can you guess where it could be?

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