So Taguchi's House of Super Fun Time

Saturday, January 03, 2009


In late October 1918, my great-grand uncle (is that a legit term for a relative?), Adam lie in a ditch in France waiting to go out of his trench in attack of a German machine gun. He was more than 4,000 miles from home - from the country he was fighting for - yet he was less than 500 miles from the birthplace of his parents.
More than 90 years later I am freaked out by how much he looks like me.

I wonder what kind of thoughts entered his mind. I wonder what he thought he was fighting for - for his country, for the nation of his forebears, for the freedom of Europe or was he just scared and regretting what had been a breezy decision many months ago to join the army?

Adam was the twin brother of my great-grandmother, Eva. (yes, Adam and Eva) They were born in 1893 in Toledo and were raised on a farm in Michigan. When my great-grandmother married and moved to the city, Adam lived with them for a time, then joined the army. My great-grandmother lived a long life and I still have a teddy bear she gave to me when I was a small child.

My great-aunt provided me with photos of Adam before he went to war. Some are the typical kind you might get at Six Flags or the like today - just a teenage kid with his sister and friends posing in a fake "Seeing Toledo" carriage. His sister - my great-grandmother - was beautiful, a trait she passed down to my great-aunt, although she claims her mother was the beauty, not her.
Knowing so little about his life, I still keep coming back to what Adam must have been thinking as he was charging a German machine gun post mere days, unbeknownst to him, of the war being over. I found a quote of an American soldier during that time:

"There are two chief reasons why a soldier feels fear: first, that he will not get home to see his loved ones again; but, most of all, picturing himself in the same position as some of the dead men we see. They lay there face up, usually in the rain, their eyes open, their faces pale and chalk-like, their gold teeth showing. I remember hundreds and hundreds of dead men. I would know them now if I were to meet them in the hereafter."

I wonder if he felt this fear as he charged. I wonder if he only single-mindedly saw the machine gun, trying to get it before it got him, as he was shot. I wonder if he felt relief and joy that the War was over as he lie recovering from his mustard gas infected leg. I wonder what his last thoughts were as he slipped away and was laid to rest as little French girls decorated his grave with flowers festooned with red, white and blue ribbons - just three weeks after the Armistice.

World War I had such a devastating effect on Europe, that today different countries mark its remembrance in different ways. In England, who lost over 700,000 sons, in November you still see everyone from newscasters to soccer coaches to everyday people wearing blood red paper poppies, a reference to John McRae's poem "In Flanders Field" to honor this loss.

In Poland it is a holiday of celebration as it marks the rebirth of a nation which had ceased to exist for more than a century of rule by Russia, Austria-Hungary and Prussia. It is a Polish version of the 4th of July with parades and fireworks.

I hope and wish Adam knew the role he played in this celebration of the place of his parents' birth - that he felt that he had contributed something and his life was not wasted - and that I am the first of my family to visit his grave in Countrexville, Vosges, France and tell him myself.


Blogger Toontonearmy1 said...

So who wrote this for you? It is way to thoughtful and intelligent to have been you...

11:13 AM  
Blogger Gwen said...

You really do look like him!

The best part of this post, however, is the smoke and mirrors you wrote around your true message: I am incredibly handsome and virile.

A. I look like him.
B. His twin was beautiful.

A+B=C: I am incredibly handsome and virile.

Nice try, but I can see right through you! ;)

3:39 PM  

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