My parents were in their early 40s when they decided to adopt me, back in 1966. Both of my parents lived through The Great Depression, and World War II. My dad was in the Navy (then the Army) during the war, and was on a medical frigate when they tested the Atomic Bomb, dropping it in the waters of Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands. My mom, she was part of the Women’s Army Corps, and worked on the bombing range, using surveying equipment to help improve the accuracy of the bombs.
My aunts and uncles were of the same generation, most of my parents friends were too. So I grew up around them, hearing stories of war and depression first hand.
This song by Jamey Johnson, who is just about a decade younger than I, tells the story of him talking with his grandpa. For me, because my parents had been older, this song is a generation closer, it’s not me talking to grandparents, but parents.
The story of the song may be of Jamey Johnson’s grandpa, but, it’s also a story of a generation of people who are becoming fewer and fewer in number. The last of the World War I veterans died last year, aged 110. My mom, who was 21 when she enlisted, during the last year of World War II will be turning 90 this year. Soon, the generation who survived depression, war, Holocaust, will too be gone.
I’m thankful to have heard so many of the stories from my parents, my relatives, their friends. And, like all stories, they need to be told in order to be remembered.
This song resonates with me, and I thank Mr. Johnson for the gift of his song.
There’s a verse from that song that makes my eyes water every time:
This one is my favorite one
This is me and grandma in the summer sun
All dressed up, the day we said our vows
You can’t tell it here but it was hot that June
And that rose was red and her eyes were blue
And just look at that smile, I was so proud
I’m reminded of my dad saying that he was so proud to be standing next to my mother, while the Justice of the Peace performed their wedding.
Every day, I’m reminded of that day my dad said those words to me, because, hanging in the living room is a painting — made from their wedding photo. Their wedding may have been in January, not June, but the roses were red, and, though you can’t tell in the photo here, my mom’s eyes are a beautiful blue.