A Flag Came Back
A flag came back.
At first I did not understand why everyone was crying. I saw Daddy fast asleep in his uniform, like he always was when he came home from the grocery store. Of course, back then, he would be in his jeans and red polo shirt. He used to kick off his heavy shoes and collapse on the couch and fall fast asleep. I would lie down on his chest and his arm would surround me, all warm and safe. He would not even open his eyes. Then he would wake bright eyed and ready to play. He loved me, I could tell.
This time, though, it was different. He had fallen asleep in his blue Marine uniform and white hat. For some reason, he slept in a smooth wooden box with an American flag draped over the top. In church. I may have been four, but I knew that one was not supposed to fall asleep in church, especially when his boss, the mustached guy in the blue jacket with all the medals, was attending the service.
Mom kept crying, squeezing my hand. I didn’t. I watched Daddy sleep, waiting for him to wake up, bright eyed and ready to play as always.
He slept through the whole service. The priest kept saying his name, asking God to watch over him and give peace to his family. I was hardly listening, though, antsy as always. I still did not understand why everyone was sobbing or had such serious looks on their faces, or even why all of his Marine friends were there, but I got the feeling that something was wrong.
Why wasn’t Daddy waking up?
I squirmed in my seat, itching to jump up and shake him so that he would open his eyes and look at me and smile. “Hey, pal,” he’d say, jumping up and taking my hand. “What are we playing today?” But we were in church and I knew that was inappropriate.
My mom squeezed my hand.
“Maisey,” she whispered, bending down so her mouth was close to my ear. I stopped squirming so I could hear her. “Do you remember what color Daddy’s eyes were?”
“Blue,” I replied confidently, but with a question in my voice. Didn’t she know? She nodded with a slight smile, a tear rolling down her cheek.
“Yes. Bright blue. Just like yours. I...Maisey, I loved him.”
“Don’t you still love him, Mommy?”
She chuckled softly, shaking her head. “I still love him with all my heart and I always will. Will you always remember him, Maisey?”
I frowned deeply. Of course I would remember my own Daddy. Why wouldn’t I? Even when he came back from that far away place, sleeping though he was, I remembered his face. He had always looked peaceful.
“Good. Good.” She swiped her hand across her eyes and I sighed a little.
Why was she crying?
Daddy would wake up sometime. Sometime we would play again. Even at four years old, that much I could understand. It may have been much longer than I thought back then, but I knew that I would see my Daddy the Marine again.