Flag Day

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Flag Day is not an obscure holiday, but here are some facts that everyone should know:  the flag is one of the most complicated in the world. It needs 64 pieces of fabric to make. The current flag has 13 red and white alternating stripes (representing the original 13 states) and 50 stars (each star represents one of the states of the Union) on a blue background. The national flag cannot be used for advertising. It cannot cover a monument or any ceilings. It must not be folded while being displayed. No one should write on an American flag. Ships can lower their flags slightly in greeting each other, but otherwise should not be dipped for any other object or person. (Information taken from http://www.about.com)

Today is also my Grandma’s birthday. Her name was Sarah Margaret Young. She was born in West Virginia in 1919, the youngest of 22 children. There were many multiple births in this family. In fact, Grandma was a twin but her twin died shortly after birth. I can’t say I know anything about Grandma’s upbringing other than she was given to my Grandfather when she was 13 years old. My Grandfather, Jacob Clayton Phillips, was 20 when he picked out his 13-year-old bride and moved her to Ohio. (You are allowed to say “Eeewwww” at this point of the story.)

When I was five, I basically lived with my Grandma and Grandpa while my parents were getting a divorce. My Grandma got me off to Kindergarten each day and played with me in the afternoons. Having been robbed of her own childhood she took great delight in making me paper dolls out of brown paper grocery bags. She colored with me. We watched Captain Kangaroo together. We’d sit for hours and dream of what I’d be when I grew up. She just knew that I’d be famous at whatever I eventually ended up doing (!) and that I’d be able to buy her a house in Hawaii where we would live together for the rest of our days. I loved my Grandma so much. I wish I could have given her the world.

The man who was supposed to give her the world never even attempted to. My Grandfather, known as “Jake”, was a master carpenter but had his PhD in alcoholism. He was a raging drunk. There was not a set time that rang in “cocktail hour”, he’d start as soon as he got up. I think the phrase he used the most was “Sarah, get me a beer” followed by “Lordy, Lordy, Lordy” when he was close to passing out. I wanted to like my Grandpa. He took me fishing at Buckeye Lake. He grew incredible tomatoes. But he was an incredible jerk.

One day, and I can’t remember my exact age but I know I was still in the “single digits” (under 10), I was back in my room reading a comic book when I heard them start to fight. This was not uncommon given my Grandfather’s constant drunken state but it just sounded different to me. I ran out to find my Grandfather holding a knife to my Grandmother. He started yelling at me saying that he was going to kill her. At that point, she fell to the ground, breaking a coffee cup on the table as she fell.  I can still see the coffee running over the side of the table, pooling on the floor near my Grandmother’s body. I thought she was dead. My Grandfather then took off into the kitchen, sat on the floor, rocked back and forth, repeating over and over that he was going to kill himself. I just stood there in the middle of it, completely stunned. As I was heading towards the phone, my dad walked in. He wasn’t due to pick me up. I don’t know why he stopped by at that particular time. But as he sprung into action and pried the knife away from my Grandfather, I walked back into my room. Dazed. And proceeded to pinch myself up and down my arm because I knew I must be having a bad dream that I needed to wake up from.

Grandpa didn’t kill anybody that day. Grandma had fainted and was treated for a bump on the head. My Dad had stopped by to borrow money, not to pick me up. We brushed the event under the rug and never spoke of it again.

My Grandfather died in 1987. I thought that Grandma might try to live a little after he died, but she didn’t. I think she probably didn’t know what to do with herself after being a prisoner for so long. She died in 1990. Some of you might be shaking your heads and thinking that hers was a life completely wasted. I’d agree to some degree, but I like to think her purpose was to love me when nobody else had the time to. And she did an incredible job at that.

Happy Birthday, Grandma. I miss you.


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