That Ancient Sun

January 23, 2013
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That Ancient Sun

There is so much more to war than political combat and anti-violence activists. There is more to it than just the man next to you, and there is certainly more to it than the men trying to kill you. War is the anti climatic junction of life and death. Even those brave souls, who survived the battles, are dead. In fact they are arguably even more dead on Earth than in the life after. Life here is so densely intertwined with all other life that it is merely impossible to forget.

A life taken is a life that can never be given back. Every soldier experiences this. Even though the circumstances may have been kill or be killed, no matter how glorious the cause or evil the enemy, for each soul that a soldier takes, a burden of weight rests on his mind and body. A token rather, of the bloodlust, not for everyone to see, just for the killer himself. Every minute for the remainder of that soldier’s life would he have lived with the monster lurking inside his body as remembrance of the lives that once existed, but that now live among his very own essence. Some lives must be taken, but it still does not lessen the burden every soldier experiences. I know I have.
I can’t help but cry, just a simple reminder, like a heat wave, or firecrackers, sends me into those bloody days. To this day I am still not used to war, but I am used to the tears. I have become less fearful of them knowing that they are not signs of weakness, but rather a silent tribute to the bravery of all those men who fought with me, for me, and died at my hand. Each tear is a separate memory, a different battle and another man’s life. On days like this when the sun is the hottest, I relive the most emotional four years of my life. Staring at the sun, like it is a universal movie screen, has become my way of never forgetting why I am gifted with a family and a home and being a retired worker who pays taxes. I bet those boys along side me would have changed a thing or two in order to pay taxes. Its something they will never know.
I know my family thinks I’m weird, staring at the sun, I guess in their eyes I am the old crazy World War II veteran. They think I can’t hear them while im gazing off into the sun, they’re innocence makes happy.
“Mom why does Poppy always look into the sun like that,” Said one of my middle aged grandchildren.
“He’s been doin that for years honey and you always ask me and I told I don’t know. I’ve never really bothered to ask him,” said my youngest daughter
“Well why don’t he quite it or something, I don’t get why it doesn’t hurt em,”
“I don’t get why it doesn’t hurt your eyes watchin t.v. all the time”
But in my eyes I am their protector, I went to war with the hope that I was fighting for a family I had yet to create, and a life I had yet to live.
On those few summer days when it’s hot enough to feel like the Japanese beaches, I remember. I look straight at the sun, the same sun that I looked into while I was fighting on those forsaken islands; I see replays of war, the death, but also the gift of life. My memories always end with the same replay of my best friend dying, giving his life for mine.
As the edge of the boat grinded its way into the sand, the door jammed and every single man in that thing had to hop over the edge, an eight foot drop to the water and a football field dash to the enemy, with no cover in between, but dead bodies. I remember taking the lead as Alex hiked through the water behind me. I was always faster than him, even when we were kids. In all honesty it was somewhat comforting giving him a security blanket as he regained his balance from the drop off the boat. Just like those old memories we Shared years ago. Everywhere men were dying, and by the time our second wave boats hit the beach, a solid layer of dead bodies littered the battlefield. The blood splatter filling my eyes is not what hits me the strongest, but rather the smell of gasoline and burnt skin. That’s what made it difficult to move on, realizing the barbaric nature that really the same earthly people could possess. We are supposed to be the good guys, the less murderous of the two sides, but out here, that attitude will get me killed. I was afraid.
Rushing to the first wall of bodies is the first and most important goal, from there it is possible to regroup and advance. Taking Alex by the shoulder I pulled him in front of me and drove his body into the sand beneath the dead soldiers. Up until he moved at the start of high school I took it upon myself to look out for him. Lying beneath the layer of protection I rolled on my back and looked at Alex. No sweat ran down his face and his breath did not smell like vomit as the rest of ours did. His expression was actually calm and his breathing steady, and what appeared to be in slow motion his helmet slid off and his boyish face rolled up and looked me in the eyes. Time seemed to slow down and after a moment of eye contact, Alex’s eyes rolled up farther to meet the sun’s glare, and together we stared at the sun and just as he looked back down, a grenade landed right between us. And that’s when time sped up as he took the grenade in his hands and jumped over the bodies into the wind that carried with it, an inescapable array of bullets.

That day what I saw in the sun was my future. My future life, I did not see the exact details, but I did, however; see the opportunities that were laid before me, every thought was an endless ripple in time. Nothing could be reversed, but future action could justify the past. Surprising really, it was Alex who taught me this. I was always the one who bumped him along with me, I was the more, together, of the two of us. But Alex had something in him that I had not yet acquired, purpose. That day in the sun I saw a captured image of my entire life. My wife, my kids, and the last time I could kiss my mother on the cheek and every moment that truly defines the meaning of life. I am convinced that Alex was the one who made it possible to see the sun for what it really has to offer. It is the galactic source of time, an enormous filing cabinet. The sun that founders of this country saw every morning is the same sun those generations after will continue to see. It keeps us all connected.
Maybe he was born with the sole intent to give me my life back. That we made an agreement before we were even born into this world. And I spent all our time together, before he moved away, looking out for him, like a favor repaid.
I’ve suddenly realized that everything I’ve ever promised that I’d do in my life is happening right before my eyes. It’s so simple that these sixty years later I forgot what I promised Alex, I promised to go through with life as though every day was going to be my last, and literally enjoy the simple things. I would consciously think about how I treat other people, and how I raised my children, and how I need to treat my wife.

Sitting in the pool chair my family designated as the throne, I do not wish to swim. Unlike the other days it is unusually hot and the humidity is just below the point where I can slice it with my hand. However, all I’m up for is watching my family. Not a cloud in the sky is offering any kind of shade, and in my old age I feel the sensation of shriveling away in the heat. My three sons and my daddy’s little girl are all in the pool teaching they’re youngest children how to swim. Much like I taught them years ago. It’s somewhat amusing noticing the little parts of myself and my wife that exist in them. Surprisingly, of all my children, the most like me is the youngest, my daughter. Stubborn as hell. It really used to be difficult refraining from giving her a slap on the wrist about her strict parenting, but Its best to leave that alone. Just as the sun came over head, the youngest out of every person in the pool, Tommy, climbed over the edge and with his floaties jumped on my lap. I love when he looks up at me with his boyish face, I can never resist bringing him little toy guns from the dollar store. As he leaned into me I leaned back on the pool chair and looked up at the sun. And sure enough, for the first time in six years, I saw Alex’s face in the sun, right before the grenade landed. I heard Tommy mumbling and I looked back down at him,

“Poppy who is that man living in the sun?”.

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