A filthy, tattered rag of red, white, and blue hangs from the side of the house, marking a shadow in front of my feet. The face of a man is brightened by a smile; he stares at the ground in thought, silently listening. Central to only his children and grandchildren in this moment, I gaze at him with shallow concept of a life composed of pain and fighting for the people alongside him. Today is about him. I don’t understand.
The cracked black pavement is littered with candy for a split second. Children race to get as much they can, cramming plastic bags full. Parents sip cold drinks from aluminium cans. The world is smiling in celebration, smiling in red and blue, under a free sun. But I still don’t understand.
A crowd gathers in a cemetery, watching men in uniforms in a perfect line. They fire their guns in the honor of their fallen comrades. Some bow their heads to show their respect those deceased; others simply deliver a daring gaze to the men with firearms. A shared respect glues our mouths shut. But I can’t seem to understand.
A thin, cheap flag of red, white and blue hangs from the side of the wall. The face of a dying man is brightened by a television across the room. He stares at the ground, his life before him. A life of a fire burning down his house. A life of being drafted into the military and sent off into war. A life of losing a child. A life of doing anything he could for others. A man who truly made our country, and our world better. All I can do is stare at my grandfather. I understand.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.