Ruth Preston squinted her eyes against the beams of sun penetrating her worn curtains. Her inclination was to pull the comforter over her head and hibernate, but despite the aches, she had to rise.
Every day, she mechanically lived the same routine. Bitterly, she wondered if her mother destined her to a difficult life, like her biblical namesake. Unlike the biblical Ruth, Ruth Preston had faith in no one.
In 1954, her fellow Americans enjoyed prosperity, the atrocities of war a distant memory. She resented how easily they could forget. For her, war would always feed the root of her misery. Sometimes she wondered if she would be so broken if she’d never felt happiness at all.
She still heard his voice. “Four years, and then I can get a better job,” Robert had told her. When he shaved his head, signed the enlistment papers and kissed her goodbye, he was supposed to come back. Instead, two years later, the USS Delphy ran aground, along with six other ships. Her Robert had been one of the casualties.
Their two-year-old twins, James and Joseph, didn’t understand. Each night at bedtime, she had to break their hearts again by answering their questions with, “Daddy is in heaven.” She never admitted her doubts that such a place existed.
Seventeen years later, her sons surprised her with the news they had enlisted in the Navy. She never had the chance to talk any sense into them. One week later, they left for training. As she hugged each, déjà vu overwhelmed her.
After the bodies from the USS Arizona had been recovered, Ruth buried her sons. They had followed their father’s footsteps all the way to the grave. She resented that death had not come for her as well.
For thirty-one years, she had placed flowers by polished headstones. She needed the world to remember those markers were more than stone; that someone cried for them.
Ruth knew recollection was necessary to stop repetition of past mistakes.
Remember (verb): 3 a : to keep in mind for attention or consideration <remembers friends at Christmas>; b : REWARD <was remembered in the will>
This being Veteran’s Day in the US, I couldn’t help but write of military service. If we aren’t touched by loss, it’s easy to not think about the families that are without loved ones. Although this story is fiction, the deaths on USS Delphy in 1923 and USS Arizona in 1941 are real events in history.
I wish you peace on this Monday.