National League of American Pen Women

The Muncie, IN Branch is a part of the National League of American Pen Women

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Remembering by Paul Nesper

We recently celebrated the winners of our 2013 Fun-of-Writing Contest. The last post (June 25, 2013) was the second place tie in the category of Non-Fiction. Today's post is the other second place tie in the same category.

by Paul Nesper 

We are frequently reminded that we remember precisely where we were and what we were doing long after significant world wide or local events occur.  For example many folks remember where they were and what they were doing on Pearl Harbor Day, or the day World War II ended, or the day President Kennedy was assassinated, or the World Trade Center disaster, or the Boston Marathon terrorist attack.

The Japanese government surrendered on August 14, 1945 to end World War II.  I was a Navy Lieutenant stationed on Attu, one of the Alaskan Aleutian Islands.  My job was Officer in Charge, Naval Ammunition Magazine, Naval Air Station, Attu, Alaska.

It was my responsibility to receive, stow, and issue all the ammunition needed by the Navy fleet and Naval Air Wing to pursue the war against Japan in the North Pacific.

Included in the stowed ammunition inventory was a goodly supply of signal flares to be fired from a Very pistol.  These signal flares of various colors were used as distress signals at sea.  Every pilot carried them and they were aboard every ship.  They were fired in the air by downed pilots or sailors who were adrift after losing their ship so that rescuers could locate them.

When news of Japan’s surrender reached Attu, another officer and I decided to celebrate with a fireworks display using Very pistols and a supply of colored flares from the inventory for which I was responsible.  We headed for the beach and for about 15 minutes had our own unauthorized fireworks display firing the flares out over the water.

The next day I was ordered to report to the Naval Air Station’s Commanding Officer to explain who authorized the firing of the flares.  I told him it was totally my responsibility, was unauthorized and was done to celebrate the end of the war.  He said the display was well done and very appropriate.  He urged me to obtain prior authority should similar circumstances arise in the future.  With that I was dismissed from his presence and went back to work.

My appearance before the Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Station to explain my actions celebrating the end of the war is as fresh in my memory as though the incident happened yesterday.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mom’s Hands
Patricia Finley

I think I always remember my mother’s hands first, those giant hands for which she never found gloves large enough to cover.  They diced potatoes so fast I stood stunned watching her do it, never able to match her speed over my entire lifetime.  Those big old hands that could have rendered me nearly headless with one blow were consistently gentle, wiping tears, mending sore knees or caressing heads.  Her hands were herself, large and seemingly clumsy but delicately skilled and artistic.

Because she was conscious of their size, she took extra effort to make them look good. Without the money for expensive manicures, she made sure her nails were scrubbed, buffed and painted, and at an early age, she practiced on my baby hands while I sat at her knee listening to stories and hearing her sing songs.

When I got old enough, I took piano lessons so I could play as well as my talented mother, but never even came close to what she could accomplish. She was able to hear a song and pick out the melody, then she’d sit at the piano until she learned it. Her hands - those huge hands would swiftly move over the keyboard to add the chord structures with a gifted ear, creating her own arrangements. But the notes on a page of sheet music were a foreign language to her, and a few times when she was learning a new song, I’d proudly play it through for her. Mom became well known throughout our small town and helped raise funds to build a city park. She became the main accompanist, preferred over those who were musically trained and skilled, because her talent was God-given, and her hands seemed anointed. Her “by ear” repertoire was enormous.    

It was my mother’s hand that I held every night as a toddler, lying in the crib pulled closely to her bed in the cramped bedroom.  As long as my small hand lay in hers I wasn’t alone in the darkness.  On nights when the need for sleep caused her to gently bat it away, I felt deserted and separated.

When she lay dying of the cancer which tortured her body, full of the medication that reduced her to near comatose, I remember filing her jagged nails made sharp from her feeble attempts to refine them.  I smoothed her skin, humming some of the hymns she had played, and I remembered….  We’d come full circle.

On Mom’s last day, relatives came to say good-bye.  They held her hand; they said comforting words.  As she drifted deeper and deeper into that last sleep I held her hand.  I felt the familiar gentle push and batting of her fingers.  It was time to let go.  And though I knew it was coming, I was still surprised by the sting of desertion and the sudden awareness of loneliness.  Again I became a child losing the hold on my mother’s hand in the darkness.