When I was in middle school, a new girl came to the school. Her name was Pattie and because we were seated alphabetically in most of our classes, we sat next to each other in the three or four classes we shared. We quickly became best friends. We both had siblings one year older than we were. Very soon I was going to her house and she was coming to mine. I was often invited to stay for dinner. Her mom and dad were both very welcoming and very nice to me and later, to my sisters. Her dad, in particular, was super. He was funny and engaged us in conversation. He gave us advice. He asked to see our grades and celebrated our good academics. I’ve often thought of him throughout the years. His daughter and I lost touch when we graduated from high school as we went to different schools and then I got married right after college graduation and moved away. When we got back in touch, through a high school reunion group on Facebook, I learned that her father had died. It made me sad and I thought that one day I might go look for his grave at the national cemetery where he’s buried which is a little bit off track when I go visit my mom in southern California.
Yesterday, on that same Facebook group, there was a conversation about some of the people in our classes that were either lost in combat or were veterans. A couple of people had gone to the cemeteries back home to visit some of the graves and posted pictures. I happened to mention that I had been thinking about my friend’s father. I had been thinking of him for several days. I wasn’t making it up. So almost instantly, I got a message from Miss Know It All who told me I was wrong. She said he was not killed while serving so I can’t honor him until November when we have Veteran’s Day. What?! I know the difference between the two holidays. I didn’t say I was honoring him or celebrating him because it was Memorial Day. I just said I had been thinking about him; just as others on the FB thread were talking about people we all know who were former military that we miss. The thread was not specific to Memorial Day.
At first, it made me mad. How dare she try to tell me who I can think of and when I can think of them. I almost answered her message in angrily. Instead, I just said “Well, I can still think of him. He was a terrific person.” She answered that I could do that in November for Veteran’s Day just as she does for her father. I chose to click off my phone and ignore her.
I will think of anyone I want to think of any time I want to think of them and for any reason. I’m not waiting to think of people only on specific days. I’m wondering if she really only thinks of her dad on Veteran’s Day! No one is going to tell me who, what, when, where, or why I should think of anyone. Or anything, for that matter.