One Saturday afternoon about fifteen years ago, my son and his best friend approached me while I was doing dishes. I can remember Ian saying, “Do you still have the football tickets for next weekend?” I said, “Yes, I do, why?” Chris, Ian’s friend replied, “Do you know my dad?” Again the answer was, “Yes, I do, why?” “He likes football,” Chris said, and the boys left.
About an hour later, my phone rang, and who do you think was on the other end? After talking for about half-an-hour, Don said, “I would like to go to that game with you, if you would ask me.”
So I did, and the rest is history. We have been fast friends, confidants, parents, and in love ever since.
Tonight I asked Don what his most memorable moment was.
“Well, that’s easy. It was July 1, 1970. I was going to school in St. Louis. I was nineteen years old, about to turn twenty. I had classes from six p.m. until ten p.m. every night and had just gotten home and turned on TV in time to see the second lottery draw for the draft for the Vietnam War. While I was sitting there drinking a beer, I heard, ‘Congratulations, July ninth, you’re the winner!’ and there it was, big as life, my birthday and a big red “1” beside it. I couldn’t believe it. I just sat there staring at it then yelled, ‘I’ll be damned, I WON something!’”
Of course, he and I laughed at that memory, but soon became very sober when understanding exactly what that meant. It gave me chills, the thought of being a child, practically, about to be loaded up and sent to war, thousands and thousands of miles away from family, friends, and home.
Soon, though, we were smiling again when Don told me about swimming everyday as a kid with his brothers.
“We would walk to the pool absolutely everyday! There were six of us boys, and we would get there when it opened and go home for dinner when it closed. Back then if you had a big family, you could get a patch sewn on your swimming trunks so you could get in everyday without paying, and we took advantage of that! Boy, did we ever have a great time!”
So if you would, salute a wonderful man for serving his Country and for loving ME, neither of which has been an easy road! S A L U T E, Don…and at ease!
I love you, Mr. Gramelspacher!