June 14, Flag Day, was Grandpa’s birthday. My Grandfather was my best friend on earth. He was the very first person to hold and greet me into the world after I was born. He and Grandma would steal me away almost every summer and take me traveling with them. One time, I was around 7, we were staying at a hotel by a river that I loved so much that they decided to stay a couple more days. Even then I felt that they probably planned their vacations just for me.
When they didn’t travel anymore, I stayed at their house in the mountains. With Pink Floyd playing in the background I was able to “find” myself in the completely boring fresh mountain air. Grandpa and Grandma showed me love no matter what. It was a good break from what was at home.
Grandpa would always throw a huge party on his birthday, June 14, filling his yard and picnic tables with people. He loved to sing and he loved to laugh. He loved to surround himself with friends.
Grandpa also liked to discuss politics. But when someone put down the U. S. too much, Grandpa would stop them and say that this country is the best country in the world. Because it is a democracy we have the freedom and responsibility to criticize how things are run, but we should never, ever forget that we are able to do that because it is a democracy.
Grandpa came to this country right before WWII. I heard him say that Hitler was eliminating the (German) people in the country who had good heads on their shoulders. Those people were questioning Hitler’s actions. By the time the masses would catch on to what Hitler was doing, it wouldn’t matter if they didn’t like it, they would not do anything about it without strong intelligent people to lead them. So Hitler was eliminating them to begin with. Because Hitler’s control was complete, Grandpa left his homeland and everything he loved to start his life over from nothing. Grandpa kept his integrity and his good head.
This Flag Day I toast my Grandpa:
Grandpa, you have inspired me to work hard in my life, to strive to accomplish what I think I cannot. To enjoy the company of others, to laugh and sing. You inspired me to pick a marriage partner who is like you. To not back off from asking difficult questions, of myself, of others. Bravery is not found in looking away from the truth, how ever bad it may be. Strength can be measured in being able to move, no matter how tired, how hungry, how devastated. You have inspired me to fight for Democracy and appreciate its value.
“June 14”, you would say, “is my birthday and everyone puts out their American Flag for me”. You got us to laugh at that every year you would say it. For me June 14 is the day that I celebrate the truest American I have ever known.