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A readers writes: Getting over it, getting on with it

January 07, 2002

It's been another uneventful day in El Centro. You come home to your family at the end of another working day. You enter the house and find the windows steamed up from the activity Mama's making in the kitchen. Ah, you think, pork and lima beans — I'll bet that Christmas ham's going to last until Easter.

"Dear? Is that you? Supper will be ready in a moment," Mama says, her greeting punctuated by the oven door slamming shut.

Mmm. Biscuits, too.

"Be there in a minute. Let me wash up."

"If you're going to use the toilet, you'll have to reach up to the tank. Your son broke the chain again."

Great. You wash up in near darkness, drawing cold water from the single tap. You then dry your hands on the plain linen hand towel and make your way to the kitchen, taking your place at the head of the table.

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"Hi, Pop!" says the boy.

"Hello, daddy," says his younger sister.

"What's this problem between you and the commode chain?"

"Poppy, it ain't me. We need a stronger chain."

" ‘Isn't,' not ‘ain't.' And if you wouldn't pull so hard on that thing … It's brand-spanking new. Mama, come on and sit down. You fuss too much."

Mama arrived with the biscuits and butter. "Samuel, the paper arrived this afternoon. It's in the front room."

"Pop, the paper says San Diego has electric lights throughout the city. Can we go there sometime and see 'em?"

"We'll see. It won't be any time soon unless business gets better," Father replied, accompanied by the clanking of silverware on porcelain. "I hope you didn't wad the paper up like you did with last week's. This week I'd like to read a clean paper."

"Right, Papa. Y'know, there was a letter in the paper from some man, a veteran. He said that veterans don't get any respect and that nobody cares about what they did in the war."

"I don't know why anyone should complain," said the father, "We just celebrated the 30th anniversary of the surrender at Appamattox this year. You saw those gentlemen in the parade on Main Street."

"Papa, were you in the war?" the young'un asked as his tongue juggled an entire biscuit.

"Don't wolf your food. Yes, I was in the war."

"I didn't see you in the parade."

"Son, the war was over 30 years ago. Much has happened since then. Things are different now. The country has changed greatly. Nobody needs to be constantly reminded of what we went through. We've got enough to worry about right now. There've been bank panics. The influenza is on the loose again. There's a war going on right now between China and Japan. God forbid we should ever fight a war in Asia."

"Aw, Dad, that'll never happen. Why would we ever go over there? I just think what that man said in the paper about being forgotten was pretty strange."

"Boy, there are statues and parades and books and all sorts of what not that'll ensure everyone's story gets told. The main thing is having enough to eat and a warm, safe place to sleep. If someone is still complaining after all these years about not being loved, then maybe they missed the point the first time around."

"But, Pop! Don't you want people to care about you and what you did in the war?"

The man looked across the table at his wife, whose slightly bemused expression betrayed her sentiments. He glanced at his daughter, then rested his gaze on his son. "My boy, right now I'm looking at the only people in the world I need to care about me," declared Papa. The smile on his face was fleeting. He looked down at his plate and took another bite.

>>SCOTT FULLERTON is an El Centro resident.

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