The mind works in funny ways - well my mind works in funny ways, anyway. I may have trouble remembering why I walked in to a particular room at any given moment, but then a memory of an event from many years ago will appear as if it happened yesterday. Today as I sat on the deck reading the Sunday paper two different articles triggered memories from long, long ago.
First a piece in Parade Magazine by Colin Powell, whom I respect as an honest and principled man, titled "Kindness Works" caught my attention. The basic message was, "you can never err by treating everyone...with respect, thoughtfulness, and a kind word". That's a great message, but what really caught my attention was the highlighted quote, "Ask any veteran the name of his drill sergeant and he will know it". I was prepared to dismiss the statement as untrue when the memory of Staff Sergeant Davis, the drill sergeant of my Basic Combat Infantry Training Company at Fort Dix, N.J., back in 1968, came flooding back. SSG was a wiry little guy who had a funny walk due to combat injuries he sustained in Viet Nam, and he was determined to turn his trainees into competent combat infantrymen, a status that we, to a man, were determined to avoid. But just as Gen. Powell says in his article, SSG Davis was with us, "every step of the way, teaching, cajoling, enforcing, bringing out the strength and confidence they didn't know they had". So yes, I remember SSG Davis and I thank him for what he taught me about combat, and about myself.
The second memory was actually evoked by a combination of an article in the paper and a song on the radio - kind of a "multimedia memory" as it were. The article was a restaurant review of Dysart's Diner on I-95 in Bangor; the song was "The Letter" by the Boxtops, from 1967 or so. So here's the deal:
In the summer of 1967 I was driving a 1965 GTO, a babe-magnet if ever there was one. And one of the babes that was attracted was a delectable young woman named Debbie, who just happened to be the daughter of the family that owned Dysart's way back then, and still does. And one sultry summer night Debbie and I rode out to a secluded spot on the shores of Swan Lake to listen to some music on the car radio and, you know, do what young people do in these situations. I couldn't tell you the name of one other song that played on the radio that night, but I remember "The Letter" vividly, just like I remember what we were doing while it played. The review of Dysart's was really good - maybe I'll cruise up there to see if Debbie is still around.