My Dad’s Uncle Sam—his actual Uncle Sam, not the red, white, and blue cartoon—had this fantastic basement. We’d play down there at family gatherings for Thanksgiving and Christmas and maybe a birthday or two. So there must have been some toys and a TV, but what I remember most was the beer can collection and the bar.
The beer cans lined the walls, all different makes and models. An improbable amount of beer for a kid who was still a decade away from college. The bar sat at one end, had a mirror in the back, was well stocked and professional in every way. The grownups would pull up stools and drink beer and talk about grownup things we kids never paid much attention to.
My grandfather had a bar in his basement, too. It wasn’t as well lit and certainly wasn’t as well used, but it was there and it was his. Mostly I remember him on hot summer days, grilling in the backyard in shorts and a golf shirt, drinking Pabst. I remember the tattoo, a basic green job that faded over time of a woman and I think a flag. He got it in World War II where he was a sailor in the Pacific. I remember stories of beach parties and fun. He avoided the ugly stuff. The scene when his ship arrived in Japan after the bombs were dropped, for instance. We almost always avoid the ugly stuff in my family.
I guess these basement sanctuaries were common for the day. These guys went to war and saved the world and came back got basement bars where they could tell stories and remember those who didn’t make it.
I always feel funny writing anything on Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day because what the hell do I know? I type. My grandfathers served. My Dad and my uncles served. My cousins served. I didn’t. I was just lucky. They all came back. But they have friends who didn’t.
When we were kids, we took a family trip to Washington D.C. I’ve seen my Dad at The Wall. I can only guess what he was thinking. What I remember is silence.
To those who served and sacrificed …