Monday, November 14, 2011

He was just a Mexican boy at school, just stood and watched, never played much

His name was Fernando. At our last class reunion I discovered I had misremembered his last name.

I remember him from the first grade. He was in the fourth, a big boy – it was years later, when I thought back, that I realized he was a very small young man. At some time or other I learned he had been fifteen. By then he was a drop out.

The heat of that summer day is still immediate; it was late morning, I think. We were in somebody’s backyard when this older boy on a bicycle stopped. He wanted to talk, and didn’t want to talk. He worked part time at the telegraph office. He had a wire. It began, “The President of the United States regrets to inform you…” It was to Fernando’s family. We learned later that it had been the morning that began Omaha Beach in the history books. 

What brings it back now are the elections carried out in Arizona about illegal immigrants. I have been wondering if Fernando was one. Wonder when that medic dropped beside him if he had tried to say something. Was it in English or Spanish? I tried to find his grave when Annelie and I were in Normandy a few years ago. I couldn’t; I had misremembered that last name. I just stopped in front of a stone with “Unknown” on it and thought.

Coming back into the here and now, and having wandered along some other rows – like at Arlington Cemetery – I have gotten to thinking about names. With these “stop and ask for papers” mandates from some legislatures, what if some cop had just stopped Fernando on his way to the recruiting office to volunteer and demanded to see if he was “legal.” Maybe it would have all turned out differently.  

                                                                                                             If you are starting to remembering someone, call them up,
                                                                                                             write the family, maybe you can only say a prayer.
                                                                                                             Please remember.                                  

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