2000—Loving a Memory
By VicK Kiff -
Copyright 2000 by Vick Kiff.
It always seems that when war is televised, it is always non-stop action.
That’s the way it is today; that was how it seemed back then in Viet
Nam. You only had to turn the dial to see the faces and the images of some
foreign place of suffering and hell and damnation in the States, or see
the faces of the people at home as they fought and raged. But it wasn’t
always that way. There was always time to think even if you didn’t
really want to.
There were always the big topics for those in war: women, fucking, and
booze. And just below that, getting out of there. And below that, though
it seemed different at the time, getting back, coming home. The reality of
“going back to the world” was never of much importance as much as the
symbol was. It was a tacit agreement with God or whoever that you had
survived this little piece of hell. You hoped you were intact and many
believed they were. There were no wounds; some never faced weapons being
pointed at them in anger; or pointed theirs at someone else. You felt like
you were a step above on the ladder of survivability if you hadn’t been
hit. It wasn’t that you were so much better than those who had physical
wounds, just that yours didn’t show quite as much.
Battle was and never has been continuous. There are too many times when it
lazes about, then it remembers that there must be some reason for it to
exist. And so soldiers--men and women and home--fight against the
representative symbols of other soldiers, men, and women and their homes.
The battle can rage for a few minutes or for more than a few days, perhaps
weeks, and then battle gets weary and needs to rest. When that happens the
other war begins: that of memory.
This war is uneven and unfair. Those who go and those who wait are both at
a distinct disadvantage. The memories are of yesterday, not of today; of
two different people. Neither really exist anymore except in memory. And
yet that is what you recall in the today in which you remember. You
superimpose yesterday on today’s dreams quite without knowing it. You
know of your own personal fear as you walk across the tarmac to a plane
that will take you away. You can only guess at the fear of those who stand
moot and quiet at the fences. You recall that, as the plane and you turn
your back on them and leave, and that is the moment when the war begins in
For them it is the same, but worse. Where you are going, there is no
pretense that things will be different.
Even if you are lucky enough to be in a non-combat zone, there is always
the realization that one night that could change. But for them—for them,
their world remains the same. The only difference is that you have become
a remote part of it and it is the fear of your not returning whole, or as
wonderful as you were, or wounded or disabled, that is their reality.
For those who wait, except for that fear, their world becomes a
schizophrenic kind of normalcy. There is still the job to go to. There is
still the food to buy in the grocery. Braces are needed for the kid’s
teeth; the bills still must be paid. There are the relatives to visit, the
Doctor to go to, the house to clean, dishes to wash; the bed to be made,
and the feel of two bodies touching or enfolded in an embrace. The smells,
the distinctive odours of sweat or sex or anger or laughter or of sheer
boredom. The seasons change and fall becomes winter, which becomes spring
and then summer again. And through it all, memory as you were, not as you
will or might become, is the companion, the lover, the bedmate.
What is real in their insane and maddening world, are the memories are of
yesterday when war and service did not intrude. The memories are of recent
history for they cannot be of today. They form the tears and hope that are
shared for yesterday’s dream and reality because the present dream
doesn’t really exist anymore.
But how can that be? Life still goes on. There is the neighbour down the
street that you know; the girls or guys at the office or shop or grocery
store. There are all the people who crowd into your life after the person
of your memory has gone. Like the picture on the mantle, it is memory that
freezes the moment and does not alter what you think of, while time goes
on, spinning its seductive wheel of reality. Is it no wonder you feel as
if you have gone mad? Yesterday you were real, today you are a memory
because you are gone, yet you are still real in their hearts today because
they see the you of yesterday in their minds today. You haven’t changed,
yet you have because everyone knows war changes a person.
If you feel as if you have gone slightly mad in a place of insanity, how
must they feel living with the reality of the separation? Remembering the
person who left and holding that to their breasts, then reconciling the
memory to the reality that you are when you return?
Still, it was memory: the love of that memory, of a woman or of a man, of
a life together and of other dreams, that got many a man and woman through
the battles of memory and of war. You see memory has a secret weapon:
If you believe in it and love it strong enough, it can nearly stop time
Remembrance Day: 2000—Loving a Memory Copyright 2000 by Vick Kiff. All