Monday, June 22, 2009

My In-laws In The Paper!

When I read this article that was on the front page of Keith's home town's newspaper, I thought it would be good to post here:

Son gets to mourn father buried in France


When Edwin Ellis Blessing tells his story, he tells it slowly, pausing for two or three seconds between each sentence. Sometimes, he pauses midsentence.

He doesn’t do this because he is forgetful. He tells the story slowly because he is talking about his father.

When Blessing was 5, his father, Edwin Lawrence Blessing, died fighting with the U.S. Army’s 714th Tank Battalion in Germany in World War II.

Blessing grew up with a shadow of his father, and had only fleeting memories of him — like the time he was home on furlough or when he first left home to learn how to operate a Sherman tank.

Blessing, the oldest of three boys, learned about his father from photographs and through anecdotes told by his mother. “All my life, she spoke of him, and that’s the only way I could really know him,” Blessing said.

But the pictures and the stories and even his father’s medals and commemorative flag could only do so much.

Fast forward to March 2000. Blessing, retired from Citgo, was working as a security guard in an office building downtown.

As he tells this part of the story, Blessing still seems a little surprised at the whole situation.

One quiet Saturday, stockbroker and former state Rep. Bob Jones entered the building. He had a French quickstudy book under his arm.

After a greeting, Blessing asked about the book, and Jones told him that he was brushing up on his French because his daughter lives in France and he planned to see her in July.

Blessing, always one to make conversation, told Jones his father was buried in France during World War II. Jones asked where, but Blessing said he wasn’t sure, that it happened 55 years ago.

Jones took down the basic information and said he would check up on it. A month or so later Jones told Blessing he had found the cemetery — Lorraine Cemetery in Saint-Avold, France — and asked if he would like him to go during his trip.

At this point in the story, Blessing pauses for longer than three seconds.

Near the end of July, Jones returned and gave Blessing a package of pictures.

There were photos of the sprawling cemetery — the largest U.S. military burial ground in Europe — and of his father’s grave, with a wreath Jones had ordered for it.

“I must have looked through those pictures 40 times,” Blessing said.

A week later, Jones told Blessing that he had bought some stock and that if it went up to $50 a share, he would send Blessing and his wife, Peggy, to France.

Blessing protested, telling Jones he really didn’t have to do that. Jones said he wanted to.

In late August, the stock hit $50 a share and Jones asked Blessing when he wanted to leave for France.

Blessing picked September. After an 11-hour flight, Blessing and his wife spent the first day touring Paris.

Jones’ son-in-law’s brother, Benoit, then drove them the five hours to Saint-Avold to the cemetery.

As he tells the rest of the story, Ed’s voice is barely above a whisper, and he talks about everything in specific detail.

The walk from the visitor’s center to the grave was almost a quarter-mile. Blessing walked up behind the grave, so he could not tell it was his father’s grave at first.

Jones, who was in Australia attending the Olympics, had called and ordered another wreath.

When cemetery workers know someone is coming to visit a grave, they put black sand in the name on the marker to make it stand out more.

And when Blessing walked around and saw his father’s name, Edwin Lawrence Blessing, he stopped and stared and his knees felt weak.

He says he still can’t describe the feeling. But it’s safe to assume he gets it when he tells his story or when he looks at the photos.

“So this is where you’ve been my whole life,” he said aloud to the grave.

At this point in his story, Blessing relaxes, and his voice returns to its normal volume. The zen-like gaze he maintained during the telling is gone.

“We stayed there for two hours, just visiting, you know,” Blessing said. “And we went back the next day to visit the grave, and I said good-bye to him.”

No comments:

Post a Comment