Posted by: Jim E | January 15, 2011

The Civil War…Sullivan Ballou…And Grandpa…A Definition of Love…

My mind always strikes me as a bit weird…in the way it works that is…it has always been this way…I will be thinking or reading about a certain subject and then, that thought will jar something loose from my past or present…I will meditate about it a bit…and then write down those thoughts for a future time…they pile up on my desk or in a file…or on the floor by my desk…for most I will never do anything with them…but I mean well….you know…I mean to do  something…and it would be worth while to do it…but time and life get in the way…but this thought I will write about today…

It has to do with the fact I am reading about the Civil War….America’s bloodiest and, in many a person’s mind, “the great single event of our history.”…”more than fifty thousand books have been published on the Civil War”…(but this post is not really about the Civil War…if 50,000 books can’t do it what can I do in a few sentences)…but along with reading about the Civil War…I again came across the letter written by Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah…and with it the love he had for her and his family…more on that later…

But along with reading about the Civil War…we also have been looking at some slides we have had in boxes from 1962-1973…and putting them on the computer…now, you go back that far…40 years and more…and try as you may…you cannot put them down, you have to look at them…and then think about all those on the slides…it is fun and sometime confusing…sometime things that need to be remembered…and written about…or at least put in the “pile of stuff” that needs to be written about…even though that may or may not happen…

One of the most important people in my past is my maternal grandfather…Grandpa Reggin was one of a kind…he was not very tall…not very big…but he was a heavy weight in every other way…could do anything, carpenter, electrician, plumber, auto mechanic, tool maker, etc…built his own house…never seemed to be afraid of anything…always in control of himself…wise beyond his position in life…he was one of my heroes, he still is…I always wanted to be like him…strong, wise, loyal, honest, full of integrity…what I like to term…a good man…he also knew what it was to be in love…and to love…more on that later…

There is so much written about the Civil War because “The America that went to war in 1861 was perhaps the most literate nation on earth.”…those involved in the war and those at home left “an astonishingly rich and moving record of what they saw and felt.”…and one of those more personal and moving pieces left from that time, is the letter from Sullivan Ballou to his wife…the lines of that letter continue to move me today as it did the first time I read it years ago…full of love and devotion…to both his family and his country…it is truly an amazing piece of history and example of love from a husband to his wife and family…I will attach the Sullivan Ballou letter…along with it the music, “Ashokan Farewell”, from the sound track of “The Civil War”, a film by Ken Burns as seen on PBS…

My Grandfather and Grandmother lived next door to us…or should I say, we lived next door to them, as I grew up…as kids we were over there everyday…a number of times…so we really knew them and they knew us…and as those years went by and they grew older…it was hard to see them weaken physically…I remember when my Grandpa decided it was time for him to stop driving…he told my mother that it was the last time he would drive…and gave her the keys…that was a huge thing for anyone to do…but it was just like him to do that, in that way…I also remember when they could no longer take care of themselves…Grandma had a stroke and Grandpa was very weak and just couldn’t take over…he told my Mom that she needed to find them a place to live…a rest home, as it was called then…Mom didn’t want to…she said she would take care of them…but Grandpa stood his ground and told my Mom that they needed more than she could give…she worked and they needed care all the time…Grandma could no longer cook or do the laundry and he just couldn’t do it…so Mom went out and found a home just a few miles away…Bryn Mar nursing home…and they lived there the rest of their lives…he was a “take charge guy” all his life and this to him was no different…

I remember when one day we went there to see them…they were in the same room…and Grandma had deteriorated as the months went by…but Grandpa continued to take care of her as best he could…as Mom went in…Grandma asked her, “Who is that man in the bed next to me?”…Mom told her…but you know even though she didn’t remember her husband of more than fifty years…nothing changed in my Grandpa for her…he was as faithful as before…it was always my definition of love…that though she no longer knew him, yet he still loved her…

So what is the difference in those two love stories???…well, probably nothing…where a man or a woman who truly loves…that love holds until the end…whatever that end may be…


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