Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Commissioned Officer

Kirk graduated in Spring of 1995. The commission ceremony happened around the same time, in a small hall at UNM. The ceremony is pretty simple; the cadets take an oath - not to support the president, or defend an individual, not even to fight for the American people. The oath all military members take is to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Worth remembering really.

One of the nicest things is that there is a place for family and friends. The new officer has to pin on rank - putting the 'butter bars' (single gold colored bars for 2nd Lieutenant) on shoulder boards and hat. Then there's the first salute - a pretty special moment that has a lot of history and tradition behind it. For this Kirk chose Grandpa B-.

Grandpa was new to the family. Actually, since he was well over 70 it's probably better to say that he was new to the cast. In fact, that's entirely appropriate, because he was, intentionally and with full awareness, a character.

Grandpa B was Kirk's birth grandfather, part of the birth family Kirk found when we came back from Germany. It was right at Christmas when we first met them - Kirk birth mother, his grandparents, and his sister. It was a bit disconcerting to find out that he and his sister had not only gone to school together, they had known eachother reasonably well and she had been a good friend of his brother.

Grandpa and Grandma were terrific though. She was tiny, and very sweet, with beautiful white hair that she had carefully set every Tuesday. She called him B-, because his last name was so unusual that when they met she couldn't remember it and took to using it to teach herself. He used to tell stories about her, most of which started or ended with 'she treats me dreadful.' 'She locked me out of the house the other day,' he said 'locked me into the garage and wouldn't let me in no matter how much I hollered. She treats me dreadful.' She was slightly deaf, and generally didn't catch what he was saying for a few minutes. Then she would click her tongue, 'Oh B-. You know that was an accident. Of course I let you in. Eventually.' He liked to carry a photo of her around and pull people aside to show it off. 'Now, wasn't she gorgeous? Wasn't she the prettiest thing?' The photograph was only a year old.

The only thing that really got him cross was Grandma's old beau. He was a bass player ('Damn musician. Damn bass playin' musician. Slick fellow. Can't trust him.') who had played with a travelling big band for decades. But every year on one special day he sent her dozens of deep red roses, and Grandpa sulked the entire day. Made you realize what a fascinating woman she must have been.

They were thrilled to get to know Kirk, and Grandpa - formerly enlisted - was exceptionally proud that 'the boy' was becoming an officer. So it was never a question who would give that first salute.

He dug out his old uniform and had it meticulously cleaned and pressed. Once Kirk had taken his oath, and the ranks were pinned in place, Grandpa stepped forward and snapped him a crisp salute, keeping solid military bearing until Kirk handed him the traditional solid silver dollar, when he grinned all over his face. Then he cried.


Anonymous said...

You mentioin a birth mother. Maybe this is too personal a question. Was your husband adopted?

For Kirk said...

Yes, he and his younger brother were both adopted. They have a wonderful adoptive family, but around the time we got back from Germany both boys got a bit curious about their genetic roots and found their birth families. Kirk always considered his adoptive family as his 'primary' family although he enjoyed meeting and learning about the others.

He never had any issues with being adopted. Instead as a kid he used to smugly inform the other children in the neighborhood: 'My parents chose me because they wanted me. Yours were just stuck with you.' Kirk was never low on self esteem!