Wednesday Sep 05 2012
A father's poem, words that will last forever
By: Elaine Jo Giamona
Life from your window column
Sometimes we learn more about people after they have left this Earth than we knew when they were alive. My grandmother was a prolific letter writer. I’m told she had pen pals all over the world. My father wrote hundreds of letters during his lifetime. In the 1940s, he wrote many to his beloved mother, who had 12 children. Dad was a retired U.S. Army colonel when he inherited his own letters from Grandma Alice after she left this world in the ‘80s. Her son’s letters had been saved by her in neatly tied bundles. I now have them all. During World War II, in 1942, my father was stationed at Camp Huckstep near the bustling cosmopolitan city of Cairo, Egypt. He was a handsome young lieutenant. When he first arrived, Dad was given the task of hand-picking 300 Army soldiers to form a new quartermaster unit. Dad and the soldiers in this unit would be responsible for supplies, food, clothing, equipment and housing for thousands of American soldiers stationed in North Africa during the war. The following poem was written by my father at the age of 21 in 1944 and mailed to his mother. It is filled with words of wisdom which, I think you’ll agree, still ring true today … nearly 70 years later. When We’ve Learned to Live We people of this world aren’t the Kings we think we are. We think we run this universe. We think we top the par. We’ve lived our cycles here on Earth and passed on to our son All the history with our progress, both finished and begun. We marvel at our present state of livelihood and science. We look with pride upon ourselves and build up self-reliance. We’ve founded factories large and massive, beauty in their own. With pride we view our cities and note how they have grown. We’ve built our autos, ships and planes, for pleasure they were made. We’ve harnessed lengthy rivers for the profits that they paid. We love our homes so well equipped to please and comfort hearts. We spare no cost in novelties or appetizing tarts. We’ve clothed ourselves the very best, the styles front in mind. We rate each class of people by the paths they’ve carved in time. We’ve done our best to dodge the point of sweating with our hands. We’ve bartered with the common folk at home and foreign lands. We educate our children and study hard ourselves. Each wants to be the master of the thing in which he delves. We’ve built long level highways that nearly span the globe. We travel at our leisure, into unknown lands we probe. We prize these worldly treasures, hold them high in mind, But have we actually done the things that credit human kind? You can own the worldly riches, have everything you please, But having that and that alone, your heart won’t rest in ease. There is more than that to living, though each will form the whole. The perfection of our lives will be when we acclaim the goal That we have built around ourselves, our families and our neighbors True friendship, love and brotherhood, and dropped our warring sabers. Wars spring up on left and right, death calls growing boys; Mangled health and bodies, which every war deploys. Perfection, you might call it, I shall call it Hell. I know no other term which describes it quite so well. Having never found a scheme to terminate our troubles Without continual squabbling in effervescent bubbles Then we haven’t made our goal in life, we haven’t learned to give. We’ve only learned to grope for fame and never learned to live. ~ By Leonard James McCoy Feb. 22, 1944 Elaine Jo Giamona is a Soroptimist International of Lincoln charter member and McCoy Real Estate and Property Management owner/broker. She is creator and administrator of the Facebook groups, Lincoln Nonprofit Coalition and Lincoln Thank Tank. Comments are welcome at email@example.com.