then things fall and they break and gravity sings
we can only hold so much is what i figure
try and keep our eye on the big picture
picture keeps getting bigger
-Ani DiFranco, “hour follows hour”
I went to Paul Cotton’s memorial service today. He was 85 when he died last month. My grandmother wanted me to come because i was a very special girl to him, so i agreed though i have few memories of him. When i was 9, my grandmother and i went with Paul and his wife Ginny, and their cat, to Nova Scotia in their motor home. My grandmother often reminds me of how at the time i was singing patriotic songs (i had Wee Sing America) and learning the Gettysburg Address and Paul was quite impressed. Ever since then he always asked my grandmother how “our girl” was doing. Patriotism is one of the last things i want to be noted for at this stage in my life, so this has always made me a bit uncomfortable. While i frequently saw Ginny at church, i rarely saw Paul, so it was basically a moot point. I sat at the memorial service and listened to the minister talk about how family was the most important thing to Paul, though “family” often encompassed more than just blood relatives, and many other wonderful things that one expects to hear at memorial services. I felt distant since i knew nothing of this man. Then she said that he was a conscientious objector in World War II. My face lit up. Now here was a guy i could get behind. He worked in the forest service, and then worked drawing weather maps. When my grandmother got up and shared some memories of Paul, of course she shared the Nova Scotia story. She mentioned something that i don’t remember her ever mentioning to me before, that he was so pleased that i was interested in history. This makes me much more proud than being thought well of for being a patriotic child.