Mae, I can hear you now, just as plain as ever. You'd say, “Hiram, dear”. You always called me dear. “What've you gone and done this time?”
Hiram Sumter's craggy face streamed with tears; the big old rocker creaked with each slow movement. Hiram didn't protest, he'd grown accustomed to the sound over the years, by now a familiar friend.
Mae had gone home to be with Jesus last summer, but Hiram still included her in his everyday life. Sixty-five years of marriage had forged them into one inseperable being.
He and Mae had bought the house on Starlight Dr. in 1946, shortly after he returned home from the war. Most of his friends had bought and sold their homes several times by now. Not Hiram and Mae. They were like that, these two. They never saw their house as an asset; it was a home. Oh, they had improved it over the years, building on to make room for the three girls God had given them. Would have had room for Billy, too, but God had taken him to his eternal home at age two.
Looking out at the front drive, Hiram could picture his girls playing hopscotch and jumping rope. The concrete was all broken up now, but it did him fine. He didn't drive as much anymore. The grand kids didn't get much out of hopscotch, jacks or jumping rope; they had their noses into electronic devices. He hardly knew them.
How many birds had hatched and thrived in that stately oak out by the driveway? Hundreds? At least.
Mae, remember that tire swing in the oak? The girls would swing for hours and then you'd take them peanut butter sandwiches and lemonade. All four of you with your golden locks and sky-blue eyes.
The cold wind of late autumn shook the paper Hiram was holding, almost stealing it from his frail grasp and reminding him of this recent event for his sorrow.
Mae, the city says I can't fly our flag. Says it's not in compliance with city regulations. Too big. Seems they're more comfortable with little flags that can't be seen. We knew there would be a price to pay for getting annexed into the city, didn't we sweet? Too good to be true you said, all benefits with little cost. You're right again. Never thought I'd live to see the day I can't fly my flag. We've had her up all these years.
Hiram sat thinking of those humid island jungles and beaches so long ago when he was a young marine, when he still believed people cared about country and freedom, cared enough to embrace a flag no matter the size. How could the Stars and Stripes ever be seen as a nuisance? An eyesore? At the Battle of Guadalcanal he had seen so much death and destruction. He lost friends; he would never accept it was a bygone era, a time with no current value.
His medals had been on display over the mantle since Mae put them there when they first bought the house. A Silver Star for gallantry in action among others. He kept them in sight so to remember those who paid the price of freedom with their very blood. He didn't dare want to forget the price of freedom.
Mae, sweet. I just don't seem to fit in with this new generation. Neighbors I've yet to meet have complained to the Homeowner's Association. I had a visit from Yoshia Matsuda, the new president. That's right, sweet. Japanese American. Nice fellow, really. But, he doesn't understand my flag, Mae. Seems more interested in all the homes having the same mailboxes and front door color. He says it's a new day. Well, it's not one I care much for. I guess I'll just wait here awhile longer until...you know, sweet. I've outlived my era. When did it pass away and leave me as its relic?
Hiram walked slowly up to the flagpole, looked up through watery eyes and saluted Old Glory.
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