by Patricia Carey
I’m having a love/hate relationship with my flag today. I love the flag that is a symbol of my country, but I’m frustrated by the piece of cloth that is wrapped for the twentieth time around the beam on the front porch. I’ve just come in from pulling it loose yet again.
When we moved into this house we put up a bracket to hold the flag pole. It was screwed into the bricks between the front porch and the garage, but when I went to put the flag up for the first time this spring, I found that one of the screws had pulled loose from the mortar, and the bracket wouldn’t hold the pole. It was probably just as well. When the flag hung from that pole it was always twisting around and tying itself in a tight knot. It looked like a big red and white swimming pool noodle sticking out from the house. Not very patriotic.
I kept going out to take it off the pole and re-hang it, but once, about an hour after I had unfurled it, our sweet young neighbor knocked on the door to ask if we were okay. Apparently I had hung the flag back upside down, which is a universal distress signal. She said she just wanted to know if it was all right if she fixed the flag, but I’m pretty sure she thought she’d better check on the old people next door once again.
So then I decided to climb the ladder and hang the flag straight out on the beam across the front porch. I hammered nails in the beam and stuck the grommets over the nails and tried to hammer the nails straight up. Now the flag is dividing its time between flapping wildly in our Oklahoma wind, wrapping around the beam, and knocking into the robin’s nest that is on top of the beam.
I’m not going to give up, though. It is important to me that we hang the flag out. I remember the story about how Al-Qaeda bragged that they would change the look of America on 9/11—and they did. After the attack, flags flew from almost every house on almost every block in all kinds of neighborhoods where they had never been before.
Don’t tell him I said so, but my husband has been known to sniff pretty loudly when watching a sad movie, but it takes a lot to make me cry. However, when the flag comes past me in a parade, or when they unfurl it onto a baseball field, or I look up and down my street and see flags flying at my neighbors’ houses, it brings tears to my eyes every time.
One flag we owned had rested on the casket of my husband’s step-father, a World War II veteran. My brother was in Korea. My husband’s brother was a Marine in Vietnam and some of my friends from high school died there. Our son was deployed to Kyrgyzstan, where he patched up soldiers who were wounded when they flew in and out of Afghanistan taking supplies to the troops. Today one of our nephews just graduated from Army Ranger School and is getting ready to leave again, and another is in Afghanistan now.
All of them have sacrificed for my right to fly that flag, and untwist it and run out into the rain and bring it in and climb up on the ladder and pound the nails to try to keep it up there, and when we needed a new one, to go online and search till I found a flag that was “Made in America.” They’ve gone and left their homes, their families, the way of life we are enjoying today. Thousands of others have lost arms and legs and even their very lives to allow me to fly my flag.
I think I’ll go pull it loose again. That isn’t too much trouble, considering.
Pat Carey has lived in the Tulsa area since 2003. She is retired and spends much of her time as chauffeur and general go-fer for her husband, Dennis, who is an amputee, and two of her four grandchildren who live near her. She enjoys gardening until it gets too hot, when she tends to let everything go to weeds, and foisting her opinions on anyone who will read her blog, An Old Wife’s Tales. Her other work for the918 is Christmas Decorating and Why I Live in Tornado Alley.