Today is Memorial Day. It is also Michael’s 18th birthday. Which he celebrated by jumping out of a plane and sky diving.
So I thought a short post combining two of these three events together would be appropriate. The first two events. I’m pretending the third one didn’t happen.
Michael’s scouting career began in Kindergarten with the Cub Scouts. Eventually, Michael graduated Cub Scouts and joined the Boy Scout troop when he was in 5th grade. His troop is sponsored by our local American Legion. The veterans at this post have a long track record of supporting the Scouts. And that’s how Michael first met Mr. Wolf.
Mr. Wolf is 97 years old. He fought in World War II. Actually, he will tell you that he didn’t fight. He trained for the invasion of Japan and, when that didn’t happen, he was reassigned to guard German POWs. When he finally returned home from his service, there was no one to greet him as there had been a major train accident involving the Twin Cities Zephyr. People were so caught up in the accident, they forgot to collect him at the station.
Several years ago, Mr. Wolf needed someone to mow his lawn. So he contacted the Scout troop at his American Legion Post. Somehow Michael’s name was mentioned. Introductions were made and Michael began mowing Mr. Wolf’s lawn. He’s been doing this since he was in the 6th grade. Mr. Wolf contacts me every summer and leaves me the same message:
“Hello Mrs. Rauch. This is Mr. Wolf. I’m still alive. I want Michael to mow my lawn this summer. Give me a call.”
At the end of the summer, I receive the following message:
“Hello Mrs. Rauch. This is Mr. Wolf. The grass ain’t growing anymore so I won’t need Michael until next summer. I’ll put a check in the mail with a little extra something for Michael. He’s a good kid.”
I have the messages saved on my phone. They are precious and I can’t bring myself to delete them.
Before Michael had his license, I would drive him over to Mr. Wolf’s house. I would drop him off and hit the local Aldi for groceries. Inevitably my shopping excursion took longer than the lawn mowing. Often when I returned, Michael and Mr. Wolf were sitting in the front yard. Michael drinking a can of root beer. Mr. Wolf drinking a bottle of beer. I would ask Michael what they talked about. He said nothing much. They just sat together. I could tell it meant something to Mr. Wolf.
Back in April, Mr. Wolf attended Michael’s Eagle Scout ceremony. He was proud of Michael’s achievement and even gave a donation towards Michael’s project. He spent time looking at Michael’s display board and the collected paraphernalia from 13 years of Cub and Boy Scouts. After the ceremony, I noticed Mr. Wolf introducing Michael to some people.
As we were cleaning up, Michael came over to me and said, “Mom, Mr. Wolf introduced me to his American Legion friends as, ‘My Scout'”.
Be still my heart.
I told Michael that he was special to Mr. Wolf. That all those afternoons of mowing his lawn meant something to him. It was companionship, a friendship of sorts between the generations. Michael gave me a half-smile, a head nod, and a little grunt. I think he finally understood.
So on this Memorial Day, here’s to all those men and women who gave the “last full measure of devotion” in lands far away and foreign. And here’s to those who remain behind, but continue to strengthen the Union. In small ways. Like hiring a local Boy Scout to mow a lawn. And giving him a root beer and a little extra cash.
And then showing up at his Eagle Court of Honor and claiming him as “My Scout”.