Both my Grandfathers and one of my Grandmothers served in WWII. My Grandpa was shot out of plane and lost most of his hearing, his sense of taste, and who knows what else - he never talked to me about it. My Paupa and my Nana served. My Paupa worked on airplanes and screwed up his back stepping around in the dark. I don't know whether he felt relieved or angry that he never saw action. He was a pretty practical guy; I doubt he felt left out. My Nana was with the WAVES in San Francisco. I talked to my Paupa a bit about his experiences flying and working on planes. He helped me write a short story. I hoped that it meant something to him to have those memories live again, but I honestly don't know if it was a good thing I did.
My Paupa was the Mayor of a small town in Pennsylvania for years. He was not a wealthy man by any stretch of the imagination, but he was respected and devoted. He took care of his town, and one of his self-imposed duties was to gather damaged flags, flags that had touched the ground or were worn, and burn them in ceremony. This was something he took very seriously. I don't put much stock in flags or pennants or pledges, but I respected my Paupa, and I loved him very much. I loved my Grandpa, and I adored my Nana. I tried to respect the things they respected because I knew they had their reasons. Reasons that mattered.
Watching someone beat police officers with a American flag hurt me in a way I didn't expect, because I know it would have crushed my Paupa. My Grandpa would have been outraged at his neighbors in the Midwest flying to DC to wreak COSPLAY havoc at the Capitol. My Nana and my Grandma were the sweetest, kindest, and most thoughtful women I have ever known. They believed in manners and not being tacky. They would be heartbroken at what we have become.
I think about my Dad a lot, too. And my sister. 25 years in the Navy and years with the State Department respectively. I can't bring myself to ask them how they feel about it. We aren't always that kind of family. We keep our cards close and our pain hidden. That said, someday, I will ask, but I already know the answer. I can feel it, an ache, in my chest.