Flag Days — Caring for my Great-Grandfather Barnard’s Flag

A few years ago I received the flag that was placed on my Great-Grand­fa­ther Barnard’s cas­ket when he died. He fought in World War I and was a POW, twice. The flag hadn’t been prop­er­ly cared for, stuffed into an old card­board box that was too small to hold it, along with a sheet of paper describ­ing how to prop­er­ly care for the flag, and who is enti­tled to one at their funer­al.

The doc­u­ment is cer­tain­ly pre-World War II, as it made men­tion of World War I, but noth­ing else. Dis­col­ored with age, and some­what brit­tle due to acid con­tent, the paper, in con­junc­tion with the ancient card­board box, had stained the flag.

For sev­er­al years I tried to fig­ure out the best way to remove the stains with­out harm­ing the flag itself, which is at least 50 and per­haps as many as 90 years old. I want­ed to safe­ly remove the stains, have it prop­er­ly fold­ed and put it into a flag case. I tried con­tact­ing the Cleve­land Muse­um of Art to talk to a spe­cial­ist in tex­tile preser­va­tion, scout­ed around online & even Asked MetaFil­ter. I read forums on flag eti­quette and ran across some some­what “extreme” views on what con­sti­tutes des­e­cra­tion of the flag (e.g. wash­ing it peri­od). I didn’t find any­thing con­clu­sive or even some­what help­ful in deal­ing with a flag of advanced age.

So I washed it. And the stains came out! And I when I spread it on my bed to dry, it cov­ered the whole bed, and then some. And I called my mom to tell her about it, and she asked how many stars were on it. And there are only 48 stars on it! 6 rows of 8.

I end­ed up hav­ing to fold it myself, and I did a pret­ty good job at it. The flag case I got for it was too large though & then the glass in it broke. I still don’t have some­thing to prop­er­ly put it in for dis­play or stor­age. But I feel a lot bet­ter know­ing that it has been suc­cess­ful­ly cleaned and is prop­er­ly fold­ed.

How Becoming a Parent Changed Me

Becom­ing a par­ent does change things. I’ve heard that near­ly my entire life, but no one has been able to suc­cess­ful­ly explain what the hell the state­ment means. It just rings a bit hol­low as an unex­plained tru­ism. How­ev­er! I think I’ve fig­ured out a cou­ple of ways to explain things; or, at least, explain how becom­ing a par­ent changed me.


Watch­ing Bram dis­cov­er the world allows me to dis­cov­er it again. I used to boast that I’d nev­er lose a child­like sense of won­der, but watch­ing the lit­tle bear wig out over a train or an orange car shows me just how much I’d lost of that amaze­ment. One of the com­plete­ly unex­pect­ed and unde­served ben­e­fits of being a par­ent is the abil­i­ty to relive those first moments of won­der vic­ar­i­ous­ly. This vic­ar­i­ous feel­ing is sweet­ened and enhanced by a nos­tal­gia born of remem­ber­ing things you’d for­got­ten you’d known. Being with Bram when he saw a freighter leave the mouth of the Cuya­hoga from the Coast Guard Sta­tion at Whiskey Island pro­vid­ed me with lay­ers and lay­ers of emo­tion stretch­ing from my own child­hood: nos­tal­gia at that lev­el of enthu­si­asm, the joy of remem­ber­ing some moments of my own tod­dler expe­ri­ences; and into the present: vic­ar­i­ous­ly expe­ri­enc­ing that emo­tion again, grat­i­tude at being present for your own child’s moment of satori, and pride that you in some way facil­i­tat­ed the process.

Extrap­o­lat­ing from here, I imag­ine that grand­par­ents feel much of the same; a third chance to expe­ri­ence child­hood with the added bonus of a sec­ond chance to expe­ri­ence par­ent­ing.

Reference Manual

I’ve gained a whole new per­spec­tive of appre­ci­a­tion for the par­ent­ing exam­ples of my par­ents. When I find myself in a sit­u­a­tion where I’m unsure of how to pro­ceed, I can think back to what worked and didn’t work on me, and adapt those lessons to what­ev­er I’m try­ing to fig­ure out with lit­tle bear. If I find myself sec­ond-guess­ing or unsure of my deci­sions, I know I’m just a phone call away from a total pro.

So, par­ent­ing has changed my life by the addi­tion of con­text; vic­ar­i­ous nos­tal­gia by allow­ing me to com­pare my child­hood to my son’s & a whole new ref­er­ence man­u­al of behav­iors com­ing from what I observed about par­ent­ing before I became one myself. I under­stand that some folks don’t get why oth­ers would want to be par­ents, and that’s cool. For me, it’s already pro­vid­ed a wealth of new and old expe­ri­ences that I nev­er would have expect­ed, and that I expect will nev­er end.

New [to me] Wheels

I have a great fam­i­ly. My mom came up for East­er and spent a lot of time with Bram. Today we made an impromp­tu trip to Fort Wayne so I could buy a car from my uncle. Just like the last time I bought a car from him, he gave me a great deal. They real­ly look out for me, and I’m lucky to have them.

Here are the new wheels, it’s a 2004 Jeep Grand Chero­kee.

2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Civil Service

My favorite dis­cus­sion this year in my Pub­lic Admin­is­tra­tion class cen­tered around whether civ­il ser­vice was a call­ing [or not]. This led me to think about why I get so much sat­is­fac­tion out of my gov­ern­ment web design gig. The answer I usu­al­ly shell out is because every day I get a chance to improve the way gov­ern­ment inter­acts with its cit­i­zens. Despite this being true and the most imme­di­ate reward of my job, I fig­ured there has to be more. It’s my fam­i­ly, and Catholic school.

My grand­pa fought in World War II and then was was a mail car­ri­er with a rur­al route for the Post Office for years. My moth­er taught spe­cial edu­ca­tion her whole life. The Holy Cross broth­ers at Notre Dame also empha­sized ser­vice. After awhile it gets ingrained. I enjoy work­ing for the gov­ern­ment because it is ser­vice-dri­ven, not prof­it-moti­vat­ed. When­ev­er I get a call for­ward­ed to me from the help desk, I always make sure I don’t send them around on anoth­er bout of trans­fer-tag. If I can’t answer their ques­tion or help them out, I make sure that if I do have to trans­fer them, they get sent to the exact­ly cor­rect per­son, not just the cor­rect office. The reward is their grat­i­tude.

So, I guess it is easy to see where I fall on the argu­ment. I feel called to civ­il ser­vice, so I think it is a call­ing.

It might seem like an excep­tion, but the Selec­tive Ser­vice (a fas­ci­nat­ing Wikipedia arti­cle), and the fact that I had to reg­is­ter for the [non-exis­tent] draft in order to receive fed­er­al stu­dent loans is a big rea­son why I nev­er signed up for the Armed Forces. I’m non-com­bat­ive by nature, but I’m also stub­born as hell when some­one tries to force me to do some­thing. It is fit­ting then, that I would resent sign­ing up for the draft; it is an enforced civ­il ser­vice (among oth­er things), and there­fore incon­sis­tent with my opin­ion that civ­il ser­vice is a call­ing.


Mil­lions of young men have now been vin­di­cat­ed by the actions of one of the great­est anath­e­mas of our time. Steve (a.k.a. Ben­jamin Cur­tis; a.k.a. The Dell Guy) was arrest­ed on 2/9/2003 for crim­i­nal pos­ses­sion of mar­i­jua­na. Now all of the moth­ers, friends of moth­ers, aunts, great-aunts, grand­moth­ers, old­er female cowork­ers, lunch ladies, and nuns all must admit that we, the Young Men of Amer­i­ca, are noth­ing like the Dell Guy. We do not pref­ace or wrap-up every sen­tence with the word ‘dude.’ and most impor­tant­ly none of us smoke pot. not a sin­gle one. and you know it too. right now half of all the afore­men­tioned women who know of this lit­tle newsy tid­bit are think­ing to them­selves: ‘Oh My! Steve smokes Wacky Tabac­cy? And I com­pared him to my own son/friend’s son/nephew/­great-nephew/etc… What a hor­ri­ble mis­take I have made!’ the oth­er half of the women, so con­vinced that the young man who hap­pens to know which end of a mouse to click is just like Steve are think­ing: ‘Does my son/friend’s son/nephew/­great-nephew/etc… have a prob­lem smok­ing the gan­ja?’ I’m sure my mom fits into this lat­ter cat­e­go­ry.

per­haps Ben­jamin and Ellen Feiss the chick from the apple/switch ad should get togeth­er…

Dirty Toenails

my moth­er seems to think i am just like her broth­er, my uncle Col­lier. she decid­ed this quite sud­den­ly when i decid­ed to go into town. wear­ing san­dals. with ‘dirty’ toes. appar­ent­ly by uncle did the same when he was my age. i hap­pen to feel hon­ored by this com­par­i­son. my uncle Col­lier was a gui­tar-play­ing hip­pie, who then went on into the Air Force and is now a gui­tar-play­ing Men­non­ite with a great fam­i­ly. if i am like my uncle Col­lier, dirty toe­nails are a badge of hon­or. it means i’m get­ting grimy with the dirt of a life well-lived and grub­by feet sym­bol­ize my involve­ment in day to day expe­ri­ence. peo­ple with clean toe­nails are the ones who stay on the con­crete path and watch peo­ple like my uncle and myself out there liv­ing. How are your toe­nails look­ing?