On Veteran's Day

  Veterans Day 2008

My father, Jack Barry, enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 18 and served in Patton’s army during World War II. He told some very entertaining stories about the day to day escapades of military life which sounded like a cross between the old Sgt. Bilko series of the 1950’s and an episode of MASH. But like most veterans of his era, there were some things in his experience that he was extremely reluctant to discuss. When pressed, he would simply quote General Sherman’s address to the 1879 graduating class of Michigan Military Academy: "War is hell!"

In the service, my father met my uncle, Morkie, who became his best friend for life. On their first day back in Massachusetts, Morkie introduced my father to his sister, June, whom Dad married a few years later. Two years after that, I was born, then my brother, Mark. My father once told me that, when the war ended, what he wanted most in the world was to come home to the small town where his family had lived for generations, to work and raise his own family there. If the war had done one thing for him, he said, it was to make him understand what it was he really wanted.

So today is Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day. It was on this day (11/11) in 1918 at 11 AM that World War I (“The War to end all wars”) ended. In honor of my father and all veterans who have served our country, I wish them the peace in body, mind, and spirit that they have sacrificially earned and so richly deserve.


P.S. For the historical context of the phrase "War is hell!", go here.

June's Passing

My mother, June Welch Barry, passed away Saturday morning. My brother, my husband, and I were all at her bedside. My mother had the misfortune of being diagnosed with severe Rheumatoid Arthritis at the early age of 45. She courageously and uncomplainingly battled the disease for an astonishing 37 years. Eventually, RA took from her the use of her hands, feet, arms, and legs, until she could no longer walk, dress, feed or care for herself. Her specialist deemed it one of the worst cases of RA that they had ever seen. As her daughter, I saw both her distress and her dignity. I was lucky enough to see her almost every day for the last three years of her life and, before that, to act as a part-time caregiver. These last weeks, many of our family held vigil with my mother. Her friends came from all over to sit at her bedside to share stories of their time with June and what it meant to them.

Time can steal those things which are subject to its laws. But it has no sway over the heart. Hers was strong, heroic, silly, and loving. My sadness is broken by the dreams I have of her now, healthy once more. I see her dancing with my father to some old favorite tune, some Fred and Ginger favorite. She is graceful and happy.

One of June's last wishes was for me to return to the book tour as soon as possible. My mother was an inspiration for The Lace Reader, very much like Eva, very much a lady in the old sense but with a special gift for predicting the future. She didn't read lace, but she could often tell the future. She told me early on that this book would do well, and it has.

Though it is difficult, and I'm not sure how to do it, I am heading out tonight confident that my mother's inspiration will guide me.