I went to a funeral on Nantucket yesterday. The island was cold and deserted, but still beautiful:
The woman who died was a relative of my wife’s. I had known her for a long time, but I didn’t know this about her until yesterday: she was present during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Her father had been stationed there, and after the attack the Navy brought her family to California, from which they took a cross-country train back to Massachusetts, and home to Nantucket.
It occurred to me that the Second World War is slowly turning from memory to history as men and women like this die. I work with a woman whose father was present at the first atomic bomb blast at Los Alamos, but he is over 90. How many of those folks are left?
All of which reminds me of the great final scene of From Here to Eternity, when Donna Reed’s character starts turning memory into myth as she stands on the deck of a ship leaving Hawaii after Pearl Harbor — inventing a story about her relationship with Montgomery Clift’s character as the leis float out to sea. She, like my wife’s relative, will never go back.