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  • Off by two
    By Scott Newport

    The other day, Jay, a lumber associate and I were loading 2x4’s onto a cart at Home Depot. We weren’t paying much attention to the pile as it grew.

    I guess when buddies are working and talking at the same time, space and surrounding noise have little impact. And for sure counting takes a back seat.

    That evening just after dinner my eighty- one -year old dad stopped by to visit his thirteen years -old -grandson. Noah was fulfilling a Royal oak Middle school, social studies assignment from Mrs. Bodine which was to interview a veteran.

    My dad spent eighteen months in Korea when he was in his early twenties. While standing in our kitchen, I could see them huddled on the sofa in our living room. I turned off the radio and started to listen.

    With Noah’s pad and pen in hand my dad told Noah about living under the roof of a canvas tent with his men and about how his cot was set up right next to the door.

    “I wanted to be the first to see if the enemy came through,” my dad explained.

    With his head bowed down he started to talk about a day when he was driving in a jeep with a private toward the front lines for an assignment. For the first time in fifty years I heard my dad talk about a ¾ ton truck loaded with dead comrades. Quivering he said, “I can still see those Cambodians standing at the NATO base camp as we drove by wondering if they would find one of their buddies in the stack.”

    As I entered the living room I could just imagine what thoughts were going through my dad’s head at the age of twenty one when they passed the truck loaded with dead bodies.

    After my dad left and I went to bed relishing the events of the evening I couldn’t help but remember what Jay had said after we stacked our cart with wood that morning and I asked, “Do we have forty?”

    “No, Scott, we’re off by two.”

    I immediately recalled the story my dad told Noah and thought about what if my dad had never returned.

    I fell off to sleep with the sweet memory of Noah asking, “Hey grandpa, can you come to school with me tomorrow, our class is having a Veterans Day celebration and you’re invited.”
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