A Somber Birthday Celebration

Why America’s independence is a relative situation

My grandma and my uncle
share a birthday. It’s today.
My father’s mom died years ago,
but Sam’s alive, though gray.

I celebrate his birth each year
with fireworks and fun.
But lately I’m concerned his days on earth
may soon be done.

I fear my uncle’s health is poor.
He’s looking gaunt and thin.
He doesn’t stand for much these days.
His plight has crippled him.

Where once he claimed to trust in God,
my uncle’s waffling.
He trips a lot on tolerance.
His step has lost its spring.

His apathy’s begun to spread.
He can’t feel much these days.
He’s blind to things that moved him once.
He’s deaf to virtue’s ways.

His heart is weak. It doesn’t race
to see “Old Glory” fly.
His feeble hand can’t reach his chest
when veterans floats pass by.

He doesn’t quite know who he is.
His memory isn’t good.
He can’t recall what made him great.
Oh, how I wish he could.

He’s very sick. He just might die.
But Sam’s a tough old bird.
I’m praying for a miracle.
Do you think that absurd?

My birthday wish for Uncle Sam
is that he will survive.
At two-hundred-and-thirty-two,
he’s not too old to thrive.

* Yes, it’s true. My All-American paternal grandmother, Margaret Stradley Turley, was born on July 4, 1897 in Bland County, Virginia. She married Haralambos Asimakoupoulos, a Greek immigrant in northern Idaho, who would later change his name to Harry Smith. From what I’ve been told, Grandpa Smith wanted a new name that reflected the heritage of his new homeland. On August 13, 1969 our nuclear family asked a Chelan County judge in Wenatchee, Washington to reinstate our ancestral name. We strongly believed that America’s greatness is best observed by celebrating our cultural diversity and ethnic pride, not reducing the varied tastes of our rich backgrounds to a common flavor.
 
** The above poem was written against the backdrop of recent changes in our national identity in which the United States is no longer viewed by the rest of the world the way it once was. The poem is a personal hope that “Uncle Sam” will not succumb to the pattern described by the noted British historian Arnold Toynbee. He observed that the average age of the world’s great civilizations is only 200 years and that these nations progressed through a similar pattern.
 
“From bondage to spiritual faith. From spiritual faith to great courage. From great courage to liberty. From liberty to abundance. From abundance to selfishness. From selfishness to complacency. From complacency to apathy. From apathy to dependence and from dependence to bondage again.”
 
What a sobering cycle and timeline given the fact that our nation appears to have followed this process and this very day celebrates its 232nd birthday.