Shakespeare’s young (much, much too young) lovers, Romeo and Juliet, first asked that question centuries ago. What’s in a name? Turns out, there’s a whole bunch of stuff in a name. (Remember Anthony Weiner?!) I always think as this tragedy moves inexorably to its conclusion, that somehow things will turn out differently. For once, the timing will change, and the pair will live on into middle age as a paunchy, bickering couple as it’s supposed to be in the grand matrimonial scheme of things. But it never happens. It’s always too late. Just like “Gone With The Wind.” Every time I watch this movie, I’m convinced that surely Scarlet will prevail. When Scarlet asks Rhett, “Where shall I go? What shall I do?” he invariably retorts, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a dang.” (Sorry. This is a family blog, after all.) Just once I’d like to see Clark Gable turn around in the mist and say, “Oh, all right. Let’s give it another try!” Hasn’t happened yet. I continue to hope. Ah, but I digress.
This past weekend, the nation celebrated its birth with fireworks and an inexplicable obsession with British royalty. No one seemed to notice the 800-pound oxymoron in the room. Independence Day is a time when high-spirited citizens, armed with a match and everything from rockets to bottle bombs that rival Molotov cocktails, take to the street curbs and scorch the road with explosives ignited in the name of our illustrious forefathers until, mercifully, the garbage trucks arrive, grinding and flatulent, to harvest the debris of this pyrotechnic, patriotic celebration.
Dennis and I, in a flourish of health, good intentions, and mind-numbing insanity, decided to celebrate the Fourth AND accomplish a “one of these days we should…” things on our “one of these days we should…” list. So we filled the car with petrol and headed for, where else?, Little Bighorn battlefield.
Having seen numerous documentaries about this historical event, we were well prepared to be an eyewitness to history. And there’s no better way to observe our nation’s birth and adolescence than by making a pilgrimage to the site of a bloody clash between two nations, two cultures, two philosophies, two polar opposites. However, the more we learned, the more difficult it became to decipher which opponent should rightly be labeled “savage.”
The Black Hills were green, lovely and reverent, and concealed their history. The landscape was silent, as if the hills had all conspired to take a vow of omerta and not yield up its secrets willingly. Of course, this calm was in stark contrast to what had taken place exactly 135 years ago. Then, Cheyenne, Miniconjou, Oglala, Blackfeet, and Arapaho warriors clashed with the U. S. Seventh Cavalry, and saturated the soil with bloodshed.
Now here’s where names come in. The consortium of tribes was under the command of leaders and holy men like Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and Gall. Indian warriors were called Wooden Leg, Low Dog, Bloody Knife, Rubbing Out of Long Hair, Standing Bear, and Two Moons. These monikers would strike greater terror in the hearts of the enemy than, say, Tom, Bill and Jim, (actual members of Custer’s Company). Sometimes, names carry great significance and spiritual power. It is ironic that some of the fiercest carnage occurred at a place called Rosebud. Sounds more like the opening scene of “Citizen Kane.”
One cannot walk these hallowed grounds without being inspired by courage, determination, devotion, and unyielding bravery in the face of overwhelming odds by warriors on both sides of the conflict. I am familiar with such characteristics. Brodi dedicated her book, “Everneath,” to her father. She wrote, “For my Dad, a quiet man, a fierce warrior.” It made me ponder. I have contemplated what Indian name would be appropriate for this man. Sitting Bull was a Hunkpapa Lakota. Dennis is rather bony at the moment, but that won’t always be the case. In fact, his bone structure protrudes in so many directions, one could actually calculate longitude and latitude and navigate the seas just looking at him. Nevertheless, spiritually, he’s every bit the “hunk” that Sitting Bull was. Perhaps, because of his diminished butt dimensions, he could be called One Moon. Or Peeping Tom-Tom. Or maybe Mini Ha Ha (aka LOL). My personal favorite would probably be “Silver Stud Muffin.”
Today, he will once again wage a battle to rival any in history. And I will recognize the same traits our nation’s forefathers possessed that went into the forging of this nation. He will sit patiently as he receives his transfusion, grateful for the opportunity to go to war against an insidious interloper. No war paint or feathers – just a port surgically installed near his collar bone to transport the toxic fluid to the battle site.
Friends and family make a difference in every cancer patient’s war. They are the battalions that cover our backs and say, “I am here. Let’s heal together.”
Dennis’ personal manifesto comes straight from George C. Scott, although Sitting Bull might well have said the same thing. “The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.”
He continues to distinguish himself. Fortitude is his nucleus. I do not doubt that, like all courageous warriors in the history of this nation, he will triumph.