Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Thoughts on the letter R.

During one of the last broadcasts from the London Olympics, NBC aired a long paean to England during World War II. It was history for those who have no sense of history--who have read nothing, seen nothing and learnt nothing from the past.

The usual newsreel footage was shown. The goose-stepping Nazis. Christopher Wren's cathedral amidst the flames. The heroic RAF. The crackle of Churchill's voice on the BBC.

Toward the end of the piece, they showed the tombstone above in which the great man is interred. I had never seen it before and it struck me.

My mother's father--who came from the old country just before WWI and settled in ghetto-ized Philadelphia had been, among other things, a cutter of gravestones. This might have provided a living for my grandfather, his wife and his five kids (four girls and one boy--my mother the youngest) but he was too mercurial, too thirsty and too in the thrall of the Whore of Babylon.

He had genius in his hands. Genius that might have sculpted. Genius that might have carved great words in great buildings. But he was cosigned instead to tombstones. Small monuments to the small dead.

When I saw Churchill's stone, I was smitten--yes, that is the right word--by the curve of the "R" as it fairly embraces the following "C."

It seemed irreverent to me. Playful. Anti-establishment.

That R captured, it seemed to me, the essence of Churchill. A man who led history's greatest triumph of good over evil--and who then was booted out of office.

I don't know what went through the head of the stone carver when he carved CHURCHILL in that granite.

I do like to think my grandfather might have, nonetheless, done the same.

3 comments:

Afferbeck Lauder said...

What gives me greater pause is the use of the single word: "Churchill" - at risk of embellishing where none should be needed, that one word conveys so much: courage, leadership, refusal to bow to what appeared to be an insurmountable force (and, yes, the frailties of a man who was not perfect).

geo said...

You're right AL. But the "R" adds the insouciance that otherwise would have been overshadowed by his courage.

Stephentyic said...

What gives me greater pause is the use of the single word: "Churchill" - at risk of embellishing where none should be needed, that one word conveys so much: courage, leadership, refusal to bow to what appeared to be an insurmountable force (and, yes, the frailties of a man who was not perfect).