On Mardi Gras, the Rex parade stalled, perhaps due to some glitch with the earlier Zulu parade. Whatever the reason, the delay killed the buzz of the crowd. In front of us, the Albany Marine Band came to a halt. Before resting, they played a short number, which gave the crowd something to cheer. The members talked to the crowd, took accolades from my eldest (who decided that these men and women play the best, march the best, and look the best), and got a bit of refreshment while still looking perfectly starched, pressed, and cool (not easy to do on a warm day). Their ensemble band separated and jammed with the crowd. These Marines kept us happy.
Some time later, with the parade still unmoving, an elderly man hobbled to the edge of St. Charles. I noticed the band officer assemble the band in formation for another concert number. My son and I paid attention, because two year olds need entertainment while sitting atop a ladder. From their instruments came the Marine Hymn. (Lyrics here.)
I stared to sing it. Then, memories of my father proudly singing that the streets of Heaven are guarded by United States Marines choked my words with tears. I couldn't continue, although I kept myself from sobbing. Until I saw him. That elderly man who had struggled to the edge of the avenue stood at attention, arm held in a salute, a tear streaking his cheek.
That released my tears in a true torrent. The honor, probably from fifty or more years ago, of that man still held strong. The pride of the band officer and the band members to play the hymn for him showed only an inkling of the meaning of the motto Semper Fidelis. I thought of the honor guard at my father's funeral, how they honored my father, a man unknown to them.
So many tears I shed as others enjoyed that Mardi Gras day. I've said it before; there is no joy for me without profound sadness.