Advice from Two War Veterans
One of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, once said, “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you`ll look back and realize they were the big things.” In his career, Vonnegut penned some of the most important American novels including Slaughterhouse-Five, a semi-autobiographical work, mixed with elements of science-fiction that details Vonnegut’s horrifying experience as a POW in World War II. Slaughterhouse-Five challenges human behavior, human morality, and is a novel I hope my kids will, one day, put down their phones and decide to read.
The other evening, driving Chase and Dylan to baseball practice, from the backseat of the car Dylan asked, “Are you going to wait for us at practice?”
“What are you going to do?”
“Get some coffee and write.”
“Are you writing another book?” Dylan asks.
“Yes, I am.”
Looking up from his phone, Chase remarks , “I didn’t even read your first one.”
“Well one day, when you’re sitting at your kid’s baseball practice for two hours, maybe you’ll finally read my book.”
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be that bored.”
Earlier that day, Tom, a southpaw in my boxing class, said that he recently returned from a trip to Vietnam. He said that he hadn’t been there since he served in the War.
After class, as we stuffed our gym bags with our boxing gloves, I braved up and spoke,” Tom, I overheard you saying you served in the Vietnam War.”
“1968 to 1970.”
“How old were you when you went?”
I shook my head. “If you don’t mind me asking, what were you assigned to do?”
“I was a parts supplier. My job was to get parts for vehicles and weapons to the guys out in the field.”
“It was. But I guess I was lucky. I didn’t have to fight. I just had to go into the fight, drop off a part, and get the hell out of there. I realized during the war, I didn’t want to die.”
I didn’t know what to say. I mean, the closest I ever got to a war was reading about it and playing Call of Duty on XBOX in my living room with the kids. Sometimes when you’re in the presence of someone who has witnessed life beyond your comprehension the best thing to do is say nothing. Because anything you say will be manufactured and superficial. So I cleared my throat and waited.
Zipping his gym bag, Tom looked at me and said, “I’ll tell you what. When I came home, I was 21 years-old with an old-man’s perspective. The war taught me to appreciate the little things in life.”
The boys and I cross the railroad tracks, pass the corner bar where people in t-shirts sat on wooden stools and watched cars zip by, pass the rows of single suburban house with deep green lawns, pass the funeral home with a bed of purple tulips by the white front door, and pass the brown brick public library.
“Dad,” Dylan asks, “Why do you write?”
“I hate writing,” Chase chimes.
“I guess, I write to tell our story. And I hope that my stories will help you tell your own stories.”
“Can’t you just tell us your stories?” Chase asks.
“I’m telling you my stories. Read my book. Read my blog.”
“No, I mean like can you make funny Youtube or Tik-Tok videos and tell us your stories.”
“Why don’t you just read the stories I wrote?”
“I’m too busy to read.”
Laughing, we sit at a traffic light, as the Spring sun warms the windshield. I flip down the sun visor. The engine hums. I look to the passenger seat, Chase is looking out at the road ahead, smiling. I look in the backseat and, with freckles dotting his face, Dylan smiles back.
I hear Tom and Kurt Vonnegut, two war veterans, reminding me to appreciate the little things.
Life is made up of these subtle yet surreal, traffic light moments.
Little moments swirling with big magic and big beauty that shift your thoughts from what you think is missing in life to what is right in front of you.
A father laughing with his sons in the car as they drive to baseball practice on a warm evening. So simple. So small. Yet so alive with human bigness.
I want to welcome everyone who recently subscribed to my blog through the Book Funnel promotion and received a free eBook version of Bedtime Stories for the Living. I hope you enjoy the book. And I hope my silly, dad brain brings you insight, comfort, and humor each Friday.
Through Book Funnel’s April promotions, I’ve teamed up with over 100 awesome authors who, for a limited time, are giving away their eBooks for FREE! These books are nonfiction and range from self-improvement to memoirs. Please checkout the links below and discover some fantastic authors:
April FREE Non-Fiction Books:
Free Books for Sant Jordi Day: https://books.bookfunnel.com/freebooksforsantjordi/zgbobfmhrf
Knowledge in Time:https://books.bookfunnel.com/great-minds/m5o2esjnxe
Save the Children:
Last Week’s Post: Did Will Smith have His Lightbulb Moment Yet?
“Smith’s spectacle provided us the opportunity to reflect on our own lives. Our own contradictions. Watching an accomplished man, in West Philadelphia born and raised, experience deep private emotions in a very public way, was very Hollywood. Very Shakespearean.”
Photo of the Week:
This week’s photo comes courtesy of Mary S., a long-time Write On Fight On supporter. This is a stunning reminder to open our eyes to the beauty that is right in front of us– daring us to appreciate it.
If you would like to share something with others (a photo, a poem, a song, a quote, etc.) that tosses some positive vibes into the world, please send your suggestions to me at email@example.com. Thanks!
Bedtime Stories for the Living recently received not ONE…not TWO…but THREE highly coveted 5-Star ratings from Reader’s Favorite–a highly-respected literary website that reviews books from all over the world!!!
Readers’ Favorite Review by Emma Megan
Jay Armstrong, a high school English teacher, explains in “Bedtime Stories for the Living: A Father’s Funny and Heartbreaking Memoir About The Power of Pursuing Your Dreams” how he was diagnosed with a rare, degenerative brain disease. This striking memoir contains wonderful love letters for each of Jay’s children, beautiful true stories, and precious life lessons and advice. It also contains what Jay never told his kids, what he felt like saying to them but failed as life got in the way. In “Bedtime Stories for the Living”, Jay talks about poetry and books, the importance of writing and its impact on his life, offering aspiring writers valuable writing tips. He also talks about the beauty and the challenges of life, of being a parent, and the difficulty of dealing with a rare disease.
You cannot read this breathtaking memoir and still be ungrateful for your health. “Bedtime Stories for the Living” by Jay Armstrong is the best motivational book I’ve ever read. Jay’s writing style is addictive, mainly because it’s nostalgic, vulnerable, and filled with wisdom and sorrow. In his uniqueness, Jay inspires and encourages not only his children but all his readers to figure out their dreams and to chase the one that brings them joy, to read poetry, and never to ignore their internal voice. He reminds them that they are responsible for how they adapt to change. “Bedtime Stories for the Living” is truly an empowering book as it speaks to the heart and the mind and delivers inspirational life lessons and unique stories. It’s undoubtedly a must-read.
Check out the fancy new sticker for the book cover.
Are you a reader? Looking for your next good book to read or listen to? Check out my new page “Jay’s Book Shelf” for some book recommendations.
Here’s what I’m currently reading: The Humans by Matt Haig
If you like this post, you may also like:
Questions to Ask Yourself Today
How do we cope?
A Conversation with Marcus Aurelius at a Suburban Car Dealership
We’re lucky to be alive
Why we need to tell our stories
Jay Armstrong is a writer, speaker, former award-winning high school English teacher, and an award-winning author. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. He hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents or a drink with his friends)
Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time.
You can also visit Jay at jayarmstrongwrites.com