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Mimi’s Dilemma: an essay by Kate Chamberlin

Photo of a saltbox house with red roof, next to a red barn, situated on a hill with large grassy lawn, with trees behind the house (a saltbox house is a New England style of house with a sloping roof of unequal sides). Image by David, on Pixabay

saltbox house, image by David, on Pixabay

Mimi’s Dilemma: The Thing About Patriotism and Faith

A huge lump formed in my throat. I stood paralyzed with tears streaming down my cheeks.

I struggled to catch my breath. No sound escaped my lips. I didn’t know if I should laugh

or cry at the news I’d just received. Once before, my faith in God had been challenged by an event in my life, but never before had my patriotism been challenged, until now.

My 17-year-old grandson, the newborn we brought home from the hospital, adopted, and raised for the first13 years of his life, just phoned to tell me he’d signed-up with the United States Marine Corps. I felt tremendous pride in his decision, yet fear welled up inside me, too.

As my eager fingers held the scissors, the doctor guided my hand toward the baby’s umbilical cord. The sharp surgical scissors sliced through the cord’s sinewy tissue.

The nurse guided my hands onto the wet head of my first grandson.

The definition of patriotism is, as found in “A Manual of Patriotism,” authorized by the New York State Legislature in 1900: “…Patriotism is more than a sentiment; it is a conviction based upon a comprehension of the duties of a citizen and a determination loyally to perform such duties. Patriotism is love of country, familiarity with its history, reverence for

its institutions and faith in its possibilities, and is evidenced by obedience to its laws and respect for the flag…”

“Yours will be a blessed life,” I softly said to him as I stood near the warming table awaiting his APGAR. He turned his head as if to look at me and tightened his grip

on my finger. "I’m your Mimi. Your Mommy is my daughter. My husband is your granddad. We’re your family and we love you very much.”

Patriotic is an adjective used to describe members of the National Society of Daughters

of the American Revolution and I don’t doubt that for a minute. I am one of them. The bonds that DAR members have, just by virtue of their ancestor having fought, and some of them having died, in the American Revolution, provide a strong impetus toward being patriotic. They have family members who felt strongly enough to lay down their lives for the ideal that is our daily life now.

I couldn’t help but wonder about my grandchild’s future. Would NATO, the UN and SEATO be able to stabilize the world? Would the AMA allow the HMO’s to get out of hand? Could the WHO and UNESCO possibly make a healthier planet for the survival

of our species?

If we expect our children and grandchildren to be patriotic, we need to be role models

of courage, strength of character, and determination. I remember many cool summer mornings at my grandmother’s saltbox home in Connecticut. We’d drag the heavy wooden kitchen stepstool out so we could put the standard, bearing the large American flag, into

its bracket on the side of the house. When our flag was snugly in its holder, we’d stand back and salute. Each evening we’d bring the flag in with just as much solemnity and ceremony. It was part of being at Nana’s. She was a dedicated member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (Eunice Denny Burr Chapter).

I still give a salute when I put up or take down my flag. As a member of the Col. Wm. Prescott chapter in New York, I encourage my grandchildren and neighborhood children

to respect our American flag as they assist me in presenting our colors.

“Little Love,” I whispered, fighting back the tears of awe and joy. “Grow strong; learn your ABC’s and how to count by 2s and 3s. For now, Little One, your life’s a bowl of cherries. We’ll leave the pits for later.”

Alas, those words spoken at his birth come back to haunt me. He is going to march off to some God-forsaken war.

When I lost my sight 30 years ago, I railed, “My God. My God. Why have you forsaken me

in this darkness?” However, time has shown me over and over again how He has carried

me when I fell down, and how my guardian angel worked overtime to nudge me away from danger. How He brought others into my life to walk with me. How He loves me in spite of my mood swings, rants, and doubts. Where is He now, when my grandson is going to march into harm’s way?

The realization seeps into my mind. My grandson is being patriotic and following the ideals I’ve tried to live: courage, strength of character, and determination. The lump in my throat has dissolved. My cheeks are dry. My heart swells within me. We’ve done a good and noble job with this grandson.

So, my young grandson, march off with my blessings to new adventures, to fulfill your dream of becoming a United States Marine.

After basic training, your Mimi will be waiting here with milk and cookies for you. Okay, okaybeer and pretzels!

“…though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art

with me…”


Scripture reference: from Psalm 23:4.

Previously published as a slightly different version in Magnets and Ladders: Active Voices of Writers with Disabilities, this essay was the 1st place New York State winner of DAR’s Women’s Issues Family Essay Contest, 2016.


Kathryn G. (Kate) Chamberlin, B.S., M.A., and her husband have lived and raised

three children plus two grandchildren atop the drumlin in Walworth, New York. With

the assistance of computer screen reader software, this former elementary teacher developed a Study Buddy Tutoring Service, presented her “Feely Cans and Sniffy Jars” workshop, became the published author of three children’s books, edited a literary anthology featuring 65 writers with disabilities, and is a freelance writer.

As empty nesters, they enjoy having lunch out, country walks during good weather,

and mall cruising during inclement weather or walking on their side-by-side treadmills.

You can contact her at:

or visit her website:

October 2023 Issue

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This is a remarkable story of a grandmother's love.

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