Here’s the thing, today is my father’s birthday. He died a few years ago. I miss him terribly sometimes. My Dad was a big, clunky SOB a lot of the time but he was also smart, funny, and one of the reasons I became a writer. I loved to listen to him tell me stories about his Army days. Dad was an officer in United States Army, one of the first to land on Normandy in Operation Overlord and participated in just about every major battle of World War 2 including Argonne, the Bulge, the Herkin Forest. Her served well and was decorated several times including a silver star. He watched men die, saved lives and became a father all at the same time. My oldest sister was born while Dad was in Europe. She was two years old before he saw her for the first time. Dad carried a small Brownie camera with him through his entire campaign and snapped photos of everything from cannons to his buddies eating Thanksgiving dinner out of their helmets. When I was sixteen I found the pictures in a dresser drawer. I remember sitting for hours looking through the images of my soldier daddy fighting his way through Europe. For Father’s Day that year I assembled most of the pictures into an album. Fortunately he labeled many of them and I was able to rewrite them under the photos. Always the writer, I titled the album—What Did You Do in the War Daddy? I presented it to him. He called me a Rascal—Dad’s euphemism for “I love you.” I have the album now.
The day he died was bittersweet. My mother had been in the nursing a home a few years and he would visit her every single day. He brought her tiny pink tea roses once a week. But that day he called Mom and said, “Flossie, I won’t be coming today. I’m gonna have to see you on the other side of the Jordan.”
My sister found him a little while later.
We told Mom at the nursing home. But she said, “I know. He told me.”
I worse a black jacket to his funeral. It was cold, the dead of February. I wore his Good Conduct medal. But here’s the thing, Dad loved Jelly Beans, well candy of any sort. But it seemed he always had jelly beans in his pocket. So I brought a bag to the service and handed them out to folks. We all stuffed Dad’s pockets with jelly beans. He loved that. But even though he could be so very mean, just before they closed the casket I clipped his good conduct medal onto his lapel. It had been a hard journey. But I think he mostly did his best.
So, Dad, you SOB, you had your tender moments. And for that I’m grateful.