Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Father...part One

I have written a little about my family in "Remember this Day" post (tag: family). I wish now to post about my father. My mother and my step mother were and are equally remarkable people - but this post series is about my dad. He was born in 1926, the youngest of 9 living children...there was 7 years between him and his nearest sibling. He grew up in a world that those of us born in later decades can scarce imagine...few TVs or phones. Farm life - food came from the animals they raised and the plants they nurtured, not from a grocery store. Music was played on the radio, or seen and heard live - he still has his precious priceless collection of 78 rpm records that he slowly aquired as a young man who loved music with all his heart.

He served in WWII in occupied Germany as scarcely more than a boy at age 18- his older brothers were scattered through out that war, D-day, the Philipines. Italy...all came home in the end alive. He fell in love with young woman just out of high school - they were engaged and then separated by his shipping over seas. When he returned, they broke up, as all too often happens - too much change in a short time.

Years later as an army reservist, he was torn from his home, his fiance - a young woman in his church - and his life to go to Korea. Before he left, grimly fearing he would not return, he painted a portrait of his mother He was and is an awesomely talented portrait artist and painted it in about 17 hours flat, kissed his loved ones goodbye and left again for war. Before actually setting foot in Korea, before shipping out, he knelt at his bunk and prayed - "I will do what I must to serve my country, but please Dear God, do not let me have to kill any one." Not "save my life" but please do not make me kill.The next day he and several other men were offered a behind the line position as a staff seargent. They turned it, down, preferring to fight, believing the lie that Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori. Dad lunged for the assignment and came home, his hands innocent of blood.

The painting he did of his mother - part of it largely unfinished due to the haste he was under to report in for service - still hangs in his home today. He left it as it was, unwilling to change it or "finish" it - its partially complete state a commemoration of the time and place and reason that he painted it.

He married his fiance - my mother - in the 50's. They lost an infant son, my brother, and then I was born to them. He dealt with the heavy burden of a critically ill wife who had Lupus and a physically handicapped child (hip syndrome kept me from walking for 4 years.) with more grace and love and gentleness that I can begin to tell. During a particulaly difficult time when I was in a body cast from my armpits to my toes, he carried me up the 15 step flight of stairs in our home so that I could sleep in my own bed every night, wrestling me and the body cast up that narrow stairwell. On the ceiling of my room, he put realistic glow in the dark stickers of the planets and stars and the moon for me to look at since I could not move or change postition. He and I had long had a small telescope and used to spend hours looking at the moon with it. I owe my life long love afair with astronomy and space to him.

He lost his wife, my mom, to death in the 70's and shortly thereafter was reunited with the fiance of his school days whom he had not seen in 30 years. She was also widowed - they were married 6 weeks later.

Now he lives in retirement with her...he is 83, stiffer and slower to move, struggling with his own arthritis, caring for my step-mother with grace and love as she struggles with a degernative spinal disorder. Yet he is unfailing cheerful, joking and tender. He is a remarkable man. I have inherited his artistic gift, his genetics - our hands and feet are near identical - our body language is eerily similiar and our turns of speach. I have his stubborness and his pride and slow to kindle but fiery temper. I have his even temperment and his speach patterns. (there is also a lot of my mother in me - more than most imagine - but few see it). My Father and I speak on the phone nearly everyday - especially since I see the toll that time is taking on his frame as age advances. He comes of a long lived family - I probably have years yet with him, but I learned with the loss of my mother 31 years ago that the longest time is inevitably short when the clock of life innexorably moves to the final appointed day and hour for all of us. His time and mine are short.

I make sure that he knows I love him, that we share what we can across the unimaginable boundaries of the different worlds we grew up in. And I am not Out to him as being gay.

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