I always want to appreciate the generosity and kindness of others. In a perfect world, I write a thank-you note promptly for every person who has reached out to me. In a perfect world, I have beautiful and inspiring words that express these emotions. Sometimes that calls for gushing emotions that overflow with flowery words. Other occasions recall details of the changes in me or others who benefit from someone’s generous time and gifts. Some times I come up so short of expressing any appropriate acknowledgement. Today is one of those days.
For a little background, I took a course in college. As that occurred approximately 100 years ago, I can no longer recall the name of the course. It was something on American history in the 60’s? (I’m making this up. It is the closest detail I remember.) Just before the Thanksgiving break, we were given the assignment to interview a veteran. I smelled an easy A. Nice!
I wrote out my questions for the interview, timed out the appropriate setting, and began the interview with my dad. The fallacy of my theory about an easy A was to assume he wanted to be interviewed. He did not. I believe his words went something like this: ‘If I had wanted to discuss my time in World War II or the Korean War, don’t you think I would have mentioned it before now?’ Ouch!
My gentle giant of a father did not have mince words when necessary.
I suspect I went whimpering away after the abrupt notification that the interview ended off before it ever started. What had I done wrong? My mom told me I had no idea what the answers might be, and he didn’t get joy from some of the more painful memories. Not every experience feels better by recounting it over and over. I saw this comment on a friend’s Facebook page this week, which seems to sum up the experience.
Are ya going to listen to past trauma or today’s truth? I choose truth.
I muttered words of thanks over the years to my dad. I wrote papers later that showed his heroic character without the need for graphic detail.
I will always name my dad as my hero. He is the example.
My dad was a freshman in college at Indiana University when he was drafted for World War II. He finished that first year of college, served his country faithfully, and resumed his studies in Business at Indiana University.
He continued on with life. He wandered into a hat shop one day to purchase a gift for his mother. He encountered two of the most lovely women – my mother and my grandmother. I think you know what happened next. Chapel bells were ringing. They didn’t ring for very long because he was home from the Korean War just long enough to say his marriage vows. Within days he was back to serving his country after being drafted a second time.
I heard these men and women referred to as The Greatest Generation as years passed. Truer words were never spoken.
My dad went on to have a successful career as an entrepreneur. He and my mother owned a number of successful businesses. They spent many long nights working to ensure their employees would have another paycheck during a recession in the 1980’s.
He loved family life. He was an only child who had six children of his own. Many people never knew about two of his children, Ann and Alice. They were the first set of twins in our family. My parents had no idea they were expecting twins until they were born. Neither child survived. I was vaguely aware of this as a young child from the whisperings of a great-aunt who would explain the significance decorating graves on Memorial Day each year.
My dad finally realized he needed to put his health first when he approached age 60. Soon he was walking several miles every day. All those years of ice cream and fried chicken had beat him to the punch. He suffered a massive stroke at age 62. The remaining eighteen years of his life were spent in a wheelchair, permanently paralyzed, until he passed away. To this day I can hear his laughter. I don’t hear his voice complaining. He would tell you he had a great life. I saw trauma after trauma in the unfolding of his life. He saw joy and victory. His final words to me were to thank me. Thank me? He wanted me to know how highly he thought of me as his daughter.
In the final days of his life, he was thinking of everyone but himself.
These are just a few of the reasons we call them The Greatest Generation. Tom Brokaw wrote a book titled as such. One reviewer noted that, ‘In this book, you will meet people whose everyday lives reveal how a generation persevered through war, and were trained by it, and then went on to create interesting and useful lives and the America we have today.’
To all the heroes, thank you. How do I adequately sum up my appreciation? I don’t know. I stumble over the words until I tumble into a torrent of inadequate musings and exaltation. Perhaps less is more. When we meet any servicemen or veterans, we sum it up with these words: