How to say Thank You

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:

Thank you for your service.

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23 thoughts on “How to say Thank You

  1. lenwilliamscarver November 11, 2012 at 7:07 am Reply

    A wonderful tibute to your Father and a beautifully expressed sentiment for our veterans


    • Overwhelmed By Joy November 11, 2012 at 7:27 am Reply

      Thank you. I could write a book about him that would be easier than writing a blog post.


  2. humanTriumphant November 11, 2012 at 8:01 am Reply

    Wonderful post. I had the privilege of hearing Mr. Brokaw speak on his topic at an Emory convocation a few years back. It made me so very proud of my father who was part of that generation and who served in WWII (I was a very late life child); it made me come to understand things about him & that generation in a new light.


    • Overwhelmed By Joy November 11, 2012 at 8:27 am Reply

      That had to be an amazing experience. I was also a very late event in my dad’s life. Isn’t it such a privilege to have that kind of example for your life?


      • humanTriumphant November 11, 2012 at 8:30 am

        I truly feel I’m a more balanced person for it, seeing things through lenses tinted by people who “did” when they were “doing without” so much. Again, thank you for your share. Quite meaningful.


  3. ruleofstupid November 11, 2012 at 8:49 am Reply

    I think you would have made your father proud again were he to read this. A strong story benefits from being simply told.


  4. Chuck Ring November 11, 2012 at 9:18 am Reply

    A very nice tribute to a man that could and did. I’m afraid those who have never served in fighting for peace and the perfection thereafter will never understand the silent sacrifices of the greatest generation and the generations preceding and following.
    Thanks for leading me to your blog. Its a good’un.


    • Overwhelmed By Joy November 11, 2012 at 11:34 am Reply

      I appreciate your comments greatly. How well put. . . he – and so many – could and did. I know I couldn’t possibly understand his sacrifices fully.


  5. stuffitellmysister November 11, 2012 at 9:47 am Reply

    Beautiful story about your father. I am forever grateful to him and all of our service men & women ♥ paula


  6. writerwannabe763 November 11, 2012 at 10:45 am Reply

    Wonderful thoughts…My “oldest brother’ who was 20 years older than I served in the RCAF in WW2 and when he came home I was too young to remember much but I was told that like your Dad he didn’t want to talk about what had happened. He saw too much and when he came home he had changed. He questioned why God allowed such atrocities. Thankfully he received a peace through the years and regained what faith he had lost temporarily. He passed away just last year at age 87….Diane


    • Overwhelmed By Joy November 11, 2012 at 11:32 am Reply

      I realized I can’t possibly understand what they have gone through. I believe the most important thing I can do, however, is to attempt to show my appreciation. Thank you for sharing the story about your brother’s service. I am glad he was able to find some peace through the years.


  7. Katie Renee November 11, 2012 at 11:33 am Reply

    This is such a beautiful tribute. I can tell your father was a truly great man by the wonderful way you talk about him. I can’t even imagine some of the things he must have lived through and seen, so to know that he never lost his spirit is extremely inspiring. Thank you for writing this, it’s beautiful.


    • Overwhelmed By Joy November 11, 2012 at 11:37 am Reply

      Thank you. He and so many others were so inspiring. He remained good friends with several in his area who served, and they each had that steadfastness and uplifting attitude. They were tremendous living examples and mentors.


  8. wisdomfromafather November 11, 2012 at 6:54 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Father Says… and commented:
    Here’s another excellent reflection on Veterans Day


  9. Carol O. November 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm Reply



  10. therunningtherapist November 11, 2012 at 8:06 pm Reply

    Wonderful and touching. I loved your touching story of your relationship as well as how well you put to words what we as Americans would like to say to all our Veterans and Service people. Thanks so much for your great blog.


  11. transformedbythejourney November 17, 2012 at 12:52 pm Reply

    Beautiful legacy.


  12. afreethinkingfemale November 21, 2012 at 1:36 pm Reply

    Lovely. So many times we allow words of thanks to go unspoken, even to our heroes. It sounds like your father was a man who saw the good in everything – something we all can and should aspire to. Thanks for sharing!


  13. kiwidutch December 11, 2012 at 4:57 am Reply

    Beautiful words, humbling story. Thank You for telling it.


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