The past few days have been weird I have been very busy and due to getting paged in the middle of the night on Saturday and Sunday to go into work have been pretty tired too. As a result I have known that my dad’s 75th birthday would have been today. Now for the past couple of years dad didn’t know much of anything going on around him as he was in the end stages of Alzheimer’ disease. However today I have hardly had time to stop to remember him. I have been thinking about him a lot since he passed away and since my return from California following his funeral.
He would have been 75 years old today and in his life he did a lot. His dad died really before he knew him when he was two years old and his mother raised him and my uncle as a single mother assisted by the Aunties, my grandfather’s sisters Elizabeth, Viva and Goldie until she had the means to purchase her own home not far from them. My grandmother, Granny as she was known eventually remarried to a man that would treat my dad and brother as his own. They moved to Arizona from Huntington West Virginia and dad would graduate from high school in Tuscan. About the time that he graduated, his stepfather Van was killed in a auto accident on the way home from work. Granny moved the family back to Huntington where she went back to work, my uncle Charlie attended Marshall University and dad would enlist in the Navy. When dad left he sent half of his paycheck home to help my grandmother and to assist with his brother’s college and seminary expenses. In 1958 he married my mom who he had grown up with attending the same schools in Huntington and in 1960 he sired me and in 1966 my brother.
Dad was a good father; he did care for his sons and he cared enough to teach us about responsibility and to do the right thing. He always ensured that we were connected with church and faith but never beat us to death with religion. As such as I grew up I had freedom to choose my faith. He had a hard time with my constant desire to serve in the military and when I left active duty thought I was foolish to go to seminary. I’m sure that part of this was rooted in the religion that he had been exposed to in West Virginia as well as his distant relationship with his brother a minister. However after I had graduated from seminary and become a Priest and Chaplain he became more accepting and he took great pride in me entering the Navy and in my promotion to Lieutenant Commander in 2006.
I miss my dad and have missed him for some time, even before his death. Our last visit he didn’t know me and I think that coupled with my PTSD and depression that I was experiencing at the time made that experience more upsetting and unsettling. When he passed away it was not more than 16 hours after I had learned of my selection for promotion to the rank of Commander.
His memorial service was beautiful and all of us were touched by the words of Chaplain Gerry Seeley and the great professionalism of the honors team from the Navy and the Air Force.
Since coming back I have had my ups and downs and think that I am able to appreciate all that he meant to me, the things that he let me do, the things that he taught me and the pride that he took in me, even when we had grown apart following his return from Vietnam. Having gone to Iraq and having dealt with the pain, isolation and all that comes with PTSD I think I now understand how he changed following his Vietnam service. He was not the same after it but then I don’t think that anyone that has been exposed to danger in isolated posts in unpopular wars comes home the same.
My dad taught me a lot. I wish that he was still alive and not afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Part is my own selfishness in wanting to have him back and whole but the other part is that I wish that he had another 10-15 years to see his grandchildren; my brother’s kids grow up. He loved them more than anything. I wish too that he and my mom would have had more time to travel and see the world together as both were fond of the adventure that came with travel to Europe and Asia.
75 years. I wish it could have been 80 or 90 but it is not so, not in this life. But I know that one day I will see him again and maybe get a chance to have a catch on the lush green baseball diamond that I’m am sure has a prominent place in the layout of heaven.
Well tomorrow is another day and I hope that I can live up to what my dad would expect of me.