Looking for answers to life's questions

Posts tagged ‘military’

In Search of the meaning of Father

Father’s Day is here once again. I don’t believe I’ve ever done a post explicitly about my dad. I read all the stories about close relationships with dads and am always struck with envy. My dad was a good man. He just wasn’t around much and didn’t know what to do with us when he was home. I had almost no memory of his existence before the age of 6 ½. Military life kept him mostly far from us. When he was home, there seemed an uncertainty about him. What was he supposed to do with these little rug rats? He was the oldest of 10 children. When I asked him toward the end of his life how he could go away from his family and not write to his mother, he said he was just another mouth to feed. That sentence broke my heart and answered all my questions.

Dad gave what he had to give. He was the one who sat with me on Sunday afternoons holding a dictionary. I was between 11-13 and struggling with the English language. The nuances were difficult to grasp and I was always feeling like such an idiot because I didn’t understand what someone was saying. He would open that dictionary and pick a random word, tell me to spell it and tell him what I thought it meant. I learned root words, prefixes and suffixes from him. He taught me to guess what a word meant by the root of that word. There isn’t a conversation I can’t follow now because of that drill. Words finally became my friends and they fascinated me.

My dad was hardcore military. Strict and meticulous as any soldier needs to be. He sacrificed his toys so his kids could have some. One Christmas, during the dictionary years, he spent a lot of time at the base wood shop, building a desk with a typewriter insert for me as well as a bookcase. My love of books was already in full bloom. He sold his shotgun that he hunted with, to buy my brother a bike. No more squirrels or rabbits in our pots.

Just a child in uniform.

Just a child in uniform.

After he retired, I discovered we were reading the same books. He would devour everything Edgar Casey had as well as anyone else, in his spiritual quest. We were traveling the same path 2000 miles apart. We could finally have a conversation of sorts. Retirement was very hard on him. Without the structure of the military, he seemed to flounder. He was a man of deep commitment. That I knew when my mother would try his patience to no end and he would say he was there until he left the planet. He came back to Germany for my mother and I when so many had abandoned the children they produced. It took until I was four to get all the channels and hoops jumped. He may not have been the warm, cuddly dad so many have but he was a good example of tenacity and doing what was right in spite of popular opinion. I was able to be by his side as he drew his last breath and hold his memory fondly as I write this. He made the writing possible. Thanks Dad.

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”

Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself