Five Questions I wish I had asked my father
With tomorrow being Father’s Day I thought I would go off topic just a little and talk about Father’s Day and my dad. It has been 30 years since he left this world and I was only 23 when he passed away. These questions will not only provide you perspective regarding what I wish I had known better, but will also help you gain a greater understanding of just what kind of life he had from the time he was born until the time he died.
1. What was it like to grow up during the Great Depression in the 1930’s? My dad was born in 1923 and would have been a young man and high school student during the peak and end of this pivotal time in our country’s history. Our family has lived through the great recession and also experienced having two children in college during this time. It would be interesting to learn more about what it was like to be in a family of 7, 5 children (4 girls and 1 boy) during this challenging time in our history.
2. Why did you choose to enlist in the Marine Corps instead of being drafted? My dad enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1943 and spent time at Iwo Jima and Guam during his tour of duty. Little did we know what horrors he would have seen at Iwo.
Clint Eastwood did such a good job with his movie “Flags of our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” to help visualize this period. The “Flags of our Fathers” book was written by James Bradley, a son of one of the flag-raisers on Iwo Jima. Dad talked often about his buddies in the Corps and he would often reach out to them or go to visit them. In a period where no one ever complained about service or most did not evade military service it is humbling to see just how many young men and women fearlessly served our country. They proved once again that freedom is not free.
3. How did you get to know my mother/your wife? My mom grew up on a farm about 20 miles away from where we lived in my childhood. While this does not seem like much of a distance now, they both lived in an era where cars were rare and most teens did not have their own vehicles. I suspect they met while she was in nursing training in my hometown of Lincoln, IL. My memories of my mother is similar to that of my dad. She passed away in 1986, just a few years after dad. My parents had some things in common, but they also differed in many ways. My dad seemed to enjoy being around people and spent most every afternoon having a beer or two with his buddies a the Knights of Columbus hall. My mom was more of a introverted person who worked full time and kept the three of us in line.
4. Why did you choose to get so involved with the American Legion? My dad was pretty active in the Legion, but he was never in a “leadership” role that I can remember. What I do remember vividly was his constant, annual work to put flags on veteran’s graves in our community. Every May I could be found in local cemeteries with my dad and my uncle looking for veterans who belonged to the Legion so that we could put a flag on their graves. I was too young to fully grasp what might have been on his mind. I suspect he felt so fortunate to have lived through the experiences he had in World War II, especially his time at Iwo Jima and Guam.
5. Why did you not encourage me to stay in the Navy at the Academy when I chose to leave? Many of you who know me do not realize that my first college experience was not at Murray State in Kentucky. My original college plan was to be a midshipman a the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Mom and Dad drove me to Annapolis in July of 1977 and my induction day was July 6. Soon after Plebe Summer began I became homesick and chose to resign my commission instead of sticking it out. I fully understand and accept that God had a plan there and there are no surprises in my life. I am where I am for a reason. What I did learn after Dad died was the he was very disappointed in my choice to leave. My mom told me this before she died and I have always wondered why he did not say so when I called those many times to say I wanted to leave. I suspect he did not want to intervene, but his input might have made a difference. We will never know.
6. Bonus question: What thoughts did you have during your last months of life? Dad died in 1983 and I had the privilege to spend the last week of his life by his side. I was actually there when he took his last breath. That is something I will never forget. We all have a fixed amount of time, but it is so finite when we know that the end is near. Dad was diagnosed with cancer in December 1982 and chose to take some radiation, but no chemotherapy. He had seen the after effects of chemo from his friends John Daugherty and Porky Morgan and chose to not go that route. I only wish I had spent more time asking what he was thinking or feeling. I suspect he would have dismissed our concerns. He did state during this time that all of his life was “gravy” after returning from the pacific. Dad never expected to come home alive and I suspect he valued and treasured most every day after that time.
As you think about your Father on this day in 2013, what questions do you wish you might have asked him? If your father is alive, make sure you have a dialogue and relationship with him.
All of us have both an earthly and a heavenly Father. We are best served if we talk with both on a regular basis.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!