Memories Burned

May 27th, 2009

eye-of-fireThe flames licked up around the old yellowed paper. Slowly the edges bagan turning in on themselves and the images bubbled in rebellion as if trying to come alive before the flames destroyed all that they were. It seemed as if the memories of each page, held captive for decades, now suddenly erupted and cried out in anger and desparation, much like the men in the images themselves before the fires of death took them too. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in my mind and hearing.

I know this is My issue and it’s just something I have to deal with. But I felt such a loss that there has got to be some way of expressing it without losing respect for my dad and his decision. Much like many men today, I too struggle to come to terms with the dad of my youth versus the dad of my aged reality. The two just don’t seem to mesh and in some ways I see them as two different people. Ironically, I fear that my daughters might just see me the same way. So,………I’ll try to be gentle with my dad.

This past Sunday we had a Memorial Service at our church where we honored vets, dined together and shared stories of our service, connecting on a level few of us knew that we had in common. I talked with friends from various services and we shared some laughs and finally got our plates of food which slowed the conversation while we filled our bellies.

Now, let me give you just a brief overview of my family situation. I grew up never knowing my grand fathers and only had one living grand mother. My grand mother on my dads side died when he was preteen and a year later his dad died. So being an orphan kid, my dad had a struggle of it growing up and becoming a man in his own right. I’m sure it was tough on him not having his mom and dad and to be honest with you, until I began typing these words, I’d never given it much thought. Sad….how thoughtless I have been. hmmm. I’ve got to re-think my whole approach here.

As the years have gone by, I’ve taken for granted the fact that I have a dad. My dad has been far from perfect and maybe I will write about him as the day draws near for fathers day. So, thats another story. But my grand fathers have been a source of much day dreaming for me over the years. What were they like? What was their childhood like? Where did they grow up? Did they fish? Did they have stories of the good ol’ days? Would they have been proud of me? Would they have wanted to spend time with me? Would they have given me their old pocket knife? Would they drink coffee out of a crappy ceramic mug I made for them in elemetary school?

And the questions go on and on.

But with this memorial day, at the church, I was wondering anew about what they were like and how their service was. Across the room I saw my dad and eventually we met up and began talking with each other and the men with us. A video was playing in the background and pictures of current and former soldiers of our church were being faded in and out on the screen. I pointed to the monitor, looked at my dad and said: “We should have gotten our pictures in.”

My dad had served in the Korean War and to this day I can only recall him ever talking about his service and the action he saw, one time. He must have experienced some pretty horrific stuff and just keeps it all bottled up inside him. There is a man who lives near us who was in his unit over there. They see each other every once in a while but they act like there is no bond there at all. They simply nod to one another and keep it movin. As far as I know, they have never gotten together to talk and heal. I suppose there are some wounds that are too painful to uncover and we who have never been harmed so deeply will never understand.

I’m proud of my dads service and I loved looking through his old pictures of his days of service. I believe that those pictures were some of the most valuable things I could ever get from my dad because it was a link from the past to the future generations who would be asking those same questions I asked about my grand father. Perhaps my children’s children would ask about their great grandfather and I could pull our those pictures and tell about the time their great grandfather, a Navy SeaBee, had taken a captured North Korean tank, fixed it all up and made it like new. The garrison unit on the other side of Guam saw it, wanted it for their parades and stole it. Their great grandfather’s unit stole the tank back, wired it with a remote control device and charges, sent it back across the air field they had build and detonated it in sight of those that had taken it from them. I’d tell them how he laughed as he told me that story and relived it as if it happened yesterday. There was no way they were going to let that tank fall into another units hands after putting so much work into it.

But, all that would never happen and I wasn’t ready for what my dad was about to say. “I burned all my pictures yesterday.”

What? Scuse me?, I thought.

I was actually speachless. I just looked at him and all I could think to say was, “That’s a real shame, dad. I think your great grand kids and future generations would love to see their great grandfather. They might have liked to see who you were.” As I turned and walked away, I heard him say and laugh to the man he was with, “I guess they will have to remember me for the contankerous old man that I am.”

I was crushed. I treasured those pictures. I treasured those pictures because they told a story of a part of my dad that was a complete mystery to me. I wanted to know my dad and all the parts of his life; the good and the bad. The bad, tough, difficult parts of his life, have made him into the man he is today and that, in turn, had helped shape me into the man I am today. The greatness of my dissappointment must have been equal to the pain he felt whenever he saw those pictures. But the pain of the tough parts of our life are equally important, if not more important, when we consider what has shaped us, molded our character, tensiled the steel of our resolve and kept the fires of drive fully charged as we moved forward in life. To dismiss the tough things in our life is to say that rainy days have no effect on the crops. We so need the rain and the sun. We need it all and those generations that suffered, really suffered, especially for the cause of freedom, have become some of the greatest generations this country has ever known.

Selfishly, I will miss those pictures. I understand why he did it, but I still feel cheated. Don’t dismiss the tough parts of your life. Pass them on. Remember them. Don’t live there, but allow yourself to acknowledge that despite the painful memories, it may have contributed to building something wonderful in you. It may be something as simple as appreciation. But it you take a look around today, maybe we need a bit more hardship and alot more appreciation. You’re who you are today because of tough times. Keep the pictures. They tell your complete story. It’s OK. Hang in there.

If you like this post please buy me a cup of coffee

2 Responses

  1. Lisa Says:

    wow, I don’t know what to say….just wow. …you are so special, keep it up.

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