My dad has been on my mind lately. Two weeks ago when my daughter was home, she was asking me all sorts of questions about him and researching his war record. She’s an aspiring writer and is usuing him as a character in a piece that she’s working on. He’s been dead for 12 years this September. My father was may things. He was a small town lawyer, an almost orphan, an alcoholic, a farm boy.
I was his favorite and never knew why until a few months before his death. My youngest niece and her then fiance were making the obligatory meet the grandparents trip to my hometown in Kansas. My niece’s fiance, a history teacher, was asking my dad about his World War Two experiences. We had known that he was in the Air Force and in the Pacific. We knew that he had wanted to be a pilot but wasn’t allowed to fly because of color blindness. That was probably a lucky thing for the war effort, if his later skill at driving a car was any indication of his talent for flying planes. What he had told no one, until that conversation with Bob, was that he was on one of the planes that accompanied the Enola Gay to Hiroshima. Lawyers during the war either went into JAG or intelligence. My dad was a sort of spy!
After his return from the war, he told my mother that he didn’t want any more children. Sworn to secrecy about his war experiences, he had periods of depression. He drank too much during these times. Not much was known about radiation during the 1950s. I think that he was probably certain that he was dying of radiation poisoning and that I would be born horribly deformed. When I came out healthy, it was probably the biggest relief of his life.
My birth is a text book example of the bonding that goes on between parent and child. He didn’t see my sister until she was two. He was sent overseas just as she was born. When I was born, he was home and helped my mother with all of the new baby work. By the time my brother was born, he was over his worry that he would cause a child to be born maimed. I wish we had all known of this sooner. I grew up with so many questions about my birth and childhood. Nothing in my parents marriage made any sense to me. With this bit of information everything fell into place. I became a real adult at the age of 45.