Hey, it’s me….
My long absence from this venue has been due to a number of things—some of which I can’t go into right now.
Anywho, yesterday, as we commemorated Pearl Harbor, I started thinking about some things. One of which is that a man who spent his life devoted to getting the message of peace out was murdered the day after the 1980 commemoration of that day. The irony of that is just weird. (The other one is that my eldest brother, who was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, died about 10 days after Lennon. His alcoholism was triggered by his treatment following his difficult decision.) So, here’s to John Lennon—and his 2 sons who had to grow up without a father. And to my brother’s two kids who grew up without theirs.
The other thing I started thinking about was my dad and his experiences in WW II.
He got turned down by the army because he was stick thin at the time (sadly, I don’t take after him there…). So, he and his best buddy went and enlisted in the Marine Corps.—the first ones on the scene for most of the battles. Within days he was at Parris Island in boot camp. Then it was off to the South Pacific. He spent the next 2 years in combat; he was stationed for a short while in New Zealand and then it was off to Bougainville Island. He and his fellow soldiers saw serious battle there. It was one of the first times Americans faced jungle warfare.
Finally, he was sent back to the States—it suddenly occurred to the powers-that-be that after 2 years, men deserved (and seriously needed) a respite from the front lines. After about a month’s leave, he had to head back to Parris Island—knowing full well that as an experienced combat soldier, he was going to be returned to the Pacific. The US was gearing up for the Guadalcanal Campaign.
Dad was on a troop train just outside of Washington DC when he suddenly passed. They took him off the train to the nearest VA hospital. The doctor on duty that weekend looked at him, said “He’s been on leave, he’s probably drunk. Let him sleep it off.” and relegated my dad to a bed in a corner somewhere. Well, when the regular doctor returned on Monday, he wanted to know what was up with the unconscious guy. When they realized he’d been out for two days, it dawned on then he wasn’t drunk. His hat (which had been on his lap) with the blood in it has gotten lost in the shuffle of getting him to the hospital.
My dad had experienced a brain hemorrhage on that train that went untreated for 48 hours. Now, I realize that they probably had a boatload of GIs to deal with, but didn’t anyone in that hospital start to wonder when my dad was still out for the count after 24 hours. Drunks don’t sleep THAT long.
The poor man suffered neurological problems for the rest of his life; he started having seizures when I was about 9 and when I was in my early 30s, he was diagnosed with an AVM (something one of the Philadelphia Eagles recently developed). He also had several aneurisms. He eventually wound up taking several medications to control the seizures and keep him calm—yet the government fought my mother tooth and nail over his qualifying for VA disability.
Yet, he always spoke of his time in the service as one of the best in his life….
My dad died at age 72. Part of me thinks we were lucky to have him that long, given his fragile health situation.
But part of me also thinks we might have had so much longer….
*written very late on 12/8/11