Thursday, April 22, 2010

Like a good book I never bothered to read, that's how I feel about an opportunity I let slip by.
Twice actually.
My sister attended the always interesting cousins family reunion recently. She mentioned to me that one of the things they did while gathered there was to go around the table and share stories that each of them had about my dad's parents.
That got me to thinking. Other then a very few stories that my dad let slip out, I don't know a lot about his life, prior to me being born. He wasn't a great sharer. I'm sure he would have been if I had the sense to ask, but I didn't at that time.
He served in the air force during WWll and I know absolutely nothing about the years he served his country.
The only mention he ever made was when I was showing him some pictures I took when I was on a ship in Hawaii many years ago. I was working with a guy who possessed a license to fly a plane and he thought it would be a great idea to rent a plane and fly around the Island and recreate the bombing run the Japanese made when they rudely woke up thousands of servicemen on Dec 7th, 1941.
So we went on our little jaunt and while flying around I took photos of Pearl Harbor from the air. The only thing I'll say, for now, about that flight was that the idea looked really good on paper. That's a whole other story.
When I showed the pictures to my dad, he said, "I was stationed there manning a anti-aircraft gun" talking about Pearl Harbor.
I almost choked.
Lucky for him he went after Dec. 7th. There were no more planes to shoot at.
Why wouldn't he have thought that would have been some interesting information? The bigger question is, why didn't I put the pictures down, sit in a chair next to him and say, "Ok, tell me all about it."
The best answer I can come up with as to why I didn't is, I was in my early twenties and really really stupid.
Looking through some of his papers after he passed away, I learned he was also on Iwo Jima, another famous location in the war in the Pacific. That would have been interesting to hear about.
After asking my mom why he never shared any of this part of his life she said that he just never talked about the war. To anyone. Well, at least he wasn't keeping secrets from only me.
What a history lesson that would have been if I had had the sense to ask.
The other book not opened is my Uncle Fred. He served in the army during WWll also, except he was in the European theater, as they say. I vaguely remember stories of him fighting in Germany. Uncle Fred was a guy I had unlimited access to while growing up as he lived just a couple blocks away. Why didn't I sit him down when I got older and demand to hear his story?
Like 2 books, both classics, sitting on a shelf unopened.
How stupid was that?


Frau said...

Not stupid, sometimes it takes us being older and wiser to realize some books are classics and need to be read/heard. I wish the same of my Grandparents I think now of all the cool stories I could of heard about "back in the days"!

slommler said...

My father never talked about his "war days" either; to anyone. Found out he too was in Iwo Jima and he was blown off his ship, twice, in which he landed in the water awaiting rescue. We found newspaper clippings his mom saved. Also my uncle served and told no one about his days at war. Stalwart bunch the WW11 vets were! I never asked either one of them and I guess I knew they didn't want to talk about it. And I am nosy! HA!
So don't feel bad...seems this is the norm for that generation.

Melinda Owens said...

How many times have I vowed to myself to spend more time talking with my parents about their history? More than I can count...thanks for the reminder. Your Dad sounds like an incredible man.

Anonymous said...

I remember interviewing Uncle Fred in high school... he was held as a POW for 12 hours, which he explained (through laughter) as nothing serious-- just sitting in the back of a truck telling jokes with a couple of other Americans. By the time they thought better of it and let them go, his parents had already been notified that he was MIA. He had to quickly write and tell them he was fine.

When I went on a class trip to DC afterward, I bought him a MIA/ POW sticker and mailed it to him. Aunt Jane called Gmom afterward and said "Does Erin know he wasn't *really* a POW?" and Gmom answered "That's just Erin's sense of humor."


Love you.


dcpeg said...

Men in our Dad's generation were an odd breed. Emotions were a no-no and unpleasant or horrifying things were better left unsaid. I, too regret not asking more questions of my elders. I think we need a certain amount of experience and maturity to talk with adults on an equal standing. Like me, you were taught to respect your elders and if they didn't want to do or say something, you backed off. Too bad - so much history lost. . .

Alison said...

I thought it might just be a New Zealand thing, you know, where men of that generation showed no emotion and never talked about the war. Men here have always been expected to be very 'blokey', modest at all times, into sport and... well, perhaps it's not just here. Like all of you, I so wish I had talked to Dad more. He was an ordinary soldier in Egypt, Crete and Italy. A signalman actually, tapping out messages. I suspect that he might have talked if we'd bothered to ask. Sad really. And he died quite young - when I was in my 30s and busy with 3 small children. As you have all said, it's not until you get older that you realise what has been missed.
Tomorrow in New Zealand is Anzac Day, the day we remember those who went to war. I've written just a wee piece on it if you want to check out my blog.