Memorial Day... My Personal Sorrow

  I have already posted my Memorial Day blog. While it is what I feel on this day of remembrance, I left one person out: My Father.
  My father was a quiet man. A patriot, and someone who loved this country more than he could ever put into words. He also loved his family the same way. He was not outwardly affectionate. I can not tell you when my father kissed me, because, to my memory, and it goes back to when I was two, he never did. I don't know why.. all I can think of is that it, somehow, made him uncomfortable. I know that he loved me; he just never physically showed it.
  My father was of the Greatest Generation and, to me, at least, he was a hero. He joined the US Army to fight Hitler and his Nazi's. He met my mother at his basic training camp of Fort Sill, OK.... then, they shipped him to Panama. PANAMA! They wanted him to stay there for the duration of the war. They wanted to make him a sergeant  and put him in charge of troops guarding the Canal Zone. My father, bless him, had other ideas. He wanted to go to the European Theater, and kept putting in requests until they finally gave in. They told him that he would not get his promotion, but my father did not care. He wanted to help stop the Nazi war machine, so off to France he went. 
  They sent him to the Rainbow division.. ant there, my knowledge of what he did, stops, to my shame. Except for one incident, I know nothing of what my father did in Europe. That incident involved finding a German motorcycle with flat tires, doing some work on it, so that it would run, and riding it through an area that had not been secured. That was my father. He was a man who loved his family and his country in that order.
  I came along and was not the best son. I joined the Marines in 1966, something that, finally, made him proud of me.. even though he was afraid for me, and told me so. I did my time, and when I came back, we resumed our relationship of holding each other at arms length. I think that the only thing that my father finally approved of, after some time, was Sheryl.
  My father never talked about his war years. I had asked him so many times when I was growing up, but he really did not want to talk about them. Finally, in the last year of his life, he wanted to talk. He started telling me about his time with the Rainbow Division, but I was such an ass that I did not listen. He looked at me one Sunday afternoon, and said..'I want you to know what happened..'.. and I just did not retain a thing that he said. He died a few months later. To this day, I am so very sad and angry with myself for not listening to him. I thought that he would be around forever, until the day that I got the phone call that he had had a stroke. By that evening, he was gone.
 I have spent my life trying to atone for what I did. I cannot. All I can do is urge any of you out there that follow my blog, if you have a parent that served this country, that felt the call to defend freedom, Listen to what they have to say. It's important.. not only to them, but to you. It will preserve their sacrifice, and it will preserve their memory. Don't be a fool, like I was.
 John Zaffino, Kent Lakes, NY
Memorial Day Weekend, 2014

Comments

  1. My grandfather did not discuss the war with his sons until his last days. He was in hospital and knew he was very sick. It wasn't easy listening but he unburdened himself. If you did not listen to your father, it is likely that someone did. Sometimes, the act of speaking is more important than who receives the information. I travel a lot by bus as I can't drive. Many elderly people have talked to me over the years and I listen, even to this day. I am happy to lend an ear, it's the least I can do. Thanks for reminding me why John x

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    1. Thank you, Bernie, for your comment and your story. You are a truly good person. Bless you.

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  2. It's not just you, John, many of us share in a similar guilt of not listening, not asking and taking for granted that someone in our lives will be there when we're ready.

    As Bernie stated, you father probably talked to someone and, while he did reach out to share with you, that arm's-length wall of emotional separation between the both of you made it difficult for you to drop your guard...and listen. It's okay. Really it is, because, you're sharing what you do remember, here and now. Think about how sad it would be if you remembered nothing, worse yet, never cared enough to ever ask your father about the war experiences you did become familiar with.

    You give your father great honor, right here, with all the words and pain that you relate concerning his life and yours; a true fool would not have your capacity to express their sorrow or feel guilty, about anything.

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    1. Thank you, Patty. I have been wanting to write this for a while. I wanted to honor my father, both for how hard he worked raising his large family, and his determination during WWII to help bring the war to an end and avenge what Hitler and Hirohito did. While others bragged about what they did, even exaggerating, he was silent until the last year of his life, and I was too busy at the time to listen, to my eternal regret and shame. He has been gone now 33 years. He died on the Friday before Mother's Day, May 9, 1981. I never got a chance to say goodbye. This, then, is my goodbye and my tribute to him.

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