September 26, 2007
On August 30, 2006, months after the ceremony in Congressman Peter King's office honoring my father and his WWII service, my mother passed away after a long battle with cancer and Lupus. The sorrow my father experienced after losing his wife of fifty two years was enormous. To this day, he honors her by having masses said in her name at church and finishing all of the projects around the house which both he and my mother planned to do before she became sick. With his wife gone, and with his own lingering health issues, dad has moved on with his life with his children to watch over him.
Back in June of 2007, my wife and I took dad with us to my sister's house as we were all invited to a family event. On the way home that Saturday night, it was dark, our children were dozing in the rear seats of our very large Trailblazer, and my wife sat in the back to accommodate my father as he needed the comfort of the front, bucket seat. As we drove home, dad talked about how both he and my mother both managed to take several trips together and had seen much of Europe and even Hawaii. While speaking of Europe, he paused and looked at me. Then, he said that he hoped to go back to Italy, because the one place he needed to see again was Rome. I said nothing, as I knew that the only time he ever went there was right after he was wounded in combat.
Both my wife and I were somewhat uncomfortable as we didn't want to ask him questions and get him upset, but we wanted to make sure that he knew that he could tell us anything and that we would listen to him. He stopped talking, and I drove along without bringing the subject up again.
A few days later I was at work and a woman co-worker of mine who usually asks how my father is doing stopped by my desk to chat. She's a wonderful person, very spiritual, dedicated to family, and with a genuine concern for others. I told her about my father mentioning Rome that night and his desire to return there. I also mentioned that he'd been bringing up the war a lot of late, just skirting around about exactly when and where in Italy he was wounded. I marveled at how he could remain silent about his experiences for so long, most of his adult life, and in the last year or so he talked the war often and at unexpected moments.
My co-worker said "Of course he's talking about it. This was the biggest event in his life. He's reconnecting with his youth." That sounded simple enough to me, but when I thought about it some more, I understood that he was trying to work out how he felt about the things he did over there. My mother was gone, and he no longer had to care for her every day and his energies could be spent elsewhere. Also, he had more time to think. It is possible now for him to reflect on his youth and come to terms with his pain and anguish over lost friends and months spent in a makeshift Army hospital in Rome.
Only recently, my father asked me to write a thank you letter to Congressman King for the ceremony in his office. Although it was over a year ago, and in spite of the fact that I thanked both him and his staff profusely for their kindness, dad still felt the desire to tell him something, however late it was. The inspiration of his desire to write the letter was the anniversary of my mother's passing.
A while ago, I suspected that dad wanted to get his medals for other reasons than just for the sake of his grandchildren. When he asked me to write a thank you letter to the congressman, he wanted me to include that "it was one of the last moments in my mother's life when she was able to attend a special event." My mother's health took a sharp turn for the worse soon the medal ceremony. There were many visits to doctors, a stay in the hospital for emergency surgery, and then, home again with help from those special folks from hospice who enabled our family to comfort our beloved mother at the end of her life.
Such is the unselfish nature of my father. One additional person benefited from that day than I originally believed. We made the medals and the honors bestowed upon him by the Congressman to be all about him. But, in reality, my father wanted to do something for his wife, the woman he devoted himself to completely. She was ill, and he wanted to show her that he was still strong for her and that there was something else for both of them to look forward to, this ceremony, where the two of them could perhaps share a special moment alone together afterward, without us kids, and feel young again.
The youthful soldier would hold his bride and show her something which would make her proud. The ribbons and medals were for his wife, his grandchildren, and in a small way for himself. This man, this father, husband, and person of deep religious faith kept his secrets to himself and used the biggest event of his life which caused him nothing but pain and grief to leave a legacy for his grandchildren and to see them smile, and to give him and his wife one more day where they could feel like newlyweds again. That man is my father, and that is what I will tell the good Congressman in my letter to him.
World War II World War II Veterans