My father was a World War II veteran – he was stationed in the Philipines when I was born. He enlisted in his 30’s without telling my Mother. My Dad didn’t have to serve – he was exempt. It was an honor to serve your country, a patriotic duty. I was conceived, I suspect, in delight on a furlough. I say delight since it would not be appropriate for parents to experience lust . . .
My father came home from the war changed. Mom couldn’t understand why he was anti-social, withdrawn, uncommunicative, carrying resentments he seemed incapable of letting go. The man she had been married to for over 10 years was missing.
When Mom died Dad grieved deeply. And a man I had never met emerged: Bursting easily into tears; making friends with supermarket clerks who knew him by name; talking to babies in strollers; smiling and giving hugs. It was as if Mom’s death had liberated him.
And he talked non-stop about his more humorous war experiences while I drove him to doctors appointments. His anger at General McArthur, decades later, still smoldering. His amusement stealing sirloin steaks from McArthur’s mess-camp still delighting.
After hearing the same war stories over and over I began to tune them out until one day driving to yet another doctor’s appointment he shared what still haunts me.
“I never told your Mother this. I didn’t want her to know,” he said, struggling to choke back sobs. “I killed a man – he came at me with a bayonet . . . I see his eyes . . . maybe he had a family . . .”
A month later Dad was hospitalized. I sat with him as he lay there in terrified panic convinced the male nurses were there to kill him with guns and weapons only he saw. He was put in restraints because he became combative, fighting for his life.