The Life and Death of My Father, a WWII Veteran and a Great Dad

24 12 2007

There are relatively few of the noble people who fought the Nazis left in this world. This past year, my father died, and he was one of them. I am lucky that I have never been in the position to make the sacrifices he and so many others made. This is my first Christmas with no parents here on earth (my mother died a few years ago). I miss them both. I decided to post something I wrote the night before my father died along with a wedding picture of my parents.

August 30, 2007

A Man, My Father

As I contemplate the impending passing of my dad, many thoughts pass through my mind. He was a man who loved God, loved his wife, loved his children, and loved golf (not necessarily in that order).

Born on May 13, 1924, many of Dad’s formative years were spent during the great depression. Consequently, he was a man wise with money and willing to find many ways to make an income. He caddied, worked as a delivery man, owned restaurants with my mother, and eventually retired from Prudential, where he worked the insurance game.

He was also known to occasionally take money from the poor saps who made wagers against him on the golf course. Dad was not averse to following the ponies or checking on an over/under on a college basketball game. I took special pride in being the only 2nd grader at my elementary school who had a working knowledge of point spreads, pools, and daily doubles.

Despite this vice, as some would call it, my dad was a consummately moral man. He was serious about teaching right and wrong to his children, and he passed on the importance of being a good, God-fearing person. My rear end was going to be in church every Sunday; that was NOT something that was up for debate.

I admired my Dad more than he ever knew for his religious conviction. I remember when I was a child, and he could no longer kneel in church due to the growing severity of his arthritis. I always worried that people in the surrounding pews would mistakenly think Dad was just being lazy or lacked devotion. Now I am sure no one at that church ever thought that about him.

Dad was blessed with a keen wit. I will never forget, many years ago when Dad answered what was obviously a call from a telemarketer. The caller was trying to convince Dad that a “special deal” could be had if Dad could correctly answer a trivia question. The caller then asked Dad if he could name the “Bluegrass State.” Dad quickly answered “Utah.” After the surprised telemarketer hemmed and hawed a bit, he asked Dad if Dad wanted another guess. Dad dryly stated, “No, that wouldn’t be fair” and hung up.

One of the most incredible parts of Dad’s life was his service to the country he loved whole-heartedly during World War II. Dad saw friends demolished by bombs and even experienced a shell land in his foxhole. Luckily for us all, it was a dud. Dad was held prisoner of war by the Nazis and survived interrogation from a German commandant despite not telling him what he wanted to know. Tom Brokaw said of the men and women from this time, “It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.” I concede that I am a little biased, but I would tend to agree.

Nearly forgotten memories are returning to me like a flash flood: Dad working in his garden – Dad poring over a racing form at the local horse race track – Dad making his famous chili – Dad watching MASH or Barney Miller on TV and laughing that contagious laugh of his – Dad making the day of his grandchildren as they raced around the house while Dad called out the race-horse nicknames he had given each one of them (“Little Scratch” was one) – Dad giving me heck about the brown spot in the back yard where my wiffleball home plate and batter’s box were located – Dad requesting my assistance with resetting the clock on the VCR (I felt important back then as I was the only thing standing between my parents and a migraine-inducing digital clock blinking 12:00 for infinity).

Easily the most lasting memory I will have of this man will be a simple, yet magical one. He was a true father, and nothing was ever going to change that. He will be missed greatly, but I know that he has a nearing tee time on the most beautiful golf course he has ever seen, and he will be playing pain free for the first time in decades. Enjoy it, Dad.

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5 responses

26 12 2007
Melanie

This is really beautiful. Sounds like your dad was lucky too. That’s a wonderful picture of your parents. What a handsome couple.

30 12 2007
McGregor

It comforted me to see the photo and bio of your Dad. I lost my Dad this year as well. Much like your’s; a WW11 vet, ( he landed on Omaha on DDay morning) hard working, kind, and also had a penchant for the ponies. It’s been four months and I can’t stop crying. This is the toughest loss I’ve ever faced.

Thanks for your story, I hope it becomes easier for us both. I guess we have to take a page out of their book a buck up and be ever so grateful for wonderful Dads.

BMc

7 01 2008
Becky

Matt,
Rereading your beautiful tribute to Dad brought back a gamut of emotions and memories, (although “memories” implies events in the the past and Dad’s passing still feels very “now” and raw.)
My heart literally feels heavy and hurting yet joyful and thankful for the privilege of having had Mom and Dad as parents.
Someday you may decide to put pen to paper about Mom too. So your readers know, all six of us individually honored her with a personal letter a number of years before her death.
I miss them every day.
Enjoy your blogs!
Love ya!

7 01 2008
indianamatt

I probably will tweak the “Katie’s Story” thing some time. Great idea!

11 12 2008
The Twelve Questions of Christmas « Licensed to Blog

[…] Be Home for Christmas by Frank Sinatra.  My late father, who was a prisoner of war during WWII, once told me this was his favorite Christmas song (not […]

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