Friday, November 11, 2011
I was looking for an image to put with my post and this one cropped up about halfway down the page. Now, my eyes are leaking.
I was two years old when my dad signed up to be a captain with the United States Marine Corps and go to Vietnam for a year. When he came home, I am told that I did not remember who he was. I cannot imagine how hard this must have been for him - his only little girl didn't know him.
My mom kept a picture of him on a table and somewhere there is a picture of me kissing it. My little two year old cute self holding the frame with both chubby hands and giving Dad a smack. But when the real guy walked through the door, something made me hide behind Mom's legs.
That rift between us never really seemed to go away completely. I am told I was extremely close to my father before he left. But it seems like after he came back, we never really hit our groove again. I love my dad with all of my heart. The problem has always been that he's a quiet man and we don't have a lot in common. But when the chips are down, when I've needed my dad, he has always been there.
It was my dad I went to when my high school boyfriend broke my heart.
It was my dad I flung my arm around with a huge kiss as I was leaving the reception following my wedding. I know Mom was there, but it's Dad I remember - giving me to the man who would be my husband.
It was Dad who visited me every day when I was in the hospital because I wanted to take an overdose of my medication and just go to sleep. That hospital scared the shit out of me, but my dad came every day to make sure I was all right. So did my husband. These two men have been the rocks in my existence. Justin loudly; Dad more quietly.
When my mom got sick, my dad and I cried together and decided that of course she would be okay, because there is no other option. And then had a screaming fight on the phone over how I wasn't handling it very well. There were no winners in that one, but it was the first time in my life I had ever yelled at my dad. We chuckled a little about it the next day, because really, who doesn't want to yell about cancer? I wasn't mad at him and he knew that.
Although my dad and I haven't always known what to say to each other, I have always known he would be there for me through hell and high water. Because I am still Daddy's little girl. And I am one of the lucky ones who can say that. 58,272 men were killed in action in Vietnam. There are children who grew up not knowing their fathers. How many children were casualties of the Vietnam War at home? I wonder about what my life would have been like if my father had not come home sometimes. Not often, but always on this day every year.
I know that my life would not have been as complete as it has been. But I know I would have been proud of my dad in ways that I can't even imagine. I am proud that he was willing to go to war for his country, an unpopular war, a war that didn't sit well with a lot of people at home, for a country that wasn't very kind to its veterans when they came back. That patriotism is a huge part of who my dad is. And it has shaped who I am.
When a person joins the military, he or she is giving our government a blank check that says "up to and including my life." My dad was willing to give his life for his country and he volunteered to possibly do that. There was no draft card, because he enlisted. Because he believed in fighting for his country at a time when it wasn't the most popular thing to do.
Please take a few minutes today to thank our veterans, those who served and those who are serving and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Because without our veterans, we would not be free in so many ways.
Thank you, Dad. You make me so proud to be your daughter. You've been the love of Mom's life for almost 50 years. You will always be the first love of my life because I am still Daddy's little girl.