Your Dad is just your Dad, when you are young and don’t really have any thoughts or worries about the future. If he is a good Dad, he takes care of your, nutures you and protects you, raising you into the person he wants and hopes that you will become some day. He plays with you and goes to all of your Little League Games or Piano Recitals. He trys to talk with you about Politics. He encourages you to speak Spanish.
On the weekends, he fills a mop bucket with Pinesol and announces that it is time for you and your brother to get up out of bed and get your rooms cleaned. The drill sergeant in him comes out of hiding.
If you are caught saying a bad word, watch it, the bottle of hot sauce finds it’s way on your tongue! Just a drop or two. Effective. Occasionally a spanking happens. The old fashioned way. Not the abusive way spoken of today. You are no worse the wear for it.
You and your Bro are lined up to take a spoon full of honey each night just before bedtime, as it is said to help curtail bed wetting. It doesn’t work. It is your Dad’s fault anyway, the hereditary gene comes from him.
You play in the yard with your dog while he gardens. When he mows the lawn, you walk behind him with your palms on his levi back pockets, fascinated by the way his butt cheeks move as he walks. (You are about 2 or 3 years of age at this point. )
When watching a Saturday afternoon movie on t.v. with him, a heavy love scene comes on and he turns the channel mumbling that children don’t need to be watching that crap. Protecting you.
When he goes overseas for a while year at a time, you are devastated and miss him so much. A year is an unfathomable amount of time for a child.
When your mom has a nervous breakdown, he comes back from overseas and makes arrangements for relatives to take care of you for the rest of the year. You are well taken care of, in a fun place with cousins you love, but the sadness and missing your parents leave a hole in your belly like none other.
He builds you a bedroom from the garage and paints it “apple blossom pink” and he is your hero. Your black piano looks very nice against those extremely pale pink walls.
When nightmares cause you to wake screaming, “Daddy!” He comes running and says everything is alright.
He kills bugs for you.
He teaches you to drive.
He worries about you and searches for you and calls the police when you run away for a night just to keep your best friend from having an adventure on her own.
He smacks you with a flyswatter when you smart mouth him and his best friend at 15 years old. Very humiliating
You don’t realize the importance of his having served in the Army Air Corp in World War II as a bombadier until after he has passed from this life and you are grown. You don’t appreciate the stories of his having “bailed out over France ” into German territory and how terrifying it must have been. You don’t realize the sacrafices he made for you, or your country,even if he wasn’t perfect.
You do realize the gaping hole in your heart as you are with him on the day of his death, and the excruciating pain you feel in the loss.
You do still feel some sadness and the emptiness when you go to the Veteran’s Cemetery and his is just one decorated patch of grass among so many nameless.
As you gaze across the vast greeness and the sea of red, white and blue flags, you feel proud and sense the proudness he felt in serving his country.