SUNDAY-FATHER’S DAY — I am all over myself with self-pity here on this Father’s Day. Our son is acting surly and rude and self-destructive. The last time I saw him, after he lifted a hundred bucks from me to go to a concert, he told me his goal in life was to live as far away from me as possible.
I don’t think I am going to hear from him today. He’s in Western Massachusetts with his Mom, my wife, and they are attending to getting him a summer job. We shall see. It is costing us so much more to have my wife there at a high-end hotel than Tommy can conceivably earn — but I guess it’s the discipline of work we’re looking for. That would be a wonderful thing. He would get more out of a feeling of having done a honest day’s work than he will out of a hundred years of psychotherapy.
Anyway, I am out at my house in Malibu. It is a gorgeous day. And here’s what I am thinking.
First, how I wish my father were alive. I would trade almost anything for just a few minutes with my father. Just a few minutes of his smile and his thoughtfulness and his love and his wisdom about my son and my life and the world. Yesterday I listened for a long time to my favorite disc, Victory at Sea. I love that disc because when Victory at Sea came out fifty years ago, my Pop and I would sit on the couches in our basement, make a fire, pop popcorn, and watch the Allies defeat the Axis. My father would comment on the points he knew about from his service in the Navy and on the War Production Board, and then I would feel as if I had a special insight no one else had. He was particularly saddened by the losses in “strategic” daylight bombing, which, he said, had not really done much good and had cost a lot of lives. “The British got us into it because we were so rich. They did the night time bombing and we did the daytime, and the daytime got hit a lot harder.”
I wish I remembered more of what he had said. I listened to that disc in bed and tears rolled down the side of my face. Oh, Pop, how I wish you were here.
In those days, the 1950s, all of our fathers had served. My best pal, David Scull, had a father who was (I think) an Army Colonel (or maybe a Major) and the Sculls had a photo of Mr. Scull in the Aleutians, if I remember it right. Kiska and Attu. (Which my spell check does not know.) He looked like a god. Everyone’s father had gone away to war, and now they were back building a nation.
Now, only the very patriotic, the very young, the very brave serve. The rest of us sit at home and complain. (I wish I could send Sen. Durbin into combat in Metz so he has a better idea of just who to call Nazis than he does now. I have always thought he was insane, and now he’s making his own diagnosis. God help him.) The whole safety of the free world is defended by an infinitesimal band of men and women holding back the tide of barbarism.
What must their Father’s Day be like? In a Humvee in Ar-Ramadi? Getting shot at? Getting attacked with IEDs? Wondering if they’ll ever see tomorrow? Wondering if they’ll ever see their kids again? Worried sick and having to pull all day patrols?
And what must the Father’s Day be like for their kids and their wives? Lonely, scared, terrified. And we are worrying here at home about whither interest rates, whether Google can stay as high as it is, and just when the housing boom will slow down. With our trivial worries, our self-pity, how can we even look at ourselves in the mirror?
And these Fathers (and now Mothers) who slumber at National Cemeteries, who are having another day of grueling rehab at an Army Hospital in Germany or Walter Reed. What can we, lost in our self-pity, possibly do or say or feel to thank them enough? What can we do for the Gold Star Mothers and the fathers and the grandparents of those killed in all of our wars? What about the hollow-eyed kids I remember from elementary school whose dads did not come home from Normandy or Iron Bottom Sound? What of Dawn Schissler, world’s cutest carrot top, whose father died in training to make this country safe? I met her at the TAPS program over Memorial Day and now I think of her about fifty times a day. She’s about six. What can we do to make it up to her?
What can we do to remember them, to honor them? Nothing we can do can make it up to them, but we can carry love in our hearts all day and all night, day after day, and prayers for their safety, and thankfulness that this lush, ungrateful nation can still yield up so many heroes.
Nothing we can do can ever thank them enough though, or make up for their pain. God bless them for all eternity. Time to get off the pity pot and down on my knees.
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