The kids and I drove down to Chicago-land to put a flag on my grandfather’s grave today. He served in the Army during WWII and the Korean War. I knew him to be a wonderful, patient, funny, man. He would take me to the hardware store nearly every weekend in his little red Mercedes Benz and make up nonsense songs as we rode along. I don’t remember him ever raising his voice to me.
This was not the father my dad experienced. Grandpa came home from war coping with what was probably post traumatic stress disorder. He turned to alcohol and was apparently a very mean drunk. There are stories of my dad being beaten and locked in the closet.
Later in his life, Grandpa began attending AA and even church. He never spoke with me about his experiences in the army. I don’t think he considered himself a war hero. Even if he was one, I think he knew his family had made perhaps an even greater sacrifice when he came home broken and drinking.
So today, I remember my grandpa, but my heart is really with my dad. I wrote him a little note letting him know that Memorial day for me was remembering his war experience, his loss. He didn’t have a dad when he really needed one.
Now he’s in AA and recovering from his own addiction to alcohol. It was so eiry to see him walking hand and hand with my daughter in the cemetery. He looks just like his dad, and she looks just like me. A strange, full, broken, wobbly, circle, kind of moment.