NOW AVAILABLE...Stand To...: A Young Man's Journey to Manhood During the Vietnam WarEFranklinEvans.comThe story of a young man who is awakened to the world around him when a tragic event propels him into his journey to manhood.
It was time for me to talk to my father, face to face about
our relationship over the past half century. I had reached the early Fall in my
life and we needed to get some old hurts and crushing emotions settled. I had
spent a goodly part of my life so far traveling over the world from strange
places to exotic paradises and rarely found the time in these latter years to
talk one on one to my dad.
First of all he wasn't accustomed to sharing his feelings
unless those feelings were anger or, sometimes, disappointment. Disappointment,
like the time when, as a teenager, I had lost a good job working for the same
defense contractor that he was so proud of working with.I hated the job although the pay was good for
a young man of my age and Dad just could not understand why I had skipped work
that day. As I waited for him at the gate for the long ride home after work, I
could see that he was upset.
"How was work today, Son?" he asked as he approached.
"Oh, you know. Same old stuff, Dad." I lied.
I had driven him to work and walked into the defense plant,
clocked in and, once he was out of sight on the way to his job site, I turned
around, clocked out and went back home. I drove back to the plant to pick up my
dad as though I had been at work all day as he had been. He knew that was a lie
since he had been questioned by plant security about his son who had clocked in
and then, a moment later clocked out and never showed up at work.
He didn't show anger as I expected. He showed disappointment
in his eyes as he told me that he knew the truth. I was humiliated by being
caught in my lie. Never before had I out right lied to my father. He was a hard
man, but integrity was something he valued above all else. He never spoke of
that incident again.I never lied to him
Even now we didn't speak of that uncomfortable incident. As
I sat down and looked at him, I was strangely feeling apologetic although Dad
had made my life and those of my brothers and sister nearly unbearable by his
harshness. He expected hard work from his children and wouldn't tolerate
insubordination or "back talk" as he called it.
Today I had to ask him why he was so tough on us. Why was he
so demanding of my mother whom he expected to serve him much like a servant? I
quietly asked him and he didn't respond. I guess I knew it was because he
worked hard all of his life and he expected the same from his family, including
his wife. I knew there was love between them although I rarely saw any show of
affection except for a smile for her when he didn't think we were looking.
"Why did you threaten to never speak to me if I joined the
Dad's emotionless posture didn't change as if he was
recalling the harsh combat he and his brothers had experienced during World War
II. Dad had suffered the pain of losing his favorite brother, my namesake,
during the Battle of the Bulge, Christmas Day 1944. Dad eventually accepted my
decision to join the army and was proud to talk about his "officer" son.
"You know, Dad, that I respected you even though we exchanged
harsh words at times? Why were you so hard on us?"
I sensed that he knew of my respect. That respect had grown
out of fear of his temper at first, then gradually evolved because I realized
how hard he had worked to keep his family fed and the bills paid. Times were
hard on us and Dad had to walk or hitch-hike to the government office to pick
up the "commodities" handed out to the "less fortunate" and out of work coal
miners and railroad workers in Appalachia. Oftentimes he had to trudge through
mud and slush during the harsh West Virginia winters.
For the next forty-five minutes I talked with Dad about the
angst between us over the past years. I finally told him that I understood and,
although I couldn't tell him that I forgave him for the pain caused by his
inability to show love, I came to realize that his life molded him that way.
His mother was a harsh, demanding woman. I never saw her smile. Dad ran away
from his father one day at the age of fourteen never to return. His father was
downright mean according to the few times Dad spoke of him. The loss of his
older brother, whom he looked up to, during the war made a deep, sad impact
upon my father.
"Dad, I understand now. I'm glad that we had this talk."
I stood up with tears in my eyes as I walked over to his
coffin and looked at the man whom I wished that I could have had this talk with
"Good-bye, Dad. You'll be missed by all of your family."
I turned away and walked from the room. I was at peace with
my dad. The one-way conversation between us finally set things right. I hoped
that he was at peace now.I now
understood that love may be difficult to express sometimes for some people like
my dad, but it was there all the time. It was there in his struggle to provide
for his family. Although hard on the outside, he was a man of inner strength,
courage, and had a deep belief in the values of honesty and integrity.
Yes, I forgave him.
I'm so sorry but happy I got the chance to read through this touching, amazing piece. I must forgive my Dad before it's too late for me to say what I always wanted to tell him. Thank you! That was an eye-opener. NM, Author's Den