My Papa (age 20). Already a pilot headed to War…
It seems as though my very genetic sequencing was created on a battlefield somewhere back in time.
On the one hand (my father’s side, and the side of the family in which I was exposed to daily), my Old School Yankee blood hammers a foothold of ingenuity and aggression embedded in my very DNA. My Danish Emigrant family is littered with highly decorated American War Heroes in each and every generation that I know of, including my daughter’s generation. This side of my heritage historically and willingly puts up a well-organized and strategic fight for the glories it claims, no doubt. This side of my family tree is dwarfed in numbers by my mother’s side; and unfortunately, I believe that is because I have lost too many relatives, both distant and close, to warfare.
My Papa (my Dad’s father, who was my Partner in Crime until the day he died about a decade ago) doubled as my daycare provider since I can remember. This was a guy who was, indeed, a War Hero of at least two major wars in world history, a pilot (and it takes a certain kind for this), a Rosicrucian, a Mason, a self-taught Ancient Egyptologist (because he was compelled to explore alchemy, physics, astronomy, astrology, medicinal tincturing and ancient mysticism since his youth), but most notably and memorably for me: he was a magically wise soul. He was a genuine human being. He was one of my favorite people to hang out with for the entirety of my young life, even when I was a shithead teenager with a pierced face and old English block lettering Tattoos that said distasteful things – he never got boring or became too demanding of my time; my time was something that I always had more than enough for him.
I can write this, because he is dead and I am grown now;
During my teen years, he once rendezvoused with me at my car on the side of a dirt road during the wee hours of the morning (during a period in my life when I was swirling around life’s drain amidst teen angst, the shock and trauma of my Dad’s very sudden death, and in turn – the absolute demolition of my family unit as I had always before, and never again – known it; and was out of control in behavior and illegal activities) to offload armfuls of (totally illegal and extremely questionable in his perception) firearms with a stiff lip and stoic expression on his face the entire time. He drove away with at least ten felonies in his hatchback Celica without saying a fucking word to me about it.
I could never tell anyone about it growing up – couldn’t brag about it to my friends or brothers – because the fact that he never said anything taught me the lesson I’m sure he was shooting for: shame in grace, wrong against right, and dedication to those we love. I held it in for about five years before finally breaking one day over a Scrabble match and blurting out something like, “Papa, you know I’d NEVER ask you to do anything bad for me again EVER, right?…”
My Papa and I have the exact, same mischievously set eyes; upon meeting his gaze, I was always instantly triggered to smile, laugh, or giggle. This time though, when his eyes met mine, they spoke volumes of the disapproval and disappointment that he had been holding in all that time. Also quite noticeably though, was a weight that seemed to lift from his frame almost tangibly…and it came straight into my heart and has been with me ever since that moment.
For Veteran’s Day, I bow my head to any and all who have served my country in my place for whatever reasons.
This gratefulness that I feel runs deeply through the tangling roots of dead soldiers grown from my own family tree, and any other tree on Yankee/ Native soil. It most certainly takes someone with heart to be a soldier; thank you to all of the Veterans out there who may happen to read this post. Seriously…THANK YOU.