Today would have been my Dad's 87th birthday had he lived past his 77th of course. He died in 1999 of cancer, a fourth or fifth cancer to be exact. It took that many of that horrible disease to get him. He was the toughest sonuvabitch I ever knew.
My Dad was a loyal man who worked for the same company for 48 years selling stocks and bonds. He saw it all. The ups and downs, the greed, the guys who took short cuts, the Wall Street weasels who started this mess back in the 80's. He got out during the 90's when things were good. And best of all, he remained a liberal Democrat in a profession of right wingers all that time. Dad loved to argue and told anybody who expressed an ounce of compassion on any subject "you're not really a Republican!"
Dad was a veteran of WW II. He enlisted in the Army soon after Pearl Harbor because the Marines wouldn't accept a flat-footed skinny guy like he was at the time. He told stores about the war that were funny. Stealing a general's jeep. Putting smokes on strings and pulling them away from German POW's. Commandeering a house with a little German kid who would run and warn them of oncoming "Panzers" though they always turned out to be American tanks. But one thing Dad always said about WW II was "I spent four years in the Army and I hated every goddamned second of it". He refused to join the VFW, the American Legion or any other vets group because he abhorred their politics and didn't want to listen to war stories. I remember finally getting Dad to call Muhammed Ali by his name instead of "Cassius Clay" by pointing out the only people who still called him that was the American Legion. Then one night, in 1985 it happened the one and only time.
America's favorite Nazi sympathizer, Pat Buchanan, was arguing about Reagan's trip to Bitburg, Germany to place a wreath on the graves of Nazi SS troops. Buchanan was defending Reagan's trip and said something about the Nazis not being as bad as the Russians. Buchanan also made a comment about American troops being incapable of atrocities and none happened. Dad bellowed "OH BULLSHIT!" at the television, turned to me and said, "I saw Americans do things I don't even want to think about. He is so full of shit!" He got up and left the room before I could even ask what he meant. I never asked because in 40 some years, he'd only mentioned the lighter side of war. Why would he want to tell me now? I never knew what he meant. I can imagine.
On this Memorial Day, there are some who will revel in their war experience. But most, like my Dad, just want to forget the whole effing thing. As witnessed by me back in 1985, it's unfortunate they never will. I miss you, Dad.