There’s a story my dad used to tell about pestering his shipmates for news from home. When I met dad’s friends, they all told that very same story. I always thought it was funny because I envisioned it as their entire tour; dad pacing on deck with ‘Dicky Suchicky’ harassing poor Radarman ‘Silverman’ about news from Obie (my maternal grandfather) for months at a time.
It was the only story he ever shared with us about his service to our country. I remember him telling it with such enthusiasm as we toured the German U boat at the Museum of Science & History in Chicago. He was incredibly animated and had the widest smile while recalling this memory. I laughed the entire time until my belly hurt from laughing so hard. By this time, our family had grown to include my brother, Matthew and my sister, Emily---but we were best known to dad as Vic, Clint & Bullet, the “three tons of fun”. Thanks to Google, I did eventually discover he was referring to a slapstick comedy team who made occasional appearances on the Howdy Doody Show (though we were never sure which character we represented).
In time, I came to understand that the story wasn’t just about me; it was much bigger than that. It was the rare experience of joy in wartime. Good things were still going on at home and that was reassuring when the slightest comfort must have felt like sheer luxury.
Dad was proud of each of us. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather.
When I was expecting my first child, dad would make excuses to travel to Moberly, Missouri where I was attending nursing school. He’d conveniently “forget” something he needed to pick up at the local big box store and somehow the cart would fill with goodies for his grandchild and anything an expectant mommy could ever crave. On one trip, he insisted on taking me to a buffet lunch where I swear I must have eaten half a pan of mac ‘n cheese while ever so slowly convincing him to come with me to my doctor’s appointment. Dad was not a fan of doctors…or hospitals…or waiting rooms, for that matter. But he went anyway to be supportive because that’s the kind of man he was.
When the nurses called him in to see the ultrasound of his first grandchild, I saw the Navy story come to life before my very eyes. It was pure joy and it was beautiful. Dad held each of my children with that same expansive smile and pride. His family members meant absolutely everything to him. My regret is that his youngest daughter was robbed of the experience. I know wholeheartedly he would have pampered my sister the very same way and absolutely treasured her son, Thomas just as he had Nicholas, Steven and Megan---my very own three tons of fun.
In My Life was a song with special meaning to my dad, the song we danced to at my wedding, to honor my brother. Today, I'd like to take this moment to say I love you more, Dad.