My Dad’s Stories

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Dad, U. S. Army-Air Force airman on leave during World War II, 1943

I have been thinking a lot about my Dad in the past month. Just before Memorial Day, my sister asked me what I know about our father’s service record and the medals he was awarded for his valor during World War II. I know that information only because I now have the medals and his service record. I don’t ever remember having a conversation with Dad about his time in the Army-Air Force. I knew from him only that he flew during the war and that he was stationed for a time in England. Dad never talked about the war, at least not at home.

At the end of May and into June, I was reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I didn’t really want to read another novel about World War II, but it is one of the selections for our church book club for next year, so I thought I would read it while my schedule is less demanding. The story, which is beautifully written, resonated with me on several levels. First, the experiences of war are told from the perspective of the women who gave everything they had. The two main characters are sisters who, while not always agreeing with each other in their response to the war, are nevertheless equally brave.

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Dad took me with him to a conference in New York, 1961

Secondly, the story is set in France. I had known a little about the French Resistance Movement during World War II, but Hannah’s vivid descriptions of her characters taught me a lot about what resistance meant for so many French families. My ancestors, both maternal and paternal, come from France. Although my direct line of grandparents had left France and arrived in the United States, by way of several generations in Quebec, long before World War II, I couldn’t help but think that many of the book’s characters represented cousins in my extended family. It was the first time I thought about a group as being “my people.”

The greatest connection, however, is that one of the threads in the novel describes the rescue of airmen who flew for the Allied Forces and whose planes crashed somewhere over France. My father could have been one of those airmen. He flew several missions as a bombardier – I assume over France. Thank God, he returned to home base each time. I wish now that I had had an opportunity to hear about his experiences first hand. More than that, I wish I could have had the chance to tell him how much I appreciate and am grateful for his dedication and courage.

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Dad came to visit me when I was in graduate school at Indiana University, 1978

I’m not saying that I didn’t have a chance to tell my Dad how much I loved him. But he was older then. I just wish we had talked about his life before he became husband and father. I have inherited many of Dad’s traits and behaviors, including his love of ice cream, his sense of duty, and his commitment to family. I’ve been told that I have my father’s eyes. If only my eyes can be those that Amy Grant describes in her song.

Father’s Eyes by Amy Grant

I may not be every mother’s dream for her little girl
And my face may not grace the mind of everyone in the world
But that’s all right as long as I can have one wish I pray
When people look inside my life, I want to hear them say

She’s got her father’s eyes, her father’s eyes
Eyes that find the good in things, when good is not around
Eyes that find the source of help, when help just can’t be found
Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain
Knowin’ what you’re going through and feeling it the same

Just like my father’s eyes, my father’s eyes, my father’s eyes
Just like my father’s eyes

And on that day when we will pay for all the deeds we have done
Good and bad they’ll all be had to see by everyone
And when you’re called to stand and tell just what you saw in me
More than anything I know, I want your words to be

She had her father’s eyes, her father’s eyes
Eyes that find the good in things, when good is not around
Eyes that find the source of help, when help just can’t be found
Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain
Knowin’ what you’re going through and feeling it the same

Just like my father’s eyes, my father’s eyes, my father’s eyes
Just like my father’s eyes, my father’s eyes, my father’s eyes
Just like my father’s eyes

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Dad at his grandson’s 1st birthday party, 1981. Dad wore this straw hat for years. It had a beer can on one side and a plastic hot dog on the other! It is such a funny reminder of this family picnic guy!

On this Father’s Day, why not share a story with your children that they might not have heard before. Happy Father’s Day!

 

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