Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bye, Papa

Maya's Papa: May 13, 1922 - November 1, 2007

Let me tell you a little about my dad. He loved, loved, LOVED his family. And his grandchildren could do no wrong. Some of my favorite memories of him include impromptu trips to Mr. Smith's for a banana split, sitting around listening to him talk with any of his siblings about their growing up years (there were 12 chilren in all), playing cribbage with him (and catching him cheat!), dad taking me shopping for clothes when he got an unexpected rebate or insurance dividend, and going swimming at the local military base.

Dad was the organized one in the family. Mom and I haven't a clue how to do that. Lucikly for my brother, who handles most of dad's paperwork, dad had a folder for everything and a place for every folder. Whoever gets to take care of me and my mom will not be so lucky. You'll have to search every kitchen drawer, every nook and cranny, to find the important papers we never get around to filing. I wish I had inherited that organization gene, but alas, I didn't.

Dad was proud to be a veteran, and he was very proud to have served in two wars, WWII and the Korean War. He wasn't happy with the state of today's military. He thought the soldiers had lost their respect for military rank, and for serving in general. But he was so proud to have been a part of it when he was. He met my mom in Germany, and looking through his files I found a picture that he had labeled as the day he had to leave mom and come home. They were not married yet, and they couldn't get the paperwork processed in time for her to come with him. He came home in August, 1959, and she wasn't able to come here until late October of that year. His note under the picture said it was the longest 2 months of his life. They celebrated their 48th anniversary on October 26, and I'm so glad he made it past that point.

I asked my mom what it was about him that attracted her to him. Rumor had it she wouldn't give any of the German men the time of day, much less the American soldiers coming through. She replied that all of the other men always kidded around too much, always acted immature, and always wanted something. But dad would always talk about his family, and his mother, and how she had raised 12 children and 2 of her many grandchildren. He talked about sending money home to his family (instead of gambling and drinking it away as so many others did). And she told me something I had never heard before ... they had actually broken up for a little while, because he said he needed to go home and help his mother for a little while, as she was getting remarried to an older friend of dad's and he needed to be there to help them. She said she wasn't sad about it, because she had a feeling that he would come back. He did. So it impressed her that he took such good care of his family, even to the point of helping his sisters who had married alcoholics and often didn't have food to feed the many children they had. I heard from my cousin at the funeral how dad would come visit them one day, and if they didn't have any food in the refrigerator, dad would always be back the next day with groceries. And how much he and his siblings would look forward to seeing that car pull up in their driveway. not just because he knew it would mean food on the table the next day, but just to know someone loved them and cared about them. I remember dad telling me how, when this particular cousin's mother would be having another baby, dad would go pick up all the kids, bring them home and make sure they all had baths and something to eat until their mother came back home.

Also at the funeral, I heard one of his longest and closest friends speak about the prisoners of war that dad was around. He said many of the soldiers would not treat the prisoners (or the locals) very well, but dad was always respectful of them, and treated them with dignity.

We sure do miss you, daddy. But I know you're in a better place now, and for the first time in all the years I knew you, you have no pain at all now. Rest in peace, dad.