My dad was a great guy and my hero, but most of all, my dad was a quiet man.
In the late '50s and early '60s, I noticed something strange. Several times a year, a stranger would knock on the door and Dad would let him in. They would hug, then go into the parlor and talk for hours until the man left. Dad always seemed glad to see them. After one such meeting I saw something that upset me very much. My daddy - my rock of a daddy, who could do anything, fix anything and brave any storm - was in the parlor with tears running down his face.
Mom came in, put her hand on Daddy’s shoulder and smiled, like that would take it all away and Daddy would be Daddy again, and after a while he was. Later on, I asked Mom why Daddy was so sad.
“Mom, why was my daddy crying?”
“Well, sit down and I’ll explain. These men who come to visit now and then are men Daddy knew in the war. They were all buddies in the same unit. It was a dangerous and scary time for these young men, so they depended on each other to stay strong. When the war ended, some men, like your daddy, went home to their families, but they never forgot their friends who became like brothers when they were overseas.”
“But why does seeing his friends make him so sad? Doesn’t he like to see them?”
“He likes to see them very much, but when they get together, they remember all the other young men who did not make it home.”
“They were killed by the enemy, Alice, but Daddy and his friends still miss them very much and are sad because they can’t be here. Do you understand?”
“Yeah, I think so. Do you think Daddy wants a hug now?”
“I think he would love one right about now.”
As I got older, I would ask my dad about the war and he would respond, but always about the good times, never about the horrors he saw.
Dad would go on being my loving father and hero. He never let the past rob him of a good life for all of us. He continued to welcome his buddies and reminisce about those four short years so long ago, then sometime in the '80s they stopped coming. They were just too old and couldn’t make the trip anymore, but they continued to communicate until the day my dad passed away.
I came to appreciate my dad so much more as I got older, thinking of all he endured and the man he became, and that day in the parlor when I first saw my daddy cry. He would say, "You can be a little bit broken but you can't let it break you." Even though he didn't talk much, my daddy said a lot!