On April 26, 2006, I was in my classroom when the phone rang. It was my mother, who knew not to call at school for idle chitchat. She said “you have to come home right now, your dad’s dead.”
He passed in his sleep, and we never found out why. What difference does it make? Mom was obviously devastated, and as her only child, I buried my emotions and stayed strong for her. He wasn’t a religious man; we skipped a minister who never knew him and opted for a party in his honor at the local Elks Club, which they frequented.
You go through the stuff. I found it best to box his things and remove memories during her grieving. On his dresser, in a plastic oval case a little bigger than a snowglobe, was his Bronze Star
Like many veterans, my dad didn’t like to talk about his time in Korea. He was a combat medic, and was not a fan of the television show "MASH." I am sure his experience was less than pleasant.
A few weeks before he passed, a friend and I met him to play golf. When we got to the first tee he said (I was not facing him) “are you ready?” He had just returned from being a snowbird in Florida, it was the first time out for us on the links that spring, and I yanked the headcover off my driver and said “I am ready!” He placed an open can of beer in my hand, which I would have preferred to open a little later.
After our round, a few cold ones in the course (my buddy was driving), we sat at his basement bar talking, and something made me ask about Korea again. He said he didn’t want to, and I replied “I’m not 15, I’m 45!” No go.
My mom passed three years ago, and Dad’s medal now rests in that case in my living room. I am proud of his service, but since he exited this existence, I have often wondered “what did he do to earn that medal?”
You have seen shows where the protagonist has a little angel on one shoulder and devil on the other. This is where I have been for 15 years. The angel whispers in my ear “if he had wanted you to know, he’d have told you.” The devil says “research it, find out.” I am generally not a person to hesitate on making decisions, but on this one I sit on the fence.
A few months ago, I retired from teaching after 34 years in the classroom. I’m 60 years old now, and my brain is more reflective; it’s always been introspective. I can write the Army, I can dig into websites that may have this information, but one of the biggest questions that lingers in my head is ... Should I?