Life is interesting sometimes.
My Dad is a Vietnam vet, but we didn’t talk much about it growing up. He told funny Navy stories about basic training, or Thailand or the Philippines or Adak, Alaska, but he kind of skipped over Vietnam. Even after I joined the military he skipped over it. The closest he came was when he wanted me to read “A Rumor of War” because it was written by a guy on the same fire-base he was on in Vietnam at roughly the same time. It wasn’t til I went to Afghanistan for the first time that he started opening up. Then a little more after Iraq, and more yet after the last trip to Afghanistan.
A couple years later he sat at a table with a bunch of my veteran friends, and that was really where a lot of magic happened. Hearing all of them tell tall tales started him going, and inter-service rivalry helped. A couple things happened after that and now we’re in a good, supportive place of one another, as far as being vets go. Different wars, different turf, same stories.
We’ve swapped books and movies over the years. I made him sit and watch “Restrepo” a couple of years ago and it hit him the same as it did me. He didn’t have to be THERE, he had been in the same spot years before.
He was a good father in his way. There’s things that as his son I wish would’ve happened differently, but I’m still proud of him. He did so much better than his father before him, and he tried, and he was there and that’s pretty much all you can ask for. Never really heard him cuss growing up, a “damnit” or “shit” or “sonofabitch” when he whacked the snot out of his finger with a hammer, but other than that… The only time I saw him drink was a can of beer with a neighbor on a front step or sharing a margarita with mom at a Mexican restaurant. He’s loosened up with age, and now he’ll have a beer or two with dinner. But I still have this incomplete picture of him as a kid.
He called me tonight and told me to listen to Joan Baez’s “A Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall” sometime when I was mellow. Said that a friend of his and him used to get shit faced together at night in Alaska in their room and listen to her album over and over. Said he hadn’t listened to it in years, but came across it when he got sucked into the black-hole that is youtube tonight. Said that listening to it, and putting him back in the mindset of post-Vietnam he could hear pieces of himself and me in it. He told me I couldn’t listen to it in a roomful of people, or when I was excited. He said maybe I needed to have a beer or two first. I’ve never heard him talk like that.
So I will. I’m curious. Tonight’s not that night, but I will.
PS – I posted it before I saw the daily prompt, but since I titled it with the same word…