Little things remind me of my dad: seeing Zagnuts at the grocery store, hearing the Law & Order intro, passing by a white Mountaineer on the road. It sprinkles a piece of him back to life, if only for a moment, which I welcome.
There are also times of the year where I think about him more frequently, like around the holidays. Memorial Day is one such weekend where shared memories pack up his large green suitcase from the 70's and hang around my thoughts.
You see, my dad was in the Army. He went to Vietnam during the war and came home with a Purple Heart. There were exactly two war related stories he shared with me during his time there.
The first one was how long he spent in the Army, down to the minute. To me, that showed how much he disliked his experience in war, which I can only imagine is never pleasant.
The second (and last) story was not one I like to think about alone, though he somehow made it funny. To set the scene: It was the middle of the night in the jungle. It was pitch black, so he couldn't see a thing, not even his hand waving in front of his face.
He felt something crawl on him with four legs. Realizing the gravity of the situation, he decided to make an animal-like growling noise. (When he told the story, he'd do this intense hissing noise, which was pretty entertaining.)
That noise not only took me aback, but apparently, it also scared away the unidentified creature on my father.
Okay, so my take on his story is not as robust without the animal impersonation and my dad's "I escaped a life-threatening situation using my wits" swagger. But thanks for getting there with me!
With the little information I have about his experience in war, I am sure that he lost friends in combat, which breaks my heart. It makes me appreciate that I was able to have him in my life for so long and am able to be here today. If he wasn't so quick to scare off that creature, then who knows what would've happened to him or to his future?
To the people with holes in their families from war, my deepest sympathies go out to you. You will also be in my thoughts and in my heart this weekend. Take care.