Monday, October 02, 2006

A comparison I thought I'd never's "Moment of Dad"

According to Senator Edward Kennedy, the fighting in Iraq has exceeded the length of the fighting from WWII. Wow. That's a lot of time, and the times have definitely changed since then.

I'm actually going to make a comparison that, if Dad were alive, he'd smack me for.

I just realized that Ted Kennedy and my dad have something in common...they both lost a sibling in WWII.

Ted Kennedy lost his oldest brother, Joseph. My dad lost his oldest brother, Harold.

Even more coincidental is the fact that both Joseph Kennedy and my uncle Harold fought in the air. Joseph Kennedy was a pilot, and Uncle Harold fought as a gunner. (Thanks to Mom D. for clearing up that misinformation of mine, BTW). The only difference is that Joseph fought in Europe and Uncle Harold fought in the Far East (he was shot down over China, I believe. If any family members are reading this and need to correct me, please let me know.)

I think Ted was older than my dad was when his brother died. My dad was born in November of 1936, so that makes him a shade over five when Pearl Harbor happened.

I think Dad was six or seven when the family got the word. He was home alone with Grandma when the government men came (at least, that's how I remember Dad telling it).

He remembered their dark, shiny car.

He remembered Grandma's silhouette against the screen door while talking to the government men.

He mentioned Grandma's resolve during the whole conversation...I think at the time they reported Uncle Harold as missing as opposed to dead, but again, some parts of the story are a little fuzzy so if corrections need to be made, let me know.

Dad remembered things fairly well for someone who was a little kid when it happened, He cherished any item that was connected with Uncle Harold.

He had a couple pictures of Uncle Harold in his uniform. Mom sent me a picture of Uncle Harold leaning out of an airplane window with a bandolier around his neck. (If I ever get a scanner, I will post the picture on this's very striking.) He had Uncle Harold's dress cap. I think the flag draped over his casket for Dad's internment was the same flag issued to Grandma when Uncle Harold was declared deceased.

I think the most striking thing about Dad's memories of Uncle Harold was the one time I saw him get mad in church.

The pastor we had at that time was what Dad would call a "peacenik". I'm not sure what the occasion was for discussing this, but the pastor was talking about the lighted cross on top of the Methodist Church we went to. The pastor attributed the cross' existence to a certain thing (I don't remember what), but Dad was (as we say in IA) "pure-D" pissed.

The reason he was pissed? He knew that the cross on the top of the church was put up thanks to the families that lost members in WWII, including ours. He was very upset, because he felt that all their memories were betrayed, but especially Uncle Harold's.

The pastor did correct himself, thankfully, but Dad never really forgave the guy for his faux pas.

Later on, I saw "Saving Private Ryan" at the movie theater, and I was amazed to see the scene where Mrs. Ryan received word about her son being killed in action. The farmhouse looked quite a lot like Grandma & Grandpa Dawson's. The woman was built differently but had on the same type of housedress women wore back then. The government men pulled up in the same shiny car. I was was like Dad's memory was put on the screen for everyone to see.

I told Mom about it later, and told her that if they every saw that movie to make sure Dad was OK. (I'm not sure why I did that other than I figured if it moved me so much and I wasn't even THERE, I couldn't imagine what it would do to Dad.)

I think they did see it later on, and Dad was OK. He had more resolve and strength than a lot of folks I know.

I guess the similarity is what I find interesting, but as far as the paths my dad and Ted Kennedy took after that period of time, they couldn't be more different. Dad's politics were conservative, and Kennedy's are liberal to a degree. I think one of the few things they would agree on are unions. Beyond that, not much agreement there.

I just thought it was interesting to compare, so that's today's "Moment of Dad" for you.