I’m uncomfortable to say that today is Memorial Day and while I am not prolific in my words to encompass the importance of this holiday, it did however make me think of my brothers; each of whom served in the military. They were the brave souls that fought for our freedom and allowed us to wave a flag in pride that we are American citizens. Nevertheless, they were considerably older than me so I don’t have firsthand knowledge of their journey, nor can I offer ways in which their lives were affected by or even if they did ‘go off to war’. But I do know they served their country and for that I am swollen with pride for each one and want to thank Mike, Tom, and David for all their sacrifice and dedication to the United States of America.
Ironically, I do have personal awareness of what ‘going off to war’ meant for my father so I’d like to share a piece of writing I previously had written that does indicate dire consequences of what that ultimate sacrifice encompasses. My personal knowledge comes from being the daughter of a man who gave up his dreams to serve his country so allow me to share.
I’m not quite sure that my father would be considered an ancestor. Isn’t an ancestor one who comes before us many centuries ago? If so, then perhaps my Dad was a modern day ancestor? Regardless, he is the individual who came to mind when given this assignment in writing class and I believe that things happen for a reason, so it must be my mission to write about him. I don’t know much about my Dad and what I do know I acquired in the days following his death as a result of cleaning out his apartment, so my knowledge is scant and somewhat shallow, I must say. But, nonetheless, he is my father. The glaring facts are that he was an abusive alcoholic who beat my mother frequently and rode the proverbial revolving door in and out of our lives. When he wasn’t making us wait for hours on end for his presence for the ‘weekly visitations’, he happened to take my sister and I to some fun places; the lake for boating and fishing expeditions, the Silver Tavern Bar for hamburgers and greasy French fries in a plastic yellow basket, while the grownups drank Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and who could forget visiting Orville, Ohio, my Dad’s childhood home in addition to the place where the infamous coach Bobby Knight was an old friend.
Again, I say, he is my father and yes, an ancestor, but aren’t we to gain some infinite wisdom from our ancestors? Don’t we have lessons to be learned from those that came before us? That being said, I search for meaning and answers to my father’s existence which takes me back to his death. Just as he lived his life alone, he also died alone. He was found in his darkened apartment by the city police when no one had seen or heard from him in days. He was slumped in his worn reclining chair one foot from his big screen TV given that his eyesight had failed him and blaring from the box was ESPN, a direct result of hearing gone bad. His false teeth were located beneath the chair side table that held his magnifying glass and an old photo of my sister and I of all things. A path to the door was vacant of all furniture and remnants that clearly were swept aside as the goal of the medical examiner was to recover the body of what was once my Dad.
Days later when plans were executed according to his will there was nothing else to do but peruse through what was deemed to be treasures of his life. My sister and I hesitantly opened cabinets and drawers at an arm’s length to create distance from what, I’m not sure. As each carton was opened, a flood of memories descended upon us taking us through tears and laughter in a single moment. We filtered through faded pictures of family members both known and unknown.
These artifacts were suddenly the ashes of the burnt out dreams scattered to the wind of my father’s life including a write up in the sports section of the Fostoria Tribune that announced Robert Currier to be one of only two four-year varsity lettermen football players in the history of Fostoria High School, and interestingly enough, to this day there are only seven such individuals with this distinct honor. He was a shining star in his own right that led to a college scholarship to Ohio University to play the sport he loved. He was deserving of the accolades placed at his feet although those were severed two years short by his draft into the Korean War.
We analyzed the dull and dingy trinkets such as his Varsity ‘O’ pin and the carefully engraved diamond cuff links welcoming him to the Ohio University football program, plus odds and ends that would become the puzzle pieces to his life which would lead to an understanding of my own.
Instead of living his dream of that of a shining football celebrity, my Father went off to war and came back a broken man with shattered ideals disguised in a bottle with the anger of an iron fist and razor-sharp words. What was directed toward his family was really anger at the world beyond his control. No, that doesn’t excuse his actions nor does it make the events orchestrated by him right, but it’s justification of the fight in me labeled competitiveness and why athletics come easy for me. It’s validation for me why I no longer need to hold onto the self-blame I instigated trying to make my dad happy if only I would have been a more perfect daughter. What's more, it does provide me with understanding to the window of a man’s soul who wanted more from his life, but received much less.