May 16, 2010

Memories In Print

I drove this evening, down to our family dinner in Fort Lauderdale. I've been driving lately as my husband has had work to do, so he's been sitting in the back with the boys, working on some lectures.

My father in law and I have been growing closer and closer as he ages. I am stability. He prefers being near my husband and me more than anyone now, as he knows of the reliability.

Pop is a WWII veteran and a purple heart recipient, from when his ship, the USS Chase, was hit by a Kamikaze.

I don't know why I'm writing this... to preserve it? I have a need, so move along if you don't feel like reading, I have an extra post after this one I wrote ealier today, but something inside me is telling me... I must. Pop is 84 and struggling with Parkinson's. The boys were in the back of the car watching a movie, so nobody could hear the conversation between Pop and me.

Pop: I like it when you drive. Shhh... don't tell my son.

Me, laughing: It's cool, Pop.

Pop: I'm serious. It calms me. You drive like I would drive.

Me, thinking I'm not so thrilled with that 'compliment': Thanks.

Pop: You just stay in a lane, keep it at 70 and go. You watch for traffic. You aren't in a rush. You are so calming when you drive... I could sleep.

Me: Thanks, Pop. *grinning*

Pop: But don't tell my son. That's between us...

Me: No sweat...

*Minutes pass without a word being said. I'm driving and he's looking out the window, lost somewhere in memories.*

Pop: My Dad was a good guy. You never met him. During HIS war, it was trench warfare. Did I tell you, he saved himself and seven other guys?

Me, glancing over: No... He was in WWI?

Pop: Yes, he was in WWI. He had this bad feeling. He kept telling them, "We have to move, we have to move". Finally, he said, "We're moving" and he moved them to another trench. An artery... artery...

Me: Artillery...

Pop: Yeah, artillery shell came and hit that very spot where they had been. He just knew. Their moving saved all their lives. His nickname was Bosco.

Me: Bosco? How in the hell did they get that out of OUR name?

Pop: *laughing* I don't know... That was a bad war too. They used chemicals in that war you know...

Me: Yeah... I had read...

Pop, talking and remembering, as the elderly do reliving their past: Some of his buddies got gassed. Never breathed right after that...

Me: No... i guess not...

**update: I forgot this section and remembered when I was showering...***

Pop: My Dad got out and was a carpenter. He could work with his hands. He could fix machines and such. He used to carry around a bag that looked like a doctor's bag, and he'd fix people's office equipment like typewriters.

Me: Like a 1930s Xerox repairman!

Pop, laughing: Yeah, like that. He used to wear a suit every day. He wasn't educated, but he always wore a suit when he made his calls.

Me: Things were more formal back then.

Pop: Yeah, they were. He was busy. He was NEVER out of work. No matter how bad things got, my Dad had work.

*long pause*

Pop: We all had nicknames you know. There was that guy I played football with. He ended up being a bodyguard in the mafia, for Little Pussy. Don't ask me how he got that name. We all had nicknames back then. I asked him how he could do a job like that, being in the mafia. You know what he said to me, "If it's not me, it'll be someone else. It might as well be me." He played football like that. He was fearless... the mafia, they were bad. You didn't cross them, but they looked after the poor too. They gave turkeys to the poor at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was safe to walk the streets, they kept the streets safe.


Pop: My war was different. I wonder sometimes what would have happened if I'd died that day. Do you think it was fate, Bou?

Me: Definitely, Fate, Pop. It wasn't your day.

Pop, looking out the window: If I'd died when that kamikaze hit my ship, you'd not have met my son. I'd not have married Lucy. Things would not be the way they are now...

Me: Fate. It wasn't your day, nor your Dad's in the trench.

Pop: We took the Marines and Navy Seals where they needed to go. The SEALS would leave at night in their little rubber rafts and come back in the morning. The Marines... you know, I had a Marine I got kind of close to. You get close to folks you're living with on a ship. They'd hang out with us sometimes as we did our jobs. That Marine said he hated being on ships. It scared the hell out of him. He wanted to be in a foxhole. *Pop looking at me laughing* I told him he was nuts. I'd much rather be on a ship. That Marine said he was afraid of being hit by a Kamikaze. He was right, I guess, but I'd still rather be on a ship than in a foxhole.

Me: I think I agree...

Pop: Those Marines we picked up from Iwo Jima, they got a dirty deal, Bou. They were supposed to go home. We ended up taking them to Okinawa...

*Pop looked out the window, remembering things I could never understand*

Pop: It was tough back then. They got a raw deal.


Pop: Did I tell you how much I like it when you drive?

Me: You did Pop...

Pop: I do, and I'm not just saying that to butter you up...

Me: *laughing* It's all good Pop.

Pop: I hope I didn't bore you this afternoon...

Me: No. Actually... it was quite the opposite...

I always listen to his stories. It can be the same story over and over... I don't care. For awhile I thought I listened out of compassion, or because I had hope that one day when I told the same story over and over, that someone would be OK listening.

But what I am finding is... I'm never tired of hearing the same story over and over. And when he tells the story, there is something else I glean from it, that he left out before.

The picture just keeps getting bigger... and bigger.

And one day... he wont't be there to tell them.

Posted by Boudicca at May 16, 2010 09:42 PM

The story of the USS Chase is a great one of courage and bravery; those guys saved that ship.

Posted by: Sean at May 16, 2010 09:54 PM

He's still afraid of the ocean. We never tell him when we're going to the beach.

Posted by: Bou at May 16, 2010 09:58 PM

thanks for sharing this story.

With my MIL, who's 72, the story I hear over and over is about my husband as a small child returning a dead goldfish to the pet store.

We used to talk more, but not so much in recent years.

Posted by: wRitErsbLock at May 17, 2010 09:00 AM

Wow - what history there. Thanks for sharing Bou...

Posted by: Richmond at May 17, 2010 09:27 AM

You may want to invest in a small digital recorder. You can get one at Radio Shack. Ask all kinds of questions. I get the funniest responses from my aunt that I'm working on a genealogy with, the most random facts, which always turn out to be true.

Posted by: Jerry in Indiana at May 17, 2010 12:01 PM

Please, please, please record his stories! I so wish I had a recording in the voice of my family members who have passed on! I can remember not only the story, but HOW they talked about it and I soooo wish I could have passed that on to my kids who now ask about them. If not for your kids, then how about for all the families and descendants of those families who served with your FIL. Check out the Veteran's History Project that is trying to preserve the history of WWII at or how this project is being helped by students in grades 10-12 and higher.

So much has already been lost about both WWI and WWII and time is running out for the chance to preserve it for not only your family but so many others that it touches.

Regardless, thank you so much for sharing this!

Posted by: Lemon Stand at May 17, 2010 12:40 PM

Thank you for sharing...we'll be losing so much when the last of his generation goes...

Posted by: Mrs. Who at May 17, 2010 08:12 PM

My problem with recording his stories is what you can't see in print. I'm still giving it thought, but what you don't see is the "One more time, Pop" or "Pop, I'm sorry, I didn't catch that one" or "Pardon me?" The Parkinson's is destroying the man, not only in walking, and simple functions like eating, but in the pleasures of life like talking. His tongue seems thick and the words come our garbled at times. It doesn't help that I think I blew out part of my hearing running with my iPod too loud... but he is so very difficult to understand now.

It aches.

There is so much I left out, that I have to remember to tell my boys, like his looking at me and saying, "I dated a girl named Rhonda Moore in high school. She was a real looker. Real pretty blonde. You know why I broke up with her? *laughs* Because... she wore EYE MAKE UP. That's right. She was a swell girl, real sweet. But I told her, "What kind of girl do you want people to think I'm with? Only ONE KIND Of girl wears make up" Whores you know, Bou. Whores. I must not have liked her so much to really treat her like that, because she was a swell gal. *laughs* Eye make up..."

It was 1939. Girls didn't wear make up back then. I told him, "What's she doing now?" and he said, "Heck, I don't know. She's prolly dead. They're all dead now, Bou. I'm all that's left..."

Not to be deterred, I offered to sleuth around the 'net and find her, but he said no.

Memories are memories. He's becoming a funny guy in his old age. We're laughing a lot now... more so than ever before.

Posted by: Bou at May 17, 2010 09:27 PM

That was beautiful. Thank You and your Pop.

Posted by: Stephen at May 18, 2010 12:37 AM

Yes, they all had nicknames back then. My dad's nickname was Bo. I have no idea why - it just was. But I guess it's better than his older brother who was Skeeter. LOL.

It's good to listen to those stories. And great to write down what you remember. Of course we don't get all of it, but even some is good.

Posted by: Teresa at May 18, 2010 10:52 PM