Monday, August 1, 2011

Memories of My Father

My father died 12 years ago today, just a few months shy of what would have been his 80th birthday. He was a member of what Tom Brokaw fittingly called "The Greatest Generation," the generation that fought World War II. So, in addition to offering Mass for his intention today, I also took a good look at the wonderfully drawn map my father made of his military service fighting in Europe from June 1944 to May 1945, beginning two days after D-Day and including that memorable struggle known as "the Battle of the Bulge."

In his book,The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw said, "They were proud of what they accomplished but they rarely discussed their experiences, even with each other." If that was true in general, it certainly described my father. There were, of course, occasional exceptions when we would draw out soem wartime memories - like what it really felt like crossing the Channel in June 1944, how the French reacted to their libereation, etc.Even then, however, he tended to play down what to the next generation (not yet exposed direclty to war) seemed to be the excitement of it all. His view of the world and of the political imperatives appropriate for Cold War America were, of course, formed and conditioned (no less than JFK's, LBJ, and Nixon"s would be) by that experience of war. Wioth us, however, emhasis seemed rather on how scary and ugly it all was. I suspect thaat reflected and reinforced his natural inclination to try to be a calm, peaceful, and patient person.

A hardworking breadwinner, when things were a lot tougher than they later became, he knew what his priorties were - and that there were more important things in life than excitement. But what a life he lived! It was a life of geneoristy focused on family - his wife of 52 years (whom he'd loved form the day they met at a soap sale in Macy's), his 3 children, and in the last years his 2 granschildren, plus his brother and 4 sisters and their husbands, children, and granschildren, a whole extended clan, to which he remained ever devoted to the end. He always understood how family means people - people to be loved and cherished, whoever and however they are.

And people responded! the affection of co-workers was real and a genuine joy to him. And, even towards the end, sick and confined to home, when there seemd to be so little to be joyful about, he continued uncomplaining, still occaisonally showing some of that old charm and continuing to evoke that wonderful response in those who helped care for him.

In life, we all live in the contradiction between what we are now and what God created us to become. Untied to God in death, we will finally see things from God's point of view and experience more fully the result of God's own patient transformation of us. But that transformation begins here and now, and we are challenged to cooperate with it. For who we become in our lives here and now is who we will be forever.

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