By rights, I should head over to my other blog and talk about Veteran’s Day. But I have a different focus tonight, more personal.
I wanted to post a picture of my father in his uniform to commemorate his service. I do not have one. Moreover, I acknowledge that many remain conflicted about my father.
I recognize that his alcoholism and abusiveness probably stemmed from post-traumatic stress related to his combat service in World War II. I do not excuse him; I do understand him.
I have a dear friend, Jeanne Foster, who tells me not to cut him any slack. Some of my siblings feel the same way. But my anger towards him weighed me down for decades. i let it go. I see what happened to him.
I don’t deny that we children and my mother survived unfathomable brutality at his hands. He had choices, though not as many as our society currently offers. In his war, you served or you got branded as a coward. The generals apparently did not understand what war does to the human psyche as they now do. No mental health services existed for veterans in those days. You came home, you slipped back into life, and you tried to make a go of it. The lucky ones could fully engage. A middle group sat taciturn behind their newspapers. The wretched few took to drink and all of its twisted foibles.
My sister also served. She became a nurse through the Army’s Walter Reed Institute of Nursing program. She spent a tour in Korea, possibly tending to the wounds of soldiers flown to her hospital from Vietnam. But she never talks of that time — at least, not to me. What I remember most of her Army days is the refrigerator that she bought for us with her accumulated pay when she got back stateside. Our old fridge had long since died, and we desperately needed its replacement. My mother quietly cried when the new one arrived, from gratitude and relief, I suppose.
In the movie version of The Prince of Tides, its narrator utters a phrase which I could not find in the book but nonetheless cherish. “In families, there is no sin beyond forgiveness.” Perhaps because I know what my father suffered on the Burma trail, I have come to forgive what he did to me. I do not presume to forgive the injuries he inflicted on my mother or my siblings; that falls to those still among the living, or, if heaven allows, then on the other side of eternity. I can, and do, provide absolution for my part. In the final analysis, I thank him for his service. It cost him dearly; and paid him next to nothing.
It’s the eleventh day of the fifty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
In Memory of:
Richard Adrian Corley, 12/27/22 – 09/07/91