June 16, 2013
A day or two after my father died, I had to look in his wallet for cards and other information. It was an old brown leather wallet, but even older was something he’d obviously been transferring from one wallet to the next for most of his life.
I never thought of my father as a family man. He was rarely affectionate, and he liked to be at work or with his friends at a bar or playing softball or almost any place other than home. So I was surprised to find this:
Some of these photographs were more than sixty years old when he died, and as far as I could tell he’d never taken them out of this little plastic folder except maybe to show some stranger the people who were inside.
Turned out it was us.
Alice must have sent this next one to him when he was back in Germany being a soldier once again.
This is my brother Michael:
There was no picture of my sister, Marla, and I puzzled over this for a while, but then I realized she was born much later, and he’d put this together when he was going to war and when he was in the war. These were the people he’d hoped he would come home to in good shape, or at least as whole and well as a person can be after such an event in his life. He must have been so frightened of losing everything.
He didn’t ever quite make it to good shape when that war ended. He was always troubled, never healed, but nevertheless he was an honest person and proved himself to be a good friend to many, many people, and he became passionately anti-war.
Here we are together in the safety of peacetime:
If I could call him up right now I’d say, Unpack that wallet, Daddy, and come on all the way home.
But since I can’t, then love to him and to all the fathers who wanted to be better at fathering than they managed, as well as to those who succeeded and are succeeding in this whole new era of fatherhood.