Timing is everything

My father wasn’t a veteran.  He had great admiration for them, however, and it always bothered him that he’d been unable to serve during World War II.  His father?  Fought for the Italian army in World War I* – and isn’t it cool?  Posing with a cigarette…

What? Me? Drop a rifle?

What? Me? Drop a rifle?

At the beginning of the war, Dad was a freshman in the engineering program at Northeastern University.  His friends discussed the option of enlistment, and in general, the pack of first generation immigrants were ready to serve.  Dad decided to finish out the school year – although he spent lots of time playing, and his grades suffered as a result.

With terrible eyesight, he used his network of friends to get a copy of the eye-chart so he could memorize it in order to pass the physical.  As luck would have it, Dad flunked several classes Spring term – and also flunked the eye test.  They’d changed the chart.  So it was back to school…

Here’s to all who have served, and their families.  There is something powerful in the willingness to sign up to risk death for causes that may not be your own. 


* One of Dad’s favorite jokes?  Q: How does the Italian Army do training maneuvers? A: [marched past with both hands on his head].  Second favorite joke? Q: How did the Italian Admiral review his navy?  A:  Glass-bottomed boat.

Sorry. It won’t happen again…

Mom and Dad were planning an Alaskan cruise with a group of friends from their church when he was diagnosed with cancer in 1998.  With a departure date scheduled for just a month post-surgery, they canceled their plans. 

As his condition leveled out over the next few months, Dad settled into chemotherapy treatments every other week, and Mom assumed her role of primary caregiver.  The prognosis wasn’t great, but he’d made the decision to pursue non-heroic treatment for the near term… and was hanging in for his final year or so.

When the daily routine returned to something resembling “normal”, Mom would occasionally mention the trip, expressing her disappointment that their plans were scuttled by Dad’s illness.  Dad wouldn’t say a word as she would tell anyone within earshot “We were booked on that Alaskan cruise but had to cancel when Dad got sick…”

He apparently hit his limit one day when he quietly responded “I’m really sorry I got cancer and screwed up your vacation”.

She didn’t mention it again, at least not in front of me, until a few weeks after he died.