Memorial Day, 2014

images I wanted to write something to commemorate the day, but what exactly. Should it be on the Civil War….Vietnam? Maybe I should honor Washington, or Teddy. What about U.S. Grant?

Then it hit me. I should write a reverent remembrance of my father who was a pilot during World War II.

Frank was 19 when he enlisted in the Air Force leaving his 17 year-old bride, my mother, back home to keep the fires burning.

I’ve read some of their letters during that time that really break your heart. The yearning, the I miss yous…the fear of not coming back, is all there between their now brittle pages.

When I read them it’s hard to believe how their marriage, years later, crumbled into a heap of such unrecognizable debris.

Time…they say it heals, but not before it does unbelievable harm.

My father was very handsome in his youth…all legs, natural muscle and cheekbones. No one would have believed that, however, when he died in his 40s of cirrhosis of the liver as a result of too much alcohol, but that’s another essay.

The war did two things to my father: it robbed him of his hearing in one ear, and made him a passionate patriot. I grew up with the American flag flying proudly from our front porch along with reruns of Yankee Doodle Dandy and The Best Years of Our Lives. I thought my mother must have been just like Myrna Loy welcoming my dad all dressed up   with a roast in the oven. Turns out she wasn’t even home, but at a Tupperware party at her friend Min’s. Apparently, no one was there waiting when he walked through the door.

This would come up from time to time, according to my Aunt Tillie, my mother’s eldest sister…usually when my father had too much to drink.

He never stopped being mad for my mom or mad at her since her jets cooled considerably during the four years he was away. It would have been six, but they sent him home early due to his chronic deafness.

I’m sorry I never asked him about the war. It was as though it never happened, but it did. And how remiss was I to gloss over it as though it were nothing. But I know we do that, even now when we see a veteran asking for a handout holding a sign that says…HUNGRY…PLEASE HELP.

Their eyes, if you can bear to meet them, say it all.

To be forced to enlist whether you wanted to or not. To leave your loved ones to fight an enemy more or less going through the same pain as you. To wonder, if I hadn’t gone, would my wife still love and want me?

I’m only guessing what my dad might have seen in his highball glass all the times he sat by himself in the yard with the cat on his lap. He didn’t say much when I was little. An occasional, be careful…walk don’t run, and you know I love ya curly. That’s what he used to call me, and shrimp, and nudnik and Miss apple pie.

My mother could still make him happy yet so sad all at the same time. She had a knack for that along with a heartless streak I’m grateful I didn’t inherit gleaning his tendencies instead…to love another more than yourself.

I don’t know what happened to our American flag. When my mother died and they emptied the house, I’m pretty sure it was stuffed in a box somewhere.

Not that anyone asked, but it was the one thing I would have wanted.

I could have unfurled it and hung it from my window, knowing, if those stars and stripes could only talk, what a tale they could tell.

Happy Memorial Day Daddy. I’m proud to have had a father who served, suffered for it and was still proud to be an American.

You’ve certainly passed that onto me. get-attachment-2

SB

 

 

 

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About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Amazon.com. Thanks.
This entry was posted in Family, History, Home, Love, parents, war, Women and men and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Memorial Day, 2014

  1. micklively says:

    Poignant piece Susannah.
    My father was an RAF navigator through WWII. He’s not much of a patriot but had a burning desire to wipe the fascists off the map. He and his brave comrades spectacularly failed to achieve that aim. You can kill people but ideas, even bad ones, are more resilient.
    Individual acts of courage from all those who volunteered and laid their lives on the line for what they believed in, speak for themselves. And I’m happy that we don’t forget their sacrifices, so long as that’s not taken as encouragement to go to war again. Why can’t we remember the dead without some twat leaping at an opportunity for sabre-rattling?
    I used to nurse a theory that war changes little, but speeds up the inevitable. Since we can’t play “what if”, we can never know if it was all worth it.

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    • I loved this Mick, thanks. Your father may have just kept it all under his helmet so to speak. I can’t imagine what war is like. Must be the worse thing on earth to witness. Thanks for taking the time to write.

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  2. Happy Memorial Day to you too, Susannah. Thank you for sharing that. War really does take so much, even after the soldiers get home. My father’s father was in the Canadian Navy, but he died before I was born. My mother’s father was about to go when he got an exemption, although he and my grandmother worked in the fighter plane factories. I’ve heard that most soldiers don’t want to talk about their time in battle, although maybe for some it is good therapy to talk it out.

    By the way, I’m almost finished your book and really loving it. The only problem is that I’m so used to reading your blog that I want to comment after I finish every chapter. 🙂

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    • You’re the sweetest fella David…thanks for always saying such kind things.

      Yeah, I don’t know very many men who want to talk about their war experiences. I have two friends who were in Vietnam…one died due to complications contracting Agent Orange…I actually was going to reblog a piece I penned called Soldier To Soldier that was about him, but then my father stepped in.

      Thanks for sharing about your grandparents. Hope all is well in Korea.

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  3. katecrimmins says:

    What a sad, sad story. My father was just past the age cutoff for WWII so he didn’t go but my uncles did. My brothers both served although much later. It must have been hard for your parents. They were way too young when they married. I am not surprised your Mother lost interest. She was a kid. Your Dad was so young when he died.

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    • I known it’s sad. I read it and thought, do you really want to print this? And then just hit send.

      I so get what happened to them. Imagine being only 17. While he was away, she grew up…she worked, had friends. Her life opened like a gift package, but my dad was like a stranger to her, yet they stayed married for 27 years.

      He never moved on from her…that’s the real tragedy. She had lovers he knew about…he just drank as she came and went. So sad Kate…he had an awful life. I don’t blame her…I’m very much like her, just with more of his heart. Thanks for reading.

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  4. This is such a wonderful piece Susannah. My mother can not even watch movies about WWII, even if they are loaded with all of her favorite actors and nominated for Oscars. It’s too sad for her to remember how excited the young boys were to sign up, not knowing what was in store for them on the other side. Coming home with those demons in a time when demons weren’t discussed, could not be easy.
    I salute your very handsome soldier dad!

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    • He was handsome, wasn’t he Top? I love this last line…Coming home with those demons in a time when demons weren’t discussed, could not be easy. That eloquently puts it in a nutshell.

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  5. Rubenstein, Hal says:

    Very sweet !

    Hal Rubenstein
    First Vice President
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    Senior Portfolio Manager

    Morgan Stanley Wealth Management
    One Fawcett Place, 3rd FL
    Greenwich, CT 06830
    Direct: 203-625-4851
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    hal.rubenstein@morganstanley.com

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  6. Beautiful, beautiful piece, Susannah. Your father was very handsome, so many handsome young men who gave so much for our country then. My father included. they did not talk about the war. They experienced it and then came home to do their jobs and raise their families. Such brave men. They came home, but, I think much of them remained overseas, seeing too much to have it wiped away by normal life. Have you gone onto the WWII memorial page? Here is the link for the registry (http://www.wwiimemorial.com/default.asp?page=registry.asp&subpage=intro) You can either input your father’s information or it may have already been put into the archives. I was able to look up my father and my uncles. It’s a fascinating memorial, if you ever get down this way.

    Thank you for this post, I loved it. DAF

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    • Thanks for the link…I know so little about that time. My father never spoke of it…the only thing I knew was it was how he lost his hearing, from flying planes. When my mother yelled at him, he’d turn his hearing aid off. As a kid, I thought that was so funny. Sadly, none of it was really too humorous, but when you’re five or six, you don’t know any better. Thanks for writing.

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  7. MJ says:

    Beautiful piece, Susannah, and so appropriate. God knows what your father experienced. The hell of Ploesti? There were even horrific accidents in training. Something that comes to my mind: legions of young American men were drafted during World War II, but those who flew were all volunteers. It was a time when most people had never been in an airplane, and aerial combat was still in its adolescence. There was “flight pay” for pilots and air crews because they couldn’t hang back in action. From the boldest to the most terrified, every one was exposed to the same fate. Your dad, like my own, must have learned to fly in a Stearman PT-17, an open cockpit bi-plane that looks more like something out of World War I than WW II. An aerobatic delight in the air, it took some skill to land because of its narrow wheel base. My dad remembered the thrill of flying upside down, with only the seatbelt between him and the ground, Other memories were not so pleasant. Anyway…God rest them.

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    • MJ, I knew none of this…but I’m sure you’re right about what type of plane he learned to fly in. I bet your dad was very young as well…what did they know except they had to go to serve their country leaving their loved ones behind. Must have been so tough…can’t imagine what any of it was like. Thank you for this. You never fail to contribute 🙂

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  8. MJ says:

    The fact that your dad was a flyer speaks to his mettle. The PT in “PT 17” stood for “Primary Trainer”, so it was the military standard for aviation cadets. For most of WWII, the American air force was still part of the Army and known as the “US Army Air Corps”, so guys who wanted to fly would enlist in the Army, then volunteer for pilot training after they completed basic. Candidates who successfully passed a battery of physical and mental aptitude tests were designated aviation cadets and sent to an officer training program. My dad’s was at Syracuse University, which may have been where your dad went as well. They then went on to primary flight schools, after which most were assigned for specialized training as either bomber or fighter pilots. My dad was young, too. I have a pic of him with his fellow pilots in 1944, and not one was old enough to vote.

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  9. MJ says:

    I did see that, Susannah, but thanks for reminding me. Before I’d even learned to read, my dad would sometimes pull out his Air Force scrap book and explain what certain pictures were all about instead of telling me a traditional bedtime story. I was fascinated, and it’s amazing what an enthralled little mind can retain. Airplanes he’d flown…the different places he’d been when he was overseas. “Now that’s Italy; see, it’s shaped like a boot, and the 15th was HERE.” He did have a friend from Connecticut—another pilot named Dave. Maybe he did know your dad! In any case, he had a special respect for his fellow airmen, whoever they were, and passed it on to me.

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    • How great your dad kept a scrapbook. My father had a pin I had for a long time before giving it to Micky, a Vietnam vet who died two years ago. I wrote about it in a piece called Soldier To Soldier…I wish I still had it, but remember how happy it made Mick to have it. He wore it everyday.

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  10. skinnyuz2b says:

    Susannah, this is a beautiful post, written from the heart.

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  11. manty67 says:

    What a wonderful and heartfelt story, I can’t believe how young both your parents were when your dad was called to fight. He certainly was a very dashing young man, in his uniform, such a shame life had a bitter pill to swallow on his return. Life can be so hard at times, but on the bright side, they have a beautiful daughter that they both could be proud of.

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    • Such a nice thing to say…yes, they were both young and dashing…I like to think of them that way as opposed to the people they became. He drank, she flirted…Misery stalked them both in different ways.

      Always nice to hear from you.

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