There is something delightfully refreshing about the make-believe world of children. Late Friday night and early Saturday morning, Jake fashioned for himself a make- believe fort out of cardboard boxes. When I saw it, I thought it was an army tank, but in his imagination it served more as a bunker. From the vantage point of childhood imagination, there were no limits to its representation.
On Saturday morning, Gram had opportunity to be the first to see it. Of course, Jake had a vested interest when he extended her the invitation. He is a little ham and he wanted her to video “the fort” along with him providing an explanation of how it works.
Gram then asked Jake: “So when you grow up, are you going to be a builder like your Uncle Ryan?” He provided what I could have predicted as a response. After all, how many Texas A&M shirts does the kid own? He has at least one for everyday. He answered the question by saying: “No. I am going to be a Marine”. You know what they say: “Like father/like son.”
Jake went on to say that after retirement from the Marine Corps, he’d become a professional football player. Gram asked: “So don’t you think you’d be a little old to play football when you retire?” He said, “No – My Commanding Officer will look at me and say: “Way to go! -That’s my Marine boy.”
When I finally had opportunity to go upstairs and see the “fort” for myself, Jake welcomed me by saying: “Now Granddad, this is really something to blog about! I smiled with the thought! The General gets perturbed with me when I mention something is blog worthy. Jake on the other hand has the ability to think like Granddad. I suggested he write the blog, but since he didn’t, I thought I would.
Like I said, “When I first saw the fort with Jake’s head emerging through a flap in the top, it reminding me of an army tank with a person peering outside. Jake’s imagination brought me back in time. When I was a little kid, we too, played soldiers. As a little kid, all I knew of war and battle were the things gleaned from movies about WWII. My dad had set aside that chapter of his life by the time I was born, but the experience had a life-long impact on him. Although he never talked of the war until toward the end of his time, he proudly served his nation.
Actually, my dad took us to see the movie: “To Hell And Back” starring Audie Murphy. The movie was autobiographical and garnered the life and heroism of Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in U.S. history.
We also saw: “From Here To Eternity” portraying the horrors of the attack on Pearl Harbor. There were also other theme related movies, but I don’t remember the names. What I do remember is coming away from the movies with the sense that Americans fought because it was the right thing to do. Many died in the process. It was simply the sacrificial price of admission for the things we hold dear.
Yesterday, my brother posted a picture of Dad wearing his U.S. Army uniform. It is the picture I used for this article. I had never noticed it before, but in the picture dad almost looks like a kid. Maybe it takes 70-year-old eyes to fully process that we send our young men off to war.
Dad opted to keep three mementos from the war. They included a German helmet, a 1933 Standard Dress Dagger he took from a German soldier who was being transported after being taken captive. The soldier was taking the knife out of his boot when dad noticed him. He also kept a U.S. Army issued overcoat. To my knowledge, Dad never wore the overcoat after his discharge from the army, but he also never opted to part with it.
At my insistence, Larry took the overcoat after Dad was no longer here. I charged him with the responsibility to keep it for the remainder of his days since Dad found it worthy of keeping. It was a selfish thing on my part for me to do. We didn’t have the extra closet space to integrate it into our stuff. I stay in trouble with the General as it is because I’m reluctant to part with things that are too good to throw away, but not good enough to keep. I feared Dad’s overcoat would fall into that category.
Larry, reluctantly, but amicably agreed to take the coat. I didn’t want the responsibility of keeping the coat for the rest of my days, but at the same time, I thought we honored Dad by keeping it. Karoni, Dad’s oldest granddaughter, has the German helmet and Craig, his oldest grandson, has the German dagger. Craig is the reason I know the year and description of the dagger. He took it to an expert to learn about it and have it refurbished. It is a keepsake of Dad’s that he’ll cherish for the remainder of his days.
I think of Dad often. It is hard to believe the 10th anniversary of his home going was last week. He died on June 10, 2007. During my growing up years, Dad provided for our family, but he wanted more for me and my brothers than he had experienced for himself. He saw education as the key to a better future. I don’t know how he did it, but at one time there were three of us in college at the same time. It made Dad feel good to provide for us the college degree he never had for himself.
From a vocational perspective, I never wanted to be just like dad, but that may have been through his urging. Like I said, he sacrificed to ensure our opportunities would be beyond his own.
It is interesting now that I’m in the closing chapters of life (however long or short that may be), I’m discovering that what I want most for the rest of my days is to be just like Dad. My dad represented a level of strength and sacrificial commitment that I’ve never known. The last fourteen months of his life were filled with one physical difficulty after another, but the overriding passion of his life had little relationship to himself. His primary goal was to take care of Mother. He simply lived with a reliance on God that somehow the need would be met. He refused to give up, retreat to bitterness or fall prey to depression. He had the sense that God was with him every step of the way during the last chapter of his life and he was a testimony of how faith can make a difference.
If I could attain the stamina and perseverance I saw in my Dad, I’d think of myself as finishing the course in the best possible way. It was a faith walk for Dad and he never wavered. I can think of no more victorious way to cross the finish line to an eternal new beginning. I want to be just like Dad.
I even like the way Phillips Craig and Dean express it in their song entitled “I Want To Be Like You”. The lyrics include:
He climbs in my lap for a goodnight hug
He calls me Dad and I call him Bub
With his faded old pillow and a bear named Pooh
He snuggles up close and says “I want to be like you”
I tuck him in bed and I kiss him goodnight
Trippin’ over the toys as I turn out the light
And I whisper a prayer that someday he’ll see
He’s got a father in God ’cause he’s seen Jesus in me
Lord, I want to be just like You
‘Cause he wants to be just like me
I want to be a holy example
For his innocent eyes to see
Help me be a living Bible, Lord
That my little boy can read
I want to be just like You
‘Cause he wants to be like me
Got to admit I’ve got so far to go
Make so many mistakes and I’m sure that You know
Sometimes it seems no matter how hard I try
With all the pressures in life I just can’t get it all right
But I’m trying so hard to learn from the best
Being patient and kind, filled with Your tenderness
‘Cause I know that he’ll learn from the things that he sees
And the Jesus he finds will be the Jesus in me
Right now from where he stands I may seem mighty tall
But it’s only ’cause I’m learning from the best Father of them all
All My Best!