I remember sitting on my grandfathers porch listening to his endless stories of the war. He would give me a hammer and tell me to nail down all the pop ups on the wrap around front porch he built before I was born. Pops always had his specific spots. When you went up to the house from the road, you could see him sitting on the far right corner in a wooden rocking chair. If grandma was in a good mood and they didn’t fight like cats and dogs, she would be right beside him. You would usually see me sitting on the steps or playing in the wood pile with hammer and nails, rolling up and down the cement basement steps, or frolicking in my make shift pool which happened to be a broken jacuzzi. It worked just fine and made me happy at the time.
Usually he was quiet when no one was there. He just stared and rocked with the wind. He always had his attention to the end of the road. I assume he liked watching the cars go by. He would always tell me my dad was home, and I would say, “Ok” and keep going. I was never interested in going home early, because I was already at home. See, I spent my summers there. I would cry the last day of school and be super happy the next.
Mom would drop me off at grandmas before she went to work. I would come into the house, still in pajamas, and go watch the morning news with pops. Good Ole Wral, with Greg Fishel. After the news, I watched Bob Ross paint his masterpieces and then Bill Cosby with his Mortimer pen. Sometimes I would sneak upstairs and watch The Monkeys on the old black and white TV. I secretly had a crush on one of them.
Later on that day, I would always follow him somewhere. He would teach me how to make wreaths from old grape vine leaves in the fall. He would teach me what snakes would bite me and what ones to not kill.
I followed him around a lot.. I always looked at his eyes . I respected that man almost more than my father. He taught me things my father should have taught me. My dad did work a lot and was tired all the time, and pissy for the most part.
The times I loved the most was him in the rocking chair and him telling me war stories. He always talked about Manila. They would send children out with bombs in their hands towards the American soldiers. He loathed the boat ride he was taking to Japan, and thankfully the war got called off and he sailed back to us unarmed.
I always say the pain in his eyes as he stared off into the woods. I often wondered what he was searching for.. salvation? answers? or clues to make that whole experience go away. I know the war affected him. It affects everyone. He never talked about bad dreams or told anyone he had any. He was a tall 6 foot 5 built stocky fella with overhauls wearing the same straw hat with the green plastic visor on it. He always kept his pocket watch in his bibs, and I always looked at it too.
Thanks Pop for your generation of fighters in WW2. My children are safe and sound being protected by the next generation of heroes.
War is something , not many can push out the back of their minds. The eyes always tell the secrets whether the person wants to or not.