Today, my father turns 67, near as I can figure. Happy birthday, Dad, and thanks.
My father and I are about as different as two people can be. I'm not really sure we're from the same gene pool, and I think the milkman used to leave extra butter, but that's beside the point. He thinks Rush Limbaugh is a flaming liberal, and if I were any more left-wing, I'd be gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Dad pulled himself up from a childhood of poverty and became a financially successful man. I came from a world of relative privledge and now stuggle to make ends meet sometimes.
But I respect no man, like I do my dad. Especially now that I'm a father myself. The "this is how it is, and I know you don't believe me, but I went through the same stuff, too" speeches were true.
Dad left a leg in Vietnam, but never once complained about it. In fact, he called it the best thing that ever happened to him, because it forced the government to pay for his education - vocational school. He bowled, played volleyball and occasionally would play one-on-one with me in the driveway. The one-on-one ended when his prosthesis slipped off and he hit his chin on the wooden leg that remained standing, knocking him out. I so still took it to the hole. I learned that from him, too.
When I was three, I'd steal his leg and make him hop after me. I'd run outside with it, and I believe that's when I became known to the neighborhood as Goddamn Sam.
He used to be a Marine. He became a Marine because when it was time for him to get drafted, the Army, Navy and Air Force sent him recruitment materials. Since the Marines didn't, he joined them.
Stupid jokes are his thing. Puns mostly...elaborate puns. Like half hour stories that end with the punch line of "Pardon me Roy, is that the cat that chewed your new shoes." He apparently has a lot of free time to put these together.
He spent something like eighteen hours in a rice patty, his entire unit dead except for one other survivor. The Viet Cong sat in the jungle, arms aimed the rice patty, but unwilling to move in because of a tank that was behind his vehicle. The tank was disabled, but Dad thinks the enemy didn't know that. He'd been shot in his left arm so it was useless. In his right hand, he spent hours removing the pin from his grenade, determined to take as many out as he could if they came to finish him off. Once he'd removed the pin, he kept his hand on the safety, waiting for hours. If he'd have dozed off, I most likely wouldn't be here.
Enduring all this, he never displayed any signs of PTSD, not that I'd ever seen. He thinks psychology is for pussies. I need therapy if there's pulp in my orange juice.
He's a math genius. He can give square roots off the top of his head. Until I got to college, I thought I'd never be as smart as my dad. I'm not smart like my dad, but I'm as smart as him. And he deserves a lot of credit for that.
I disagree with a lot of things my father did in his life. I think he would, too. But then again, I ain't too happy with a bunch of shit I've pulled. Even with that, he's the finest human being I've ever known. For a Marine to endure the sensitive pansy I could be, and to do with understanding and guidance, it speaks of a far deeper person than one sees on the surface.
I've seen him cry twice: At my brother's funeral, and once after a temper tantrum when I told him I hated him. Sure I was a stupid kid, but to this day, I feel terrible for that.
Happy birthday, Dad. Thanks.
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