Father’s Day, 2010

I’m officially home
Still in uniform, still in boots
Still feel the weight of a weapon
I no longer have to carry
Sitting on the porch with my Dad
Drinking a beer
It’s late
I listen to the breeze through the trees
Feel it’s coolness on my cheeks
Close my eyes
I haven’t done this in over a year
A year
We don’t talk much, just sip our beers
Rolling Rock
I don’t have the heart to tell him I boycotted Rolling Rock
When Anheuser Busch bought out the label
and closed the Latrobe Brewery
Latrobe, where we both were born
So I drink it
And so does he

“Did you always lead by example?”
“I tried Dad, I really did.”
“Did you always put your soldiers before yourself?”
“I tried Dad, I really did. I think I failed. On both accounts.”
“I doubt it.”
He tells me I’m his hero

I nod
I sigh deeply
I remember when I was in high school and he took me out back
Showed me how to replace brakes on our old Chevy
My parents were fighting then, though us kids didn’t really know
They kept that sort of thing private, even in a house of eight
But there was a heaviness in the air
Something big
Something not good
But whatever it was, they worked through it
And I learned how to replace brakes on our old Chevy
Because my Dad took the time amidst everything to teach me
In case, just in case
Fast forward to my first day of college
He dropped me off, looked me in the eye and said,
“You know the guys are only looking for one thing here?”
“Yeah, Dad, I know.”
That was our first and only “sex talk”
He was there too, in uniform
When I swore again to serve,
Eight more years
We recited the NCO Creed together
When he got his twenty year letter
I took him out to dinner

He taught me many other things too
How to love and sacrifice for
How it’s not enough to love someone
You need to respect too
Because it doesn’t really matter how much you love a man
If you can’t show respect
For what he stands for

He taught me the value of hard work
And honesty
And to lead by example
And to put your soldiers before yourself
And everything I am
Is tied directly to him
Both my parents
Who know better than most what sacrifice is
They sent three kids, multiple times to war
To war,
Their daughters
The youngest just hit boots on ground in Afghanistan
I probably passed her plane somewhere over Germany
On my way back from Iraq

And suddenly it’s all too much, it’s just too much
I put my head in my lap
I can’t help it, I cry
I don’t want to, I don’t want to freak him out
But I can’t help it, I can’t help it, I’m shaking
To fucking hold myself together
He puts his hand on my shoulder
My whole body shaking beneath his warmth

And we sit like that for awhile
A daughter crying beside her father
A Staff Sergeant falling apart
Beside a Sergeant First Class
Somehow I manage to stop, and now I’m embarrassed
I look at him sidelong
And there is nothing but gentle love shining in his eyes
He understands
Because he’s not just my father
He’s my battle buddy
He smiles, offers me his arm
“I don’t have a handkerchief.”
I laugh, wipe my nose on his sleeve
A year
“Was it that good or that bad?” he asks



5 thoughts on “Father’s Day, 2010

  1. I remember being in Afghanistan and just crying after reading this- it had that much of an effect on me. Things haven’t changed since then.

  2. Hey kiddo, you’ve got a grand heart, through, and through, a thinkers mind, with a writers hand, all inked with the right kind of love for each moment met, company parted, company found…. I hope your sister got back okay. Have a top week, Meggie.

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