Dad and his MGD.
This week in Omaha has been close to an out-of-body experience. Is this really happening?
I’m afraid it is. The old boy deserves one more tip of the hat because in his readiness, he has prepared the rest of us.
To the degree he can tolerate the discussion – sandwiched around plenty of nap breaks – my dad and I have talked candidly and at length about family, his life-shaping WW II experience as a 20-year-old bombardier, my mother’s health predicament, and, of course, the conclusion to his own health situation. We have mapped out the fine points to his service, he’s chosen pallbearers and opined on key points for his obituary. He gave a gentle nod to a tasteful display of his war photo and a few medals, some of which were discovered buried in a drawer in my mother’s bureau – as we moved her this week to a memory unit.
All of this is the stuff of letters. Reid, bless his heart, is particularly taken aback by the goings on. He is near-insistent that what I have gleaned become at some point an official part of the Bradley lore. I aim to do just that. Much of the precious information will be transferred via letters for some time to come.
I know of no better way to give the kids an honest representation of their grandfather’s life and times. Some of it is already known to me; yet a new trove of family history – some of it somewhat troubling – has bubbled to the surface. We had some dear, dear relatives travel great distances to pay their respects and much of the bedside talk turned on still more family points worth saving – and sharing. Really, we do it now or it is lost. It won’t be lost if I have anything to say about it.
I wrote to my father early this morning, the result of which was mailed to him today at his new address. My hope is he reads it to mom when he visits her in the memory-assistance wing.
June 11, 2010
Mom and dad: Of all the ways anyone can spend all their weeks, this week was the way I would spend it. This was everything I’d hope the time with you would be. Short of a different outcome, I would not have changed a thing.
It seems to me the one thing that is coming out of all of this is that we are remaining a family to the very end. Reid pointed out to me that lots of families have fractious relationships that, for one reason or another, are beyond repair and that we at least have the good sense to tell each other we love each other – and we can actually mean it.
Unbeknownst to either of you, I snuck in a few camera phone shots of you two lovebirds smooching and sent them ASAP to all the grandkids. So in an instant they had the latest and greatest images from L________.
Dad, I told Ellen and Reid and Joe of your attitude (and I’ll do the same when I talk to Andy), and it really struck home with those three. They all love both of you dearly. You probably are not aware of this, but as they’ve gotten older, they seem to hold you in that much more esteem. Ellen said that her generation would wear their pain on the sleeve much more than you let on. We were trying to figure out why that was, and the only thing we could attribute it to was you guys simply came from a tough generation that saw a Depression and a Great War. The rest of us are way too soft. If only we could exhibit the strength both of you are showing right now.
Dad, you have been the best of dads. Without exaggeration, if your other son and I could be half the man, and father, you turned out to be, well, it would be a pinnacle. That hill is a little steep for us to climb so we’ll each have to get by on a small percentage of the lessons you pass on to us. It bothers me that only now do I think of all those times I didn’t pay attention to what you did and how you did it and why you did it. The same goes for your other son. Why the hell didn’t we have the brains to realize what was there before us in front of our eyes?
But that’s what made this week so great. We simply had the chance to talk and be. Your stories about the Bradleys and the Andersens and the Allingtons and the Ramseys and the Yanceys are what none of us knew. (Honestly, Reid hung on every word when I relayed what was archived in pages of notes. He’s becoming something of a family history buff.)
What goes on from here is anyone’s guess. We’ll leave it in the trusting hands of a higher power. That is pretty comforting to know. We’ve had our share of good times for a long time now, but what went on this week surpasses what has gone on before. It may sound a little odd at this juncture, but in some ways this week was the best of times. Like you said, what else are we going to do about it? You both have paved a road that my brother and I will be only too glad to follow, even if we can’t fill your footprints, if you know what I mean.