Monday, April 25, 2011
My dad is 84 years old. He grew up in a small northern Iowa town called Algona. He speaks fondly of his time growing up there. They had a hard life, his dad died when he was still a teen, and he had three brothers and a sister. Dad was the youngest. As hard as life was for them when his dad passed away, you would never know it talking to my dad. Dad has a way of looking at the world, he doesn't really complain. He finds a way to remember the good stuff.
A few years ago when I was at work, we had a guy come in and throw a royal two year old tantrum because for whatever reason, we hadn't been able to fill his prescription for prilosec. He started threatening our pharmacist, and yelling that he'd been shot in the foot in Vietnam and that he deserved better and so on and so on. All I could think of the whole time was my dad. My dad had his leg ripped off of his body, as a Sea Bee in World War II. He almost died that day, and he had never in his life acted the way that man did.
Dad joined the Navy before finishing high school toward the tail end of WWII. He was sent to the Philippines and helped build air strips. One day he was working on a scaffolding when a pilot turned his plane the wrong direction. The propellor of the plane hit Dad. His right leg was ripped from his body, he had other severe injuries as well. His doctors were amazed that he was alive when he arrived at the hospital. They had to give him tremendous amounts of blood. He had several surgeries and a long long road to recovery. He spent a long time in a body cast. He was in a hospital where he shared a room with rows and rows of other sailors and soldiers who were also amputees. He made it through all of it. When he talks about it, he never complains. He never talks of the pain and agony he must have experienced. He never longs for a life that he may have been cheated out of. He is very matter of fact about it. It was something that happened, that's all. He even jokes of how when he and his buddies would get leave for a night out of the hospital they would pull pranks on people using his wooden leg. Walking along and letting his leg "fall off" in front of unsuspecting passers by. When he talks of his days in the hospital it is always of things that were funny or amusing. The Navy nurse that wouldn't take crap from anyone. The hospital officer's wife who gave him and some buddies a great night out on the town, things like that.
My dad is a good, decent man. He worked hard all of his life. He never expected people to feel sorry for him, mostly because I don't think he ever felt sorry for himself. He has been a kind, gentle, generous father to me and my sister and brother. If he has a way to make sure we get what we need, we get what we need. He never spoiled us, but we never went without. He put up with a lot from my mother, but was loyal and loving to her to the very end. He looked after his brother when he could no longer take care of himself. There are few true heroes in this world, but my dad is one of them. He will never be famous for his acts of heroism. He will never be rich because of them. But he is very loved and adored for each and every little thing he has done.
My dad has taught me that being a good decent person is reward in itself. That, maybe life gives you hard knocks, but not giving into them is a victory. That little victories are the important ones. The little things need to be celebrated because the big things don't come around that often. Sometimes little victories add up to a big victory so you need to keep pushing forward. I'm sure that he learned all of this while he was recovering. He was told at one point he was lucky to be alive, and I think he took it to heart. Each incredible milestone he made in his recovery led to a new challenge for him to conquer, and conquer he did.
My dad had a small life. A life he enjoyed. To him, paying the bills each month was a small victory, not a burden. We never had much money, but I never remember him getting mad at bill paying time. Putting food on the table, a small victory. Each of these small victories led to children and grandchildren that love him and are very proud of him, a big victory. He has never been cruel, he has never been dishonest, he has never hurt another person. He has lived that way his whole life and will always live that way. He is my inspiration to be a good person. He makes me proud. I hope I make him proud. He is my hero. He IS the good stuff!
My dad's small life is a HUGE victory.