He was not sentimental or affectionate. He certainly wasn't lavish with his emotions or thoughts.
He was very straightforward, honest, fair, and kind.
He was my hero.
Is my hero.
Dad was widowed in 1963, leaving him stuck with two young boys. In those days, kids were handed off to relatives after the death of their mother. That was the plan in the autumn of 1963. My brother was supposed to live with one aunt in up-state New York and I was supposed to be shipped off to Western Kentucky to live with another aunt. We had to leave Arlington, Virginia.
Three weeks after my mother passed away, President Kennedy was assassinated. They're both buried at Arlington National Cemetery. You can see his grave from her grave. Their graves. The death of the president deeply affected my father. He was military. Career Army. Hard core. World War 2. Korean War. Vietnam War. Veteran.
He was shipped and stationed all over the world. Kids would have gotten in the way for a single military father.
He kept us.
Fearless and brave, he dragged our little family across the world. It couldn't have been easy. At all. I didn't even realize that we were different. We were just us.
He was older than most fathers. Sometimes, embarrassingly so.
We moved back to the States in 1968. Arlington, VA was where everything began and ended. The fifth grade at Zachary Taylor Elementary School was excruciating. I was an outsider, mired for months in the dreary brown section of my SRA Reading Lab folder. It seemed pointless to prolong the agony, so I stopped going to school. I'd get dressed, throw my house key around my neck, and bounce off to school. He thought I was going to school. Hardly. I spent my school hours playing inside the dark sewers of Arlington. The dimly lit concrete cylinders were my underground passageways to adventure. I was truant from school for weeks before anyone noticed. Although disappointed, he fixed my mess. Summer school.
On the last day of summer school, he arrived wearing his full Dress Blues. I could hear his draped medals jingle as he walked through the hallways. His starched blue pant legs scraped against each other like course sandpaper as he entered my classroom. He looked like a knight, smiling in smart blue. Taller than I had remembered in the morning before school, he was there to pick me up. Me. He held out his gigantic hand in front of everyone, grasped my little fingers, and took me home. It was one of the proudest moments in my life.
He lived the rest of his life just like that day. Tall. Proud. Handsome. Awesome.