I wish I’d thought when I was younger to ask you about the war.
You’d tell me stories from time to time. The same stories again and again, until I stopped listening. There was something about Guam, Iwo Jima, about the time you took shrapnel to the head and your buddy right next to you was killed.
Knowing now what I didn’t know then, I can only guess at what you might have heard and seen and lived. The constant pounding of machine guns and bombs. Sand, seawater, palm trees exploding all around you. The ever-present smell of blood sticking in the humid air. Young men flung in pieces across the islands. Their final cries, quickly silenced.
I think about the you I knew . . . the man with bushy white eyebrows who laughed little but smiled often. Who prayed with his wife every day. Who joked around with his grandkids and bought them lunch once a week. Who worked hard and loved his family and never lost his faith.
How did you survive the war? How did you survive coming home? Was your life really as normal as it seemed?
Did you secretly dread Fourth of July celebrations? Did you ever cringe inside as your family oohed and ahhed over each exploding firework?
Did the festivities of this season take you back to a place you longed to forget? Or did they serve in memorial to people and events you longed to remember?
I wish I had thought to ask you.