Monday, November 14, 2016

The Story Of Two Men Or Why I Don't Hate

Note: I would just like to let anyone who happens on this post to know that it is very painful for me to write about this. It's painful in bad ways and in good ways.

When I was a very small child, I believe it was when I was about five or six years old, we lived in a small house in town. My father was still living with my family and would be around for about three more years. The day of this first event was an unusual day in that my mom was away and my father had remained home with me. This was something that I don't remember having ever occurred before or ever occurring again after that day. At any rate, we were home and my father was in the house while I was outside playing. At the time we had a big collie named Rex and like most collies, Rex was very protective of our home and in particularly we children. It was early morning and I heard the garbage truck approaching and, like most children would, I went to the side of the house where the truck stopped to pick up our trash. In those days the men working on the trucks had to dismount and pick up and carry the cans to the back of the truck to empty them. As the worker approached the yard, as usual Rex ran to the edge of the property and began barking. I ran and grabbed Rex by his collar and told the man, "It's okay mister you can come in, he won't bite".

After the garbage truck drove away my father called me to the back porch. When I came up to him, without a word, he grabbed me by the arm and whipped me. As my father whipped me he said, "Don't you ever call a ni**er, mister again"! (Please excuse my use of that very painful and insulting word, but I feel it is needed here to emphasize exactly what happened to me that day.)

Fast forward fifteen years. After my parents were separated, my mother, my sisters, and I moved next door to my grandparent's which is where this next scene occurs.  I am in the Army and I have just returned from my first tour in Vietnam and after a month of leave, I will be heading back for my second tour.

I had been home just a few days and had met someone whom I, of course, had asked out. Since I didn't have a car and my mother's car was in use I had to borrow my grandfather's car. Long story short we got a little carried away and I didn't arrive back home until around 5:00 am. As I arrived I had planned to quietly roll into the driveway, park the car, sneak the keys back in the house and go to bed pretending nothing had happened. As they say, "plans of mice and men". As I exited the car my grandfather was standing by the front door. I can, with all honesty, say I had never seen, nor ever saw again, my grandfather so angry. I cannot express that strongly enough. I don't remember much of that conversation which I'm sure included a lot of, don't you know how to be responsible etc but there are some words and an expression I will never, ever forget. My grandfather, who wasn't prone to profanity, said, "son, I don't give a tinker's damn about that car, I was worried sick that something had happened to you". His expression was like a blow to my gut. I felt, so very ashamed and irresponsible at that moment and every time I have thought of that moment since. As ridiculous as it seemed to me in that moment I could not believe how much my grandfather loved me and he worried about me all the time. Here I was between two combat tours as an infantryman and a crew chief/gunner in Vietnam and my grandfather worried that I would have an accident and be hurt.

I tell these two stories together because they taught me two very important lessons. My first lesson was from my father, and that lesson was that fathers don't always love their sons and don't always teach them about love and respect. The second lesson was from my grandfather and that was that men do love and do know how to teach other men about love and respect.

Of course, it was not that one incident with my father or my grandfather that made me who I am today. My grandfather and my grandmother and my mother, and even my father in his backward way taught me about what was right and wrong and how to respect everyone regardless of their skin color, gender, sexual orientation or any other differences. They taught me how to be a decent human being with their day to day actions and language and simply by the way they lived their lives.

And of course, just like most of my posts, this has a political point. My grandfather, grandmother, and mother worked very hard at teaching me and my sisters how to be a decent, respectful, honorable human being and citizen. My family is made up of immigrant men and women trying to make a good life for themselves. Some came to this country earlier and some later, my wife being the latest to arrive.  Members of my family, both men, and women, including my grandmother (in WWII) and my daughter (in the war on terror), has fought in every war this country has fought. They shed their blood for both the North and the South but they always shed their blood and sweat for America and Americans. So please, Mr. President-Elect, don't tell me to turn my back on my fellow Americans. Don't tell me to turn my back on immigrants. Don't tell me to turn my back on anyone because of where they come from or the color of their skin or their gender, or sexual orientation. In other words, don't tell me to turn my back on any human being. That is not who we Americans are.

Those Are The Sergeant Majors Thoughts On That.

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