It’s Been Fifty Years since You Died

I named a son after you, &
Though you died  in Kansas during cruel April
& I was in Oregon, but I was there with you a
Long time..I have no idea what kind
Of funeral you had—or even if you had one
The brother of my mother, your wife
My Uncle, told me that spring, during a
Drive in the station wagon where he could
Deliver bad news without looking at me,
I’d had these trips before, had some after, but I was
In my 20s when I figured out they’d
Kidnapped me from you—it may be that he hated you, however
His Father my Grandfather always had something good to
Say about you & you know he visited you when he went back
To Kansas, my Uncle with pride and perhaps a little senility showed me
A letter in 1974, but written in 1963,
Threatening a law suit if you came out to get me, the Uncle thought
that would demonstrate how much they loved me—but it was always
I waited for you to drive up in that ’56 Buick & thought of how I would pile in
& we would drive all the way back to the flat land with all the windows down!
The uncle told me many times when wanting to correct my behavior
That he’d send me, ‘back to your father,’ oh please know I always wanted to go!
That day in the ’53 Ford Station wagon, about a quarter mile from
Where the dirt road to our farm met the pavement & then south on
Highway 62 toward Eagle Point, he began to tell me that you had died,
The story had been that you were coming to get me
In about six months—& that had been six years, & you called twice,
Wrote three times, sent me a pocket knife & a rattle snake rattle,
From a snake you’d killed in Nebraska, who knows what happened to the snake rattle,
I lost the knife in basic training in Fort Ord, California in 1967 when drill instructors
Yelling that any of us with knives would be court marshaled and sent to Ft. Leavenworth
You had told me at about 8 years old not to go in the Army
&  to never work in the oil fields,
I took your advice about the Oil Fields, the Army had me
Four years I didn’t have to win any of the Medals you did
I did get a Good Conduct Medal and an honorable discharge
They did not send me to Vietnam while it raged and others went,
I often thought, that was a direct result of what you had to go through
& with noted exceptions, I’ve led a somewhat honorable life, when we got back from
The station wagon ride my grandfather told me that Winfield was
A little Kansas town where people could get away with murder,
& he did not believe the newspaper clipping my Uncle had shown me in 1964,
That having found your body in the river with a railroad iron tied on
The back of your belt—what an awkward thing to do! He, your father-in-law
Did not believe you committed suicide as the police said, in 1970 when I was back there
For the funeral of your other son Dennis my brother, & Lyle your good friend told me the same thing
& that none of your friends thought you’d gone by your own hand, largely because
You’d have shot yourself —they reasoned, “being and outdoor man—& seen the worst of WWII.”
Still you’d been down, my Grandfather
Commented on that the last time he saw you—you’d not been able to work in a while
Because of your back, you must know I had the same problem 3 back surgeries on the job
Lifting injuries & one bad car wreck, I made it through 25 years of pain & six years of
Addicting prescription drugs, that when I tried to cold turkey out of it made me
Humble and knowing I’d not have any thing over a common junkie, a year after
The last operation they stair stepped me off & that was 12 years ago, still I thought of you
& made it through, I’ve visited your grave twice, once when Dennis died &
Again when I had to deliver a 1963 Impala convertible to Wichita in 1983
I met your friend Bill Husky on an out of the blue phone call he made to me in 1996, &
A year later I went to meet him in Florida; he told me WWII & I’d always wondered
What you had done, then I knew there was some kind of miracle going on that
You made it back to make me, after D-Day plus 13 to Cologne, Husky& his other buddy that
Knew you said I looked like you, I had little Joe with me & they were happy to see
Me and said, unabashedly you were a hero, & they were damn lucky to serve with you,
& told some stories how there were 300 landing on that Norman beach & only 50 left at Cologne
So now I have to tell you the part about how it was, that I realized about that time
What was going on in my own life, as it relates to you death—I blamed myself for your death
I somehow thought from the time I was 13, that if I’d been there
I could have stopped it—or it would not have happened, I took that
Into my soul & packed it around with me like a ruck sack filled with cast iron skillets— for 32 years,
Took this darkness to the Army & to college & through two marriages & a bunch of what we now
Call relationships—all the time trying to drink like you, & smoke like you, hunt & fish like you,
with every awful injustice I knew of, I wanted to kill Nazi’s like you,
& then, I took it to God & He showed me it was not my fault
But instead— a lie whispered to me all those years ago, & the next day
Husky called telling me about you, & I knew this connected & was true &
Since then, most all of the drinking stopped
& well I’ve had my life back & good humored it is, I laugh a lot
Pretty sure I’ve raised two pretty good boys into men
& now have a wife that does all the ideal Betty Crocker things that somehow
Escaped us back in the 50s, except for my grandmother, who cooked
Cottontail rabbits you killed & made me bacon sandwiches & chocolate cake with white frosting,
You drank Jim Beam with  Coca Cola chaser, & always brought a Coke for me
&  me even tagging along
To your beer joints & the dusty Kansas humidity that I did not know was oppressive
& it all left me an orphan & now knowing how dysfunction
& PTSD are oppressive, but I have to tell
You that I, like Husky and his friend, never thought ever of you as anything but a hero,
I retired in Alaska then went south for the mild winters in California,
& six months before I left, you came to me in a dream
With your Humphrey Bogart fedora hat & leather jacket
& picked me up in amongst a pile of old boats & we both went on a journey
south without the Buick, across the sound, & a road,  & the sunset
& I walked just a little behind you.

2 thoughts on “It’s Been Fifty Years since You Died

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s