My father died 50 years ago today.
The thought of this blows my mind.
Can he possibly have been gone half a century?
Do I actually have 50-year-old memories swirling in my brain?
I still remember being the four-year-old boy whose father went away forever.
It seems like yesterday. It seems like another life. Like another universe.
His passing was my first introduction to death.
More would follow. Too many and too soon.
I wish I knew my father.
I wish he knew the adult me.
I often wonder if he would even like me.
He was a war hero.
A B-17 pilot in World War II.
A devoted husband and father.
My older brother followed in his footsteps and became an Air Force pilot.
For years my brother would visit our father’s gravesite at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.
Now they are buried 50 yards apart. Heroic men sharing hallowed soil.
And I, the least heroic of our family, live to visit their graves, as I will today.
I am the youngest of my family and the last surviving son.
Today when I visit their gravesites, 50 years after my father’s flight to the next world, I undoubtedly will look to the sky.
I will gaze to the clouds where they both flew.
Searching for any sign of them, as I have for most of my life.
I never see them in the sky.
But sometimes I feel them nearby.
Especially at the cemetery, where the silence of a sea of souls beckons my attention.
And I am taken back, to when my father served in Vietnam. And he carried photos of all his children in his wallet.
He left us these photos just before he died.
Inscribed on the back of my photo…
“Kip (that’s what he called me), You & your sisters and your brother have been on the other side of the world – I love you son, Dad”
I love you too, Dad.
Wherever on the other side of the world you might be.
I miss you.
For 50 years now.