My father died in February of 1965. He was 42 years old and I was four. I was his youngest of five children.
I never knew him when I was an adult and I barely knew him past the age of three, as he served in Vietnam during the last year of his life.
Vietnam was my father’s second war, having flown B-17 bombers over Europe in World War II. He would later tell my mother and older siblings how the war haunted him and how he grieved for the prodigious loss of life that he witnessed and participated in.
Because I was so young when he died, I only have a handful of actual memories of my father.
I have the one item he wrote directly to me. It is 22 words inscribed in pencil on the back of a photograph he had kept in his wallet. It is one of five photos of his children that my father carried with him on his journey to and through Vietnam.
The photo is of his youngest son as he knew me in the last year of his life.
On the back he wrote,
“Kip,” You and your sisters and brother have been on the other side of the world – I love you son. Dad.”
More than 50 years later, I am touched that our father would carry photos of his children with him in a far away war.
How could he have known his son would treasure the message half a century later?
His words, “on the other side of the world,” have both the literal meaning he intended and a cosmic meaning now that he is indeed somewhere on the other side of this existence.
My brother and a sister have since joined him there.
As will I one day.
Until then, I carry the photo and those words with me, as he once did.