I recently read the fantastic book, The Things They Carried'>The Things They Carried'>The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien about Vietnam. It actually was about a lot more than Vietnam and I highly recommend it. It tells a great story and it explores a ton of human emotions in a different way than I am used to.
But it got me to thinking about my Dad. He was a Vietnam veteran in the Navy. I’ve always known that. I bought him a veteran’s hat for his birthday one year. That’s him in the photo above in the late 60s but I’m not sure the year.
But I never asked him about it. And for that matter, I never asked my mom about being the wife of a Vietnam veteran either.
My dad was in the Navy so he didn’t see hand-to-hand combat and he didn’t trudge (or “hump” as O’Brien calls it in the book) through the jungles of Vietnam. So he never struck me as psychologically wounded from his experience.
But, he was a participant in this big thing called The Vietnam War, that was so emotive and divisive and controversial in the 60s and 70s. He must have been on the receiving end of a lot of that flak the veterans received. Surely he had an opinion on it.
And my mom. Her husband was in the military during Vietnam. His ship fired on the country. Surely she was hearing all the disparaging talk about the military in that time period. Surely she knew Jane Fonda went to Vietnam and posed with anti-aircraft weapons.
How did she feel about hearing her husband talked about so poorly? Did she ever have any face-to-face confrontations with protestors? Did my dad?
I’m feeling so sad I’ll never know these things now, and so many others. So many things you just talk with your parents about without even realizing it. I feel so sad I’ll never be able to pick up the phone and ask either of them simple (or complicated) questions again.
This post isn’t meant to be a pity-party, I’m just processing.
And maybe preaching just a little – if you’ve got questions for your parents, ask them. And if you’ve got things you need to say, tell them.