My father, now in his eighties, is suffering from the pains brought on from barbaric, strategically directed radiation treatments needed due to a cancer in the soft pallette of his throat. His courage and strength humble me. But it won’t be the first time he was faced with excruciating pain, discomfort, loss and a real test of fortitude.
At only 20 years young, he became a prisoner of war in Germany in World War II after being shot down from his Flying Fortress (B-17), dragged through the streets by the local townspeople, and almost hanged. But some soldiers stepped in and decided, since he was an officer, he would be put to better use by being interrogated. Lady luck had stepped in. But he remained in a prison camp for a year after being shuffled through miles of wintery confinement in a cattle car – standing room only – for days, and was simply reported missing in action to his mother and sweetheart (my mother). Although finally rescued, his suffering would resurface in years to follow and his fortitude tested time and time again.
My father logged most of his prison days in a journal. His “blog” was scratched down on paper provided by the Red Cross with nubby pencils, broken pieces of charcoal and homemade ink. It is probably the last of many diaries that we will be able to touch and feel and smell.
It makes me sad to think that our blogs and text messages will go into a big black abyss, never to be recorded or saved. Yellowed, faded pages with leafs used as bookmarks will never be touched and felt by younger generations; stories of heroism will become obsolete; and our fathers’ bloodstains will be washed away without empathy or recollection.
He is now mostly deaf from the din produced from constant flying. He is wracked with macular degeneration of his eyes. He watched my mother succumb to cancer, and had to have mail read to him telling him he will no longer be allowed to fly his beloved airplane which he has had since I was a young child. These are just some of the setbacks besetting this man of incredible dignity. Yet his spirit soars, he is relentless about living and is glad every time his feet hit the floor every morning.
These heroes won’t be around for much longer. Their stories of sacrifice, tales of friendships made, persistence through the worst environmental conditions a human could endure, will never be fully appreciated by most of us.
The lines at the voting centers in a few days will be long. People will complain. Babies will cry. Eyes will roll. Tempers will flair. And people will forget. They will forget what strides were made – and what liberties were taken away – by a few, in order to provide them all the luxury of choice.
– Artwork and poetry by Alexander King