My Father’s Bible

Japan 1956 Japan 1956

I opened my father’s Bible. It was difficult at so many levels but I’ve neglected it for two decades, since he faded away from this world.

With his seven siblings gone as well, this is the remaining item where I can find hint, a clue, some trail to his thoughts, his motivations, hopefully none of his ghosts.

Like his father, he lost his mind to dementia. It all slipped away. Too fast. Too young. He lost it as I sat helplessly by him in the “homes”. Everything faded. He left nothing, not a trace, even though he blazed a trail half way around the world and back in the most historic of American times.

Well, he left a cardboard box with a pair of boots, a cardigan, couple bolo ties, some eye glasses, a transistor radio and silly piggybanks like this plastic Dachshund on my desk. The dog’s tongue lays out for a coin. If the tail is stroked, the tongue rolls the coin into the Dachshund. He loved chotsky piggybanks. A simple man.

He loved sucking on mints while listening to that Philco radio sitting by his side on a desk. This Philco kept him company. The piggybank made him laugh. The mints kept his mouth moving. A simple man, who had seen horrors of two wars.

There were “sup hose” or whatever mother called those socks he wore after his varicose veins were removed from damaged ankles. Varicose veins ran in his mother’s family. Dementia was the gift from his father’s side.

Me? I have no link. I’m from some other family, who had no food to feed another mouth in the Germany my father conquered.

I’m the one my father chose though to give his name. The one his mother asked, “How can you give a stranger our name?” I’m the round peg that doesn’t fit this square link, yet I will try piecing the crumbs of his trail together to fashion some idea of mine; to answer those nagging questions. Why am I uncomfortable with this life; my life without links. I should be happy not stuck in a Fassbinder movie.

Everyone that I ever met, they seem to have links. Void of any, I am the one to ingratiate myself upon others for any relevance or reward; that is, until I made my own family.

I will continue to piece together my existence, inspiration, pathos through his unwitting, immeasurable love.

I would like to preserve what is left of this life to perhaps help the others – the adopted sons and daughters who have grappled with their existences; the how and why; that is, to convey that so, so much is beyond our control and assure them what is in our control; what, we can embrace, own, overcome, find comfort and in the end a peace.

Mind you, my father was not a religious man.

Perhaps, as they say, he found religion in a foxhole, somewhere on Normandy, in the Ardennes, along the Yalu River.

However, he never formerly or even tacitly embraced any religion, though his dog tags were engraved, “Protestant.”

I can count on one hand the number of times he joined my mother on a Sunday at church. (Famously he got me out of the indoctrination after just a few visits to bible school. It was an October Sunday morning as Game 5 of the 1968 World Series loomed. As my mother urged me to prepare, he said,” he doesn’t wanna go to church. He wants to watch the ballgame with me.” Thank you, Dad. Thank you.)

He was the eldest of eight born in Welland, Ontario, Canada to a less than religious, tormenting Victorian woman of Scot-Anglo decent. She wasn’t even sure of his birth date.

She was visiting her family when she broke water, gave birth, brought him back undocumented to Utica, later Nazareth and other Pennsylvania towns as her family grew.

I know these two things: like me, he went undocumented for years and he didn’t really have a “hometown”. We were in that alone.

He didn’t have a high school education. The Depression was his education and a pool room, his school house. His military career started at 21 years old. Those experiences dwarfed any issues his mother, Madeline Pudge consecrated upon him or his siblings. His siblings called him “Bud”. How American.

I’ve wondered if he was his siblings’ “pillar”; the strong quiet type always there whenever needed. Bud. With crystal blue eyes, Bud had that All-American, big brother, Gary Cooper stature but then he went away to war, where he enjoyed English darts and lasses until that foggy summer morning when he crawled up a French beach in the horror.

When he returned home in May 1946, he found his mother and first wife spent all the money he had sent home to save for his return.

After a brief pursuit of his wife, side-arm in hand, murder on his mind, his father talked him down. He stayed in the safety of his Army family.

I’ve wondered if he felt betrayed. We could share that experience. Perhaps we shared abandonment by mothers as well. It could explain the bond he sought with his boy.

The Army sent him to occupied Japan; There he promoted but was in a forgivable position for what transpired in 1950: another war, Korea.

After a year of marching the length of Korea and back, he returned State-side long enough to marry my mother in 1951 then back to Japan. By Valentine’s Day 1959 they set sail together for Occupied Germany. My Imperial Father.

It was the three of us and he knew if it made his wife happy, a quotient of stability that he’d never experienced, he appeased his wife and her burgeoning Christian faith, once Stateside.

Honestly she was so aggresive in her conversion, he may have been suffocated by her unrelenting full court, born-again press; that, dogma, absolutism of God’s existence, the Rapture, the stick and carrot of eternal death or (after)life for a man who saw death for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

It offered no quarter, no moderation. It was total surrender to Jesus and his biggest cheerleader yet like war he knew how to duck, dig a deep hole and deflect. Interestingly I’ve been accused of such tactics.

As I open his Bible, it is inscribed with handwritten note: presented to “my beloved husband & dad with loving concern from Dorothy.”(She inserted me, a child for added guilt). It was dated September 22, 1966. That was his 44th birthday… maybe.

On his birthday, as he embarked on a new life, she offers “concern”. What a lovely idea for a man who walked around tank flattened, eviscerated, and burnt corpses. He killed and laid with the dying.

Why could be possibly be concerned about now?

He’s been a civilian for nine months. He had to make a living. She offered a bible.

As I begin to turn some pages, I see only dates in 1979, when he read passages. I randomly accelerate my search, flipping through the margins, I see red ink in The Revelation (of Saint John the Devine).

Somewhat illegible, he’s written a comment… “and thy word of God is like a Sword.” It is understandable for a soldier who has been nurtured by an environment of total war. As I flip the pages further, I see in fading red ink he’s written “redemption” again and again.

Were the passages redemptive? Redemptive of a torment far worse than his mother inflicted? Was I any part of his redemption, as he saved an unwanted German baby. I read no other clues to the redemption that compelled to him.

He repeatedly voiced to me that he knew he would not live long; that, “[veterans] like me are dying fast.” Yet he rejected the invitation to return to Normandy on the 40th anniversary of D-Day.

Upon his passing the minister asked, what was his favorite verse? Mother could quote the whole King James rewrite, so I interjected quickly, “He knew Psalms”, as all Soldiers know: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

His comrades gathered in pre-battle prayer. He recognized it through these events. Indeed he highlighted it in his Bible. He connected.

It was a natural connection from the sounds of war that still rang in his ears.

I became resigned at that moment to the fact, I will not find any revelation here. It is a fools errand looking to dissect further any of his scribbling. In fact this essay gave me more revelations than his writings in the margin of his “gift”.

I close his Bible and will forever allow it to lie like him in silent peace. I hope he is in a garage where he was most confident and comfortable.

Sarge and Mr Saki 06221954

He was Sarge of the “motor pool”. I suppose whatever was under that hangar roof… was his. He loved keeping the “Caisson” rolling.

And in return he, then we kept on moving, moving, and moving.

This was my childhood, perpetual motion; a few months here, a few months there, a year or two now and then, just enough time to meet a friend, join a team, say goodbye. I had seven schools and nine puppies before I ended grade school and walked into a new (Middle) school, my eighth. It was not a textbook approach to provide the adopted bastard child stability

As I roll down the Interstate silently in the middle of the night in the middle age of my life, I often hear the hum of my tires play my father’s favorite tune. I hear him sing his song… over hill over dale, we will hit the dusty trail… and the Caisson keeps rolling along

At the end of his life, silent, staring, incontinent, strapped in a wheelchair, he would be wheeled out into the courtyard of a Santa Monica Convalescent Home for our daily lunchtime “visit”.

I would sing that song quietly in his left ear. It reached far into the darkness. He felt it. His foot tapped. His eye lids blinked. This time I moved him. No. It moved him, as he moved me – from a bad place to a good place and that should be enough for survivors like us.

So Bored

It’s Monday morning, a little more than a week from Christmas and an end to another year.

Since it is an early bitter winter, I turn on the television to gauge the amount of snow for the week ahead.

Instead of the obligatory, nightgowned hot weather woman, there’s Michael Bublé singing a fucking Christmas song that doesn’t need recorded or performed again this Millennium.

With his hands dug deeply into his pant’s pockets, even he seems not to believe his own bullshit… “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” he’s the closest heartbeat networks can run up to replace Bing?

The moment recalls my weekend.

“If I hear ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ or any other Christmas song again, I’m gonna stick a fork in my eyes”.

“I tried watching ‘White Christmas’ yesterday and I just cannot get through five minutes.” Nobody is like that anymore. I watch those ladies sing and dance and there just are not people like that. Corny. Sweet. Sincere.

“I didn’t even put half of my ornaments on the tree” but you know “while I was hanging the ornaments today, I wanted to stop and throw the whole thing out the window.” It’s simply the same thing over and over, again and again, year after year.

I guess I’m just so bored with it. It’s been turned into something so contrary… what made it special.

“Nothing’s special anymore.”

And that was just my wife talking last night. I don’t even know where to begin with my thoughts.

Ode to Silence

… so before the recent snow fell, I had a late night experience of celestial solitutde (if you’re unfamilar, snow adds another layer to silence). it’s easy to embrace when you’re the father of grade school girls who cannot stop talking yet it was sincerely deeper than that. I coyly posted in social schizo media that “silence was awesome”, when in reality I had wrote a quick essay on the subject. However, ater a few friends reminded me that John Cage beat me to the silence vibe decades ago, I let my words rest in – ahh silent deference to my insecurities moreso than any respect to Cage’s clever art; that is, until I subsequently repeated a belief that “the limits of one’s language are the limits of one’s world” for which an esteemed friend countered that thesis by declaring that one receives most of their information “without language”. Hmmm, the Cave Man cum BF Skinner argument. I could embrace it but dwelled on the simple ideal of fire. Left without language, the cave man learns of fire and utilizes it intuitively. Yes, he enjoys it but without words, does he fully expand and appreciate it beyond some utilitiarian, base instinct. As other wicked, more ridiculous examples raced to mind, I thought of my “Ode to Silence” essay. Though self conscious – I’m no Thoreau, I reflected that this essay on silence is demonstrative that through language, I express a deeper organic understanding to the sensation and holistic experience of silence than intuitively experienced without language… but what the fuck do I know?


Ode to Silence

In the grasp of silence, all that is life is magnified; that, which is, at its core, essential.

All else is superfluous. All else vanishes revealing a biorhythmic base, our organic foundation.

I revel in silence – its peace; its power; its preciousness. Intentionally or unintentionally, for industriousness, technology or art, good or bad, we have forced silence from our lives. It’s a lethal lose.

The din accelerates. I fear the crescendo. The clamor seems indefatigable as it crashes upon us, festers inside us. It diverts our destiny, separates us from earth and steadily from one another.

It’s a disquiet which distorts self assessment, our relationship with earth. It obstructs our senses, deadens our minds and deafens our ears to silence’s profound whisper; that, imperfect hum.

Yes, for in silence there is a whisper. Silence is breath taking in its imperfection. It is nature that gives silence an enduring contrast. Nature is our creator but it is in sweet symbiosis with silence.

Silence holds steady. Nevertheless a whiff from a breeze blows a song wrapping through the trees; that, sings a sweet forest hymn along its limbs and leaves. Neither, can silence defeat gravity, mute hints of dew drizzling softly down upon the ground; that, beautiful imperfection.

Nearly indistinguishable, satin drops of dew fall upon thirsting porous leaves. A shimmer of reflective light, it pleases the eye and teases the ear. In the breeze and mist, it is the breadth that is life, a vision like a ghost who is our mother, reminding us the source of our creation.

In such embrace, I rejoin earth, lay upon the ground. Although my body bends and bones crack, I’m content at the ache of my joints and all that is mortal which resonates through my mind.

Silence surrounds me, allotting my breath to slow along with my heart, as all the while my atrophy speeds undeterred without worry. As if submerged, I hear my body. Ear to ground, I listen to earth.

The very inspiration of my lungs, the rhythm of my heart, I am comforted with life even though I enjoy one less beat, lost one more second. I am whole even as I feel my mortal limits. I am whole in this timelessness of silence’s splendor.

Silence is patient. It waits all the while for you and me. It is omnipresent, awesome, and infinite if we could just listen a moment.