And then there is this.

B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay"
MAIRANAS ISLAND — Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay” landing after the atomic bombing mission on Hiroshima, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo)
By Js Kendrick

I’m in Okoboji Iowa today for a wedding. Very nice place, a little gem nestled away in the northwestern part of Iowa. 

The wedding will be the second I’ve been to this year. A busy year for me and my family. Two weddings, two family reunions, and three funerals. 

My brother-in-law lost both his parents this year. In the space of two months. Incredibly heartbreaking for him and his side of the family. Three months before my sister-in-law joined our family, her mother passed. Her mother would have missed her daughter’s wedding if not for my sister-in-law’s foresight to have a private ceremony beforehand. 

But today, we are at a wedding. A celebration of two young people who are about to commit to each other for the rest of their lives. Today, while it may be a little chilly, a tad overcast, and some rain, will all be forgotten or looked upon with silly nostalgia years from now. Today, will be a great day. October 21st, 2017. They will not forget this day.

And then there is this. I have not forgotten this day for the last 20 years. Today, 20 years ago, my father died. This is a grand day for some, as it should be. Yet it is a bitter day for me and my siblings.

Often I am asked, does it get better? Doesn’t…as the adage goes… time heal all wounds? No, it does not. Time puts things in perspective. It takes you from a fresh cut, to a scar that you always remember where it came from, and when you got it. A constant reminder of the pain you once endured.

As I had written in an earlier blog ‘Everything’s, my older brother Jay and I discussed everything one Saturday night. One of those topics was our Father. In what was probably not the nicest critique of our Father we were at least honest, and forthcoming in our thoughts. I do believe we would have told these observations to our Fathers face. Yet it was nice not to hear the “what do you know?” part. And in truth, he probably would have had a good point.

I knew my father, so did my brothers and sister. Yet in that classic statement, do we really know anyone? No, not really. Try as we might each of us are, in reality, our own little universe. Like scientist who constantly push the boundries we look at someone from the outside, only catching glimpses of who they really are. To say that parts of my father’s life are still an enigma to me is an understatement. 

If I could go back in time, I would ask him a million questions, things I would hope he would answer. Why, for the love of God, could he not hold a job? Three years, I think it was three years was the longest job he had ever held when I was growing up. He stayed in the same field, was good at his work, very knowledgeable. Yet still, the politics of business vexed him. It made growing up hard. 

He had a love of country like no other. The picture I chose for this blog was not some random picture. My father was on the island of Tinian, he saw the Enola Gay in person. That time of his life was very formative. It would shape a young man who grew up during the depression, who had very few skills and turn him into a mechanical engineer. He would be able to provide for his wife and four children. Rising in his career to become a Vice President of a company. Yet I believe that time also taught him a disdain for authority.

He believed firmly in classes of people. Not on racial lines but on social-economic lines. He felt people never rose above their classes, even though he himself rose above his. A point that he dismissed when I noted it to him. 

My father a man that valued his intelligence, yet looked down upon those who were ignorant on certain subjects. Had less tolerance for those who stubbornly believed they were correct even though the facts differed. I believe my brother Jay and I inherited that quality. 

After 20 years I still question things about my father. Questions I will most likely never get answers to. Yet, with this scar that is so clearly visible today, I do have perspective. He wasn’t a perfect person, maybe not a perfect father. Yet to me he was. To me, he was the best damn father a boy could ask for. And while I try to be like him in some respects, better than him in others, I wonder most, especially after that talk with my brother Jay, what will my children say of me? 

Being a father is not about perfection, but doing the best with what you have. The try is worth it’s weight in gold.

 

 

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Everything…

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My Brother Jay fishing on the Rock river. / Photos by KidZond.

 

 

The conversation started quite unexpectedly. We had been talking most of the night yet others were present. My brother’s wife, my wife and two young children and my sister. But at around 11 p.m. we, my brother Jay and I, were alone.

We had dinner earlier, teriyaki chicken on the grill. We had also been drinking craft beers since afternoon. Then of course, being on vacationing all week at a rental house on the river, we had been drinking a lot. I think I drank more that week than I have in the last five years. Possibly ten.

Yet one thing my brother and I wanted to do on this vacation of ours, was to relax on the deck, beer in hand, and just talk. This hadn’t happen yet, we had family time, we went on a day trip to historical town, my brother and his wife toured a brewery in Wisconsin. So our conversation had been put off. I truly think we had forgotten about it.

“I want something other than beer, want to have some Johnnie Walker?” My brother asked me. I agreed. So we brought the bottle out and sat out to drink it gone. This was actually a family joke, a sort of ‘point of honor’ as our father and our great-uncle had accomplished this feat many times. So we needed to ‘be like dad’.

So we talked.

“Do you remember when…” and

“What was that guys name who always…” and even

“Really? I never knew that!” and many more phrases of the same vein. We talked and laughed. Talking about funny things and silly things. Catching up for years of conversations we should have had, but never got the chance to.

However as we continued on with the point of honor, tossing in a 25 ounce bottle of beer that we split between us, and some craft beers for fun. Thus increasing our blood alcohol level to a point where it narrowed our visual acuity. Our conversation turned more to the serious side.

We discussed our parents, both of whom had passed away years ago, our father in 1998 and our mother in 2006. We talked of our love of our parents, how we, among so many we know, were very lucky to have parents that stayed together their whole lives. Both of our spouses come from families that had went through divorce.

Neither our Father nor our Mother had a happy childhood. Both were children of the Depression. Our mother was taken to an orphanage when she was just 5. Our grandmother had died of tuberculosis when she was 5, her father, my grandfather took her and our uncle Tommy to an orphanage because he couldn’t be bothered to raise children. An irony here is that I am the spitting image of our grandfather.

Our father grew up with an alcoholic father who beat him. His parents divorced when he was young and our grandmother remarried when our father was 13. He ended up leaving home at 15 and living with our great-uncle since my grandmothers new husband and our father didn’t get along. The would become the best of friends over the years, but back then they couldn’t stand each other. So both our parents loathed their childhoods. However, they talked of the good times more than the bad.

Our parent would have four children, they would have their ups and downs yet still remained together for 53 years till our fathers death. They were, by no means, perfect people. Yet they truly loved one another and their children.

I wouldn’t call it a chiding of our parents as more of a review. All of us children are hard workers, a trait we inherited from our father. Even our eldest brother (who wasn’t present) owns his own business. Yet unlike our father, we have stayed at jobs for years.

“So, what? 2 years? maybe 3 tops?” My brother said. I nodded.

“I’ve been at my present job for 11 years, before that 13 years.” I said. He nodding, he too had worked at his present job for years.

Our father rarely stayed at one job. He would always find a reason to move on. We figured the longest job he ever held was 5 years. Yet he provided, always came through in the end. The in-between sucked, but he was good at pulling the proverbial rabbit out of the hat.

We talked about Politics, our father loved to talk politics. We talked sports, and all the events our father dragged us to. How our mother would smack us in the face for the littlest infraction yet our father never, ever, laid a hand on us. Although they loved each other immensely, my brother Jay and our mother’s relationship (especially in his teenage years) wasn’t the best. When he became an adult, their relationship mellowed. This is a common thread isn’t it? I had the same relationship with my eldest daughter. Yet I never hit her with a cast iron frying pan like our mother did to Jay. Yes, there is a story there.

Our conversation metered on to our lives, our screw ups, our triumphs. We talk families, and children. We divulged secrets of our lives. Things we would never repeat and I won’t repeat here. As we talked the conversation went to a place few get to go to. One of deep admiration and love for each other, of total honesty without hurt. Two brothers, intoxicated yes, but still able to follow each other’s words. Reaching down deep to find our moment in time where we bonded like we never have before.

I’m the baby of the family at 53. Jay is 60, so you can imagine what a total pain in the ass I was as a younger brother. As kids, our bonding was only when we needed something from each other. Yet that night, that Saturday night that I will never forget, the conversation transcended all normal conversations we had ever had. We even went so far as to chide each other, but in a loving caring way, that if not for that moment in time, it would have been taken wrong, taken as a rebuke, yet it wasn’t that night.

As my brother question my dreams, my desire to become a writer and to fulfil that dream, that I have been pursuing for over 20 years, he asked my why I had never published. Why I had never put my work out there for others to see.

“What? are you afraid? You scared that you will be rejected? That no one will like your work?” he asked me. After a long awkward pause, I answered him.

“Yeah…” I said quietly. “I’m afraid.” I admitted.

“Okay, so what’s worse. Never publishing and not having to worry about rejection, or not knowing? Never knowing if anyone will like it because you didn’t put it out there?” and that was the crux of the matter.

“So what if no one likes it, you’ll know, then just…I don’t know, do something else you love. But come on, you need to know.” He said to me.

And he was right. I knew he was. That night, that Saturday night when we stayed up till the early morning air was thick with dew, he pushed me to face my biggest fear. This blog was created in response to that conversation. Putting myself out there for the world to read. I would have never had started it if not for his loving goading of me.

We had conversations on every topic imaginable. I can’t think of a subject we didn’t touch upon. From the world and it’s messed up ways, to what bug is that? We talked. We finished our point of honor and then some. And as the sun threaten to show the first rays of dawn, we stumbled off to bed. Our tongues were literally tired. Our eyes bleary, our bodies achy and knowing the pain they will be in tomorrow. Yet our souls were refreshed.

Not a Saturday night has passed since that one, that I don’t think about that conversation. Something about it was almost magical. No showmanship, no condemnations, no boasting except for humours effects. No one but us, that deck, and the river that flowed by. I will never forget that night. Even though, in time, the conversation itself will fade in memory, exact details will be lost, as some were to Mr. Johnnie Walker, yet the feeling and emotions of that night…I’ll never forget it. Nor will my brother Jay.

The next day, as we were made fun of for our hangovers. Teased and picked on, we would just smile at each other. It was Sunday, their last day here before flying home early Monday morning, and my family and I had to go home, so we parted around mid-afternoon. My sister-in-law asked my brother Jay how long we stayed up. He said around 5 a.m. he thought. She looked at him and asked him what did we talk about for 6 hours? He thought for a moment, looked at her and said.

“Everything…”