Stone Upon Stone
While eating lunch with my dad last week, I noticed the hat he was wearing and asked about it. My father is a Vietnam Vet who, like many others, rarely talks about his time in the service. Throughout the years, I’ve heard bits and pieces from other family members about his homecoming from the war. Up until last week, though, he and I had never really spoken much about his time there.
His hat had a U.S. Marines logo on it reading “Swift. Silent. Deadly.” Over our sandwiches, Dad explained to me what it meant to be Recon and why he had enlisted before being drafted. He told of how he became much more than he had ever intended. He recounted how, at the age of 19, he was dropped into the nighttime forest in Vietnam and how by the next morning he was one of seven survivors…out of 26 men. He called himself lucky, adding that somehow he cheated death a handful of times while there.
I didn’t have to ask Dad if he had killed people; I knew that he had. So instead, I asked if he was still bothered when thinking of those he killed. Remembering his answer still twists my heart.
Later that same afternoon, bound with thoughts of a 19-year-old who saw and did things no human should have to see and do, I came across these words from Mitch Albom:
“Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. They move on. They move away. The moments that used to define them–a mother’s approval, a father’s nod–are covered by moments of their own accomplishments. It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that children understand; their stories, and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the waters of their lives.”
At 19, I was pursuing a degree at the college of my choosing. At 19, I was a very angry and distant daughter. At 19, I believed my father and I were nothing alike. So I let go. Moved on. Moved away.
But last week, so many years after distancing myself from my father, I chose to stop, listen, and try to understand. Feeling the weight of his story underneath mine, stone upon stone.