I was sitting in my truck today and my mind flashed back to the time I joined the Marines. I remember standing in the living room with the recruiter when it was time to leave. I walked over to my Dad who was sitting in his favorite chair and stuck out my hand. I said, “I’ll see you at Christmas.” He couldn’t speak. He grabbed my hand, nodded, then lowered his head and cried.
I noticed that he did that a lot then. He couldn’t say what he was feeling. Love was just too hard to express and affection just wasn’t his way. In fact, the hand shake was the first contact we’d made in many years. I was used to it. I just smiled, quickly hugged my mother then walked out.
He was old then. He always seemed old. He had me in his mid 40s and now that I was leaving for the Corps he was in his 60s. I’m sure it was just pride. The right kind. I was the last child to leave home and I was the 4th of 4 boys to join the Marines.
We were standing in the same room that another recruiter had been in 12 years earlier to deliver the news that his son had been killed in Viet Nam. It probably felt just like yesterday to him. I remember the funeral and how the flag briefly stuck to my sister’s bright, red lipstick as she gently leaned over the casket to kiss her brother goodbye.
I remember the tingle that went down my spine when I marched with my platoon as the Marine Corps hymn echoed off the barracks. I remember 30 years later a similar pride as I stood on that same parade deck watching my own son, Dallas, graduate from boot camp.
My children are growing up fast. I tell them I love them. I hug them when I can. Yesterday, my 5th son, Levi, joined his brother and left for the Marines. Today I was reminded again how quickly time flies. I thought of my Dad. I felt old. Then something strong rose within me. I took hold of it and nodded. Then lowered my head and cried.