Monday, October 7, 2013

A Man Too Soon

The thing about blogging is that I have all these feelings to expel from my poor overloaded psyche, but doing so can be a delicate undertaking.  Writing about my own stuff is difficult enough.  While I yearn to purge every intimate feeling and memory, the term TMI comes to mind, causing me to reel myself in.  But, then there's the danger of making a colorful story, beige, with all the life sucked out of it.


What's really tricky is writing about someone else's story.  How can I speculate on how twenty-one year old (give or take a year or so) Jerry must've felt when he volunteered to leave his family, his girlfriend, his world, to go to Vietnam?  How does a young man that age step up to that decision knowing his best friend has just died on Southeast Asian soil and his father is in a POW camp there?  How did our mother allow her firstborn, whom I acknowledge, with regret, may well have been her favorite, to go? (Jerry, that will be the first and last time I make that "favorite" concession, so don't get used to it.)  It would be presumptuous of me to speak for either of them, so I won't.

Jerry, Don with Mary on his lap, me, Bill and Michael, behind the couch.  Taken the night before Jerry left for Vietnam. Donnie's face, especially, shows the strain of the evening.

I could speak for Jerry's brothers and sisters and how we felt about it, but the expressions on our faces make that unnecessary.

This letter that Jerry wrote Jimmy from Vietnam is illustrative of the way he rose to the occasion and explains the otherwise inexplicable partiality Mom felt for him.  I hope none of the parties involved object to my sharing this.:

"Dear Jimmy, I hope you realize that March 23 is Mom's birthday;  try to make it nice for her.  I'm sending some money so you can distribute it to the kids so they can all buy her a present.  Make sure she has a cake, even if you have to buy it.  I hope everything is alright.  Mom said you would be writing soon.  I'll be looking forward to hearing from you.  One more thing, please make sure Mom doesn't have to scream and yell at the kids on Easter;  try to make that nice for her, too.  Take care and work hard.      Jerry"

Is that not the most precious thing ever?  (I know, I know, her birthdate was actually March 22.)

Everyone was all smiles the night Jerry came home.  Jimmy heard there was free beer, so he showed up, too.  I don't remember who else was at the Welcome Home party, except for the Kirkpatricks, because they're in some of the pictures.  I'd like to post the one of Barbara Kirkpatrick with a big beautiful smile, and will, if it surfaces from the rubble.
Jump forward to about 1992 when we met, for some reason or another, in DC.  We Dentons tend to burden our children with the meatier issues of life, just to make sure they "get it."  My niece, Jessica, Donnie's daughter, says we're like a Tennessee Williams novel of the dark, Southern variety.  Here, Terry's and my daughter, Micah and Mike and Katherine's daughter, Allison, spend a carefree afternoon at The Wall.  I'm sure we took in the Lincoln Memorial, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Kennedy's eternal flame at Arlington and every war memorial that weekend.  Some families go to Disney World.


Kimmy Coleslaw said...

All I can say about this is, as I child I didn't take it all in - as an adult, I'm sure Jerry didn't have to go, and yet he did - what a brave man.

Madeleine Doak said...

Jerry was the man of the house. He always looked after Mom. Bought her a window air-conditioning unit for her bedroom before we had a/c and had Billy buy her a green coat for Christmas from the Sears catalog when he was in Vietnam.

Kimmy said...

I do remember Jerry being the man of the house - what a responsibility. Your brothers are all so handsome, they all have their own look - yet you can tell they are family - do you get what I mean? I'm loving going back through these - the pictures just throw me back, can so remember the furniture, some of the clothes - the many good times - Baby Oil & Iodine, Neil Young, Pink Snowballs, our bikes, the ball fields, countless hours on the phone w/ my Dad saying "didn't you just leave their house"? - LOL

Madeleine Doak said...

That's so funny about your dad! I know … it's so weird to look at the pictures and remember the textures of things. The boys do look different in real life, but sometimes I'll see a picture and be taken aback by how much they look alike. And, sometimes there's a strong resemblance to my son, David. You and I talked about one at the kitchen table in which I'm still unsure if it's Jerry or Jimmy.