My Dad’s little sister recently fled this earthly jurisdiction for Heaven’s shore. She was a sweet lady. Never a cross word and always smiling. She really liked my art from my high school days. (Ok … so she didn’t have an eye for art … nobody’s perfect …which is exactly what she and Mom would always say about other folks.)
Her third baby sent me some old photos his Mom had kept and which I had never seen. One photo had Dad in the upper left corner, but I didn’t recognize him. It was his Varsity basketball team. It must have included the Junior Varsity, too, because about twenty-five fellas were suited up in the picture. They may have been county champs in 1944. I don’t recall how Dad told that story now.
I don’t mean to say Dad was a liar, but you had to watch his face when he told stories about his youth. The wider his grin, the less credible his story. I once asked him what his brother, Uncle Walt, did in the War. He grinned and said, “Aw … I think he was a cook’s mate or something in the Navy.” Forty years later I asked my cousin, Walt’s son, what his Dad did in WW II. He said his Dad’s main specialty was off loading tanks onto beaches in the Pacific, which, as it turned out, was strongly protested by the resident Japanese Imperial Army. The ships Uncle Walt worked on were small, lightly armored and had almost no guns. Grim stuff.
Like I said, you had to be careful when Dad was telling stories. His personal version of history could be a bit misleading. But he never skewed things when he talked about his two favorite first cousins who were a few years older than he and Walt. The oldest was at Normandy on D-day and the other came home from Bastogne in a box. Dad never tampered with the war history of cousins Dennis and DeWitt. They were heroes to Dad … even before they were soldiers.
The cartoon below is Dad and based on my Aunt’s old photo of Dad’s team (He’s top left, number 4). When my cuz pointed out which basketball player was Dad, I was surprised. He was the best looking guy on the squad. Hands down! The cartoon is a poor likeness. It isn’t easy capturing beauty, you know. He was five foot and nine inches when he graduated and joined the Army. The Army put him in Armor and he commanded a Stuart Tank. How could the Army have known he would grow another five inches while in that tank?
Trying to figure out if I was looking at the Varsity or the Junior Varsity just made me remember how Obama told us that ISIS was only the Junior Varsity. If that is true … what do we have to look forward to when the real headliners (no pun intended) … the Varsity of Islamic Terror, emerge from the tunnel onto the court and start playing for keepsies? Has Obama ever told us anything that was accurate, truthful or realistic? Maybe someday. Maybe when he proudly announces the birth of an American Caliphate in Columbus or Kokomo. (My Aunt would like that. Just deserts for Kokomoans! She had little regard for folks from Kokomo. I recall she thought they were a little “uppity”. That was the harshest thing she ever said.)
Anyway … the photo of Dad’s Varsity teammates was funny and bittersweet at the same time. And he was the best lookin’ guy pictured. My cartoon does him little justice. Uncle Walt could have held his own as a movie star next to Gary Cooper. Westerns would have been his forte. My aunt looked like Ginger Rogers and Dad had Superman’s haircut, Clark Gable’s ears and the rough-hewn good looks of his eldest son.
Another generation. Another time. Another Age. Gone, but never … never lost.