He was raised by his grandmother who was an Irish/Indian Medicine woman. It was a hardscrapple life, with little in the means of material possessions, but much in the way of love. At 10 he started working at the local graveyard to help provide for his family (his grandmother and two younger brothers). When he was 17 he lied about his age and joined the Marines headed to Vietnam.
Vietnam is something that defines my father in many ways. He was a patriotic man who believed that serving his country was the right thing to do. He spent much of his time in Nam as a Scout deep in the jungle sometimes 30 miles away from his companions. He carried an American flag with him through the jungle and sent any money he made back home to his grandmother so that she could take care of his brothers. The flag got sent home after he was shot for the first time as he believed he would not make it home alive.
At 19 my father cheated Death…when he had a grenade blow up in his face. I am not a historian, and I do not want to tarnish the details but I do know that it was a large battle and he was only 1 of 18 that survived. The grenade going off in his face took his left eye from him and left him with shapnal in his brain. He somehow managed to continue fighting and was later shot in the stomach as well. One of the things I remember most about this tale from my childhood is that he was not a spiritual young man and his prayer as he lost conciousness was “Please God let me live, I haven’t partied enough.”. Upon returning to the States my dad spent a great deal of time in the military hospital in Bethesda, M.D., it was a hard time to be a war Vet as 1970 was filled with people calling soldiers things like “baby killer” and the like. His time in Bethesda was long, with alot of reconstructive surgery and trying to find the right medical concoction to stop his seizures caused by the shapnal in his brain. His time in Maryland was also where he met my mom his first wife. They were both kids when they had me, my dad 20 and my mom 15. I know that seems absurd, but please note she was legally allowed to marry him at 14.
My dad always remained Patriotic, however upon returning to the North Country of N.H. and starting a family he set out to live life to the fullest and he lost his glossed over view of what Patriotism meant. A couple of years ago, I ran into a man who knew my dad. He told me that my father after returning from Vietnam went up to the local high school and talked to the boys who were a few year younger then himself. He went in with his glass eye and he told them what war was really like. He told them not only of his physical wounding, but how hard it was on a spiritual level. In the 80’s when the erected the Vietnam Memorial, my father was mad. He was mad that it had taken so long. He was mad that it all seemed so glossy and perfect when in reality all those Veterans of Vietnam had not only suffered deep wounding by the deeds and actions of war, but also by the way they were treated upon return. Wounded not only by the everyday people, but by the government itself.
My father struggled with Alcholism. He used alcohol to have a good time. He used Alcohol to cover up the hurt that lay deep inside of him. He was a charasmatic man that many people loved, but he was also a man of deep wounds. That wounding, and the behaviors that came from it left him out of control at times and his love of the ladies didn’t help. My mother was the love of his life, and he lost her after 15 years of marriage when she could take it no longer. I think that was one of the most devistating moments of his life, that and his grandmothers death 3 years before. When my parents got divorced my mother remarried and moved to Vermont, my father remarried and moved to California. I have nothing good to say about my fathers second wife. I did not speak to my father for 13 years, beleiving that he had turned his back on his children and didn’t care a damn about us. In reality my fathers second wife had withheld his mail from