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Veteran’s Day: The Memory of My Father

It is Veteran’s Day and I am thinking of my father, and all of those with souls stripped bare by war.

He has been with me much this season, as I have built the large household ancestor altar, taking photos and mementos from my smaller, permanent shrine. There is one photo of him, as a young sailor, looking happy and full of hope. That is not the man I knew. The man I knew is a man that I still wish I had the capacity to heal.

“The Good War” – in which over 50 million people died – broke many men. I say men, though obviously women were affected too. But it was largely the men of World War Two that returned unable to speak of the atrocities, or share their pain, for they had fought the good fight, on the side of righteousness. They found solace in the bottle and the gambling den, in overwork, and the small joys of family. My father was one of these. To blame his alcoholism, and the alcoholism of a generation, on war was not something we ever thought to do. It was some sort of personal failing, or a disease unique to the individual men and women. The failing was really ours.

Thank you Dad, for doing the best you could. I will keep trying to learn the lessons of your life – and the lives of your generation – refracted through the lessons of my own. I will try to learn true power, rather than force, compassion, rather than pity, and the ability to keep picking oneself up, and to sing and dance, no matter how hard things seem.

I will try to unlearn war.

To all who know the ravages of war, on both sides of the gun – for those who fight and those trying to eke out an existence for their families in a war zone – I hold you in my hearts. I pray that together we can create a world where healing becomes possible. For those of us fighting our personal battles: May we learn better to fight and heal from a place of deep love; May we end wars wherever possible, however possible; May we work for justice and for the peace that comes from the strength in our bellies and the love in our hearts.

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