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Monday Memorial Day: We Will Wait Upon the Shore

This is my Dad. he was about 20 years old when this picture was shot. It was the fifties and he participated in the Korean War.

He was a very bright guy. He attended Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, the same school that graduated Dan Marino. But something happened in his final two years of HS. There was a dispute with the administration of the school. I never found out what it was but if I’m not mistaken, it was a matter of honor for my Dad and Grandfather. So he transferred to a vocational school and studied to be a draftsman. Sometime after his graduation, he enlisted. The academic world is the worse for it as my father had a great passion for history and would have made a wonderful professor.

He served for several years. Then he got out of the Navy, joined US Steel as a draftsman and met and married my mom. I was born during a recession. My father was laid off and in desperation, he rejoined the Navy. The Navy recognized this smart dedicated man and sent him to learn nuclear welding and reactor maintenance. It was the golden age of nuclear air craft carriers, submarines and reactor design. My Dad was there for all of it.

Then came the Vietnam War.

I owe my love of politics to the Vietnam War. My Dad was away on sea duty for much of the sixties during my childhood. His tours of duty would stretch for 8 months at a time. We would follow him from port to port across the country. Every night, I would watch Walter Cronkite on the news and follow the war and the civil rights movement. I knew that a lot of daddies died in Vietnam but my Dad would probably not be one of them.

When we knew our Daddy was coming home from a tour, my sister and I would get giddy with anticipation. We would put our best clothes on and go to the dock and wait. I still remember the smell of salt water and oil that swelled around the pier as we gazed out to sea waiting fot the ship to come in. Finally, we saw it slowly pull in to port. The sailors, dressed in brilliant and crisp white uniforms would array themselves on the deck. The deck was festooned with hundreds of fluttering triangular flags. The sailors stood at attention, their feet planted wide, their head and shoulders thrown back proudly. Nobody waved. It was all very formal. The anchor ceremony took place with a line of sailors lowering the weight and securing the ship to the pier with thick ropes and chains.

Then, one by one, each sailor would wait his turn to request permission to go ashore. They would salute the commanding officer and fairly run down the ramp to the arms of their families. From a distance, it was difficult to tell which one was my Daddy, but soon, we would see a tall man with a slightly off kilter walk, headed in our direction, his sea bag over his shoulder, full of presents from exotic places. He would kiss my mother for a looooong time as we bounced up and down. We would give him kisses and hugs and my sister and I would fight over who would sit behind him in the car on the way home.

The shore leave never lasted long. In about a month, we would take him to the dock and the whole ritual would be performed in reverse.

It wasn’t until the 70’s before he got permanent shore leave, more or less. He made chief and ran his own welding shop. He was one of the Navy’s most highly sought welders. They flew him all around the world to fix reactors on submarines. He spent some time in a research facility where the Navy perfected its reactors. When, after 20 years in the Navy, he finally retired, he was recruited my a commercial nuclear company to tend to its reactor. He put everything ship-shape and when Admiral Rickover, the father of the nuclear Navy, came to visit this famous reactor after my Dad put it right, the Admiral’s praise for his work was my Dad’s finest hour.

But the Navy did take his life. Or at least that is what my family and I believe. My Dad was exposed to a lot of toxic materials during his naval career. He died in 1995 from bladder cancer. He is buried in Ft. Indiantown Gap National Cemetery amidst the verdant rolling hills of his native Pennsylvania.

I was a pall bearer at his simple military funeral. My mother was presented with the folded flag. My sister gently wept as they played Taps. Myself and my brother, a Sergeant in the Army, accompanied him to his final resting place. As I sat the casket down, something strange happened to my hand. I could not pull it away from this gentle family man with the serious disposition that I inherited. The smart man who never swore, never got a single tattoo. Who was quick to anger but never held a grudge. Like a magnet, he held me there. Then, with a great effort, I pulled my hand away.

I miss him. But I miss him as I did when I was a child. He is not gone forever. He is merely at sea. Someday, we will all meet again. My family will forget the foolishness of life and wait upon the shore where there will be a happy reunion.

36 Responses

  1. Thank you, RD. We are of a generation.

  2. Such a beautiful, loving tribute, RD, thank you for remembering your father with all of us. I have such a similar story, my father having served for 30 years in the Air Force, and served in Korea and Vietnam, came home to us, and then, in 1992, at the age of 62, he passed away and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. The military burial ceremony is a somber affair, but, for those who serve their country, and for the families who also serve, it is also a ceremony that reflects the pride and honor of their service. As a veteran, the daughter of a veteran, the sister of veterans, and the spouse of a veteran, I can appreciate your memories so well.

  3. Riverdaughter,

    I’m crying right now. Thank you for sharing your father’s story with us. I’m thinking back now to the entry where you asked us all to talk about ourselves and our families. I think of all the people here at the confluence, the shared understanding of the true spirit of America that we have, our commitment to real American values. Thank you for being here, Riverdaughter, and making a place for us.

  4. Thank you, RiverDaughter. That was very beautiful.

    I want to express my appreciation to everyone who works hard for a better life on this Memorial day.

    I honor all those you have sacrificed their lives for this country, but also those who sacrifice day in and day out to make things better.

  5. Jeez RD you made me cry. But then, it’s a good day for crying. That was a beautiful tribute and I thank you for sharing it with us.

  6. Also, I don’t know if anyone saw the post at Corrente where Chicago Dyke rails against Clinton Supporters and “newbies” posting on HER site. She wants it back the way it used to be.

    I read river daughter’s post right after reading the Corrente one. It made me think about the whineyness of people today compared to what our mothers/fathers and grandmothers/grandfathers went through. Chicago dyke can’t take the heat till August. The kitchen it getting unbareable. She wants it to be like it used to be. She wants her blog back.

    Guess what? Life is NOT easy. There are struggles for everyone, and if you care about truth, justice, and the American way then there are Extra struggles for you. Worrying about your STUPID blog amounts to nothing when you compare it simply to the daily in and out struggles that 99% of the world face.
    Take River Daughter, for example. She got to see her father for only a short time in between long tours of duty. This is REAL sacrifice, and it is happening everywhere all the time.
    Whining about your blog, or about the length of this primary, or the fact that YOU think someone’s continued support of Clinton is delusion shows how elitist, entitled, and out of touch with REAL problems you are.

    This nomination is a REAL fight, and the outcome will have tremendous affect on all of our lives. If people can sacrifice what they do just to put food on the table, why can’t we hang in there until August?

  7. What lovely and heartfelt thoughts and words went into this tribute to your father. The world is made up of so many unsung heroes who go about their lives just doing the right thing. rd, you drew a picture of a man whose very essence is maintained through you. Lovely.

  8. I am a naturalised American. People like your father are the reason why – good, generous, gentle people who care deeply about their country and who embody her truest impulses. Thank you.

  9. bowed head Thank you Riverdaughter.

    {{riverdaughter}} I feel so lucky to know you.

  10. Kbird: this is my online self. Everybody is cooler online. That being said, I had a dream about you and ronk last night. It was weird. I hope I can remember what we agreed to in the dream because I think ronk came up with some good ideas and you pointed out something to me that I hadn’t considered before. I really must remember to take a notebook to bed with me next time instead of that glass of scotch.

  11. I’m crying too .. Thank You rd for this insight to you and your family and your Dad …

    I have no idea why but this song is now singing in my head … tyou

  12. (smile) Well, how could a conversation with you & ronk & me NOT come up with something terrific? My brain is humming at the very concept.

    I had a terrible (in a symbolic way) Hillary dream last night. But, it jolted me (so that was good) and made me realize that:

    No One can take away Hillary’s delegates. The 400 can rail all they want (and this weekend has seen a lot of that) — but Hillary will be a force at the convention. She is legitimate.

    (reasonable people might want to stop reading here)

    The truth about Super Delegates picking the Nominee is that they’ve got All Summer to Decide.

    And there won’t be any distracting primaries to get in the way. Just think of the possibilities….

    When the DNC decided on that ultimate “game” of moving the convention — They gamed themselves out of power.

  13. RiverDaughter, thank you for putting meaning back into the day . I don’t often get to sit and remember as life is filled with the obligations, responsibilities, and hardships (that differ from one person to another).
    Your father was blessed to have a loving family and such a talented, thoughtful daughter. i am lucky to have found you (and the confluence).

  14. kbird~ “The truth about Super Delegates picking the Nominee is that they’ve got All Summer to wecide. ” is just what I’ve been saying for weeks now. It’s just sometimes, I forget. So thanks for the reminder.
    Mawm (@8:48) ~ I read Corrente early this morning before going to bed. It was a bit disconcerting and disheartening to read. That said, I went back to the idea that sometimes people just give in to their dark thoughts, and later on they may regain their fight or optimism or whatever it is that regenerates their spirit.

  15. I. Did. Not. Put. That. Darn. Smilie Face. In. There.
    (I wish I knew how to do that one though. It’s kinda cute)

  16. Riverdaughter,

    What a gorgeous and moving piece about your dad. He was so handsome too! We need to remember all the reasons and ways to serve our country. Riverdaughter, you are honoring your dad by serving your country now. In january, I know that Madam President will know and remeber your efforts at this dark hour. We will continue to stand together as patriots. In the end, we will have changed our country for the better.

  17. Lovely.

  18. That is a beautiful tribute to your father RD. For today. Your father would be very proud of you, I’m sure, not just for this Confluence you made but for who you are.

  19. Thank you for sharing your loving tribute to your father, Riverdaughter.

  20. Beautiful, Riverdaughter, just beautiful.

    As for Rickover, well, I know one of his people. He didn’t just hand out compliments, y’know. To be praised by Rickover, is to have proved yourself worthwhile to one of the most brilliant men in the history of the world and one who was utterly and completely devoted to one incredibly complex technological ideal. Purity of the heart is to will one thing. There is no higher standard of functioning than that advocated and practiced by Rickover.

    Your father must have been brilliant. I’m sorry we lost him so young.

  21. Your father and his family represent what is best about America. The photo shows a handsome man with a sparkling spirit.

    I do feel our country is worth taking back from the control of multi-national corporations. This is not the America of my childhood. The bottom-lining of everything started with the Reagan administration. Naomi Klein’s “No Logo” is a stirring book. We ship our manufacturing overseas where it is made at a pittance, and then the advertising of it (its logo) is what the consumer pays for. The earth doesn’t have the resources to support our manufactured needs. All image and no substance. Kind of like Axelrod’s Hope+Change(TM) ad campaign for Obama.

    Plus we are now being sold our presidents by the media.

  22. Riverdaughter- I salute your father- thanks to all your family for sharing him with us! Here’s one for him – the combined service version is up at my blog today. God Bless AMerica and God Bless our Troops!

    here’s the URL if the embed doesn’t work

  23. I sent a thank you for this beautiful post, but I think it’s stuck in your spam filter. So- thanks to your Dad and thanks to you and your family for sharing him with us.
    Beautiful post RD!

  24. Just wonderful, RD. You are a moving writer. I spend more time crying over your posts!

    I wrote before that you are my home girl, as I am from Washington, PA, not far from Pittsburgh, – solid Democratic country – or used to be anyway. The people would love to vote for Hillary (Washington County went for her something like 72-28). They will not vote for Obama, the elitist.

    . My dad learned drafting too, drove a coal truck , fought in WWII. Like your dad, he also worked for US Steel for awhile. Eventually he became head of maintenance for HJ Heinz Co in Pgh.

    You know we have working class roots RD.

  25. Thank you for sharing the very moving story of your father.
    (And I agree with joaniebone — he was a handsome man!)
    My father served in WWII (Army Air Corps) and for many
    years afterwards in the Air Force. He passed away
    suddenly three years ago this month (at close to 89 years
    old) and he is with me still in the values he taught and the
    way he (and my mom) treated people, with fairness and


  26. Thanks for a beautiful post. You brought to life why so many us keep fighting for Hillary. We are merely emulating the inner strength our parents used to raise us.

    By the way, I especially loved your last line.That’s how I feel about missing my mom.

    Take care and keep up the good fight.

  27. Happy Memorial Day, rd.

  28. On this Memorial Day, I am left wondering whether the current use of lies, hypocrisy, purposeful deception and psychological warfare that is now ingrained into our Presidential selection process represent the values and way of life that the veterans of our Armed Services sacrificed so much to preserve. We have come a very long way from the days when duty to our country came before duty or service to ourselves. This was a lovely, heartfelt diary that has touched many of us who were raised by veterans of earlier wars.

  29. That was really beautiful.

  30. RD,



    Simplicity = elegance = beauty. It was all three.

    Thank you.

  31. Riverdaughter, that was beautiful. My father was a Navy man, too. He wasn’t gentle, but ferocious and a dyed-in-the-wool misogynist. Mostly I referred to him as “The Warden” when I was growing up. But he was a hell of a Navy man. And he served. He served in WWII, Korea, and after he retired from the Navy he served the Navy in Vietnam as a civilian. I guess we can’t be good at everything. Anyway, here’s to his service and the service of all the men and women who sign up to keep America safe.

  32. A special tribute from a special daughter to a very special guy.

    Sentimental tears from me as I read and remembered my childhood with an absentee (army) father and then resonated your dad’s high-school dustup with my husband’s story of an unexplained ‘disagreement with the Navy’ transferring him to electronics school at Navy Pier in Chitown shortly before he would have earned his aviator wings. Smartest guy I ever knew. Became a machinist and head of his union, then head of maintenance in his hometown papermill. It killed him, eventually…never should have moved into management and been forced to cross a picket line to feed his family and pay the rent. Awful.

    Working class roots. Some of us never forget.

    Thanks for sharing yours.

  33. Well said, RD.

    Best wishes and thanks for making this truly a Memorial Day.

  34. Thank you for a beautiful piece that made Memorial Day more meaningful for me today than it has been for many years.

  35. Here’s to the destroyer piers at Norfolk, and all the comings and goings. Thanks for the memories. God bless you all.

  36. For those who wish to stay together in a long term commitment to the ideals and rinciples that Hillary Clinton has spent a lifetime promoting, http://Together4Us.com offers access for activists, funders, students, policy-makers and ordinary people to come together in support of each other and their goals for America. Please come to our website and join, use the code below to put our linked logo on your website and distribute our message and this code to all your network. Spread the word. We will be happy to put up a reciprocal link, your own co-branded web page on our site, or your own blog.

    Thanks so much,
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