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Remembering My Father

I've been in a funk all week. Just feeling kind of down. Kind of anxious.

There are so many reasons. The holidays. Monthly female stuff. The cold, cold temperatures (I'm starting to think there is really something to this seasonal affective disorder). Work stress. General malaise.

Yesterday was one of those days that I just wanted to power through. I literally didn't talk for most of the evening because I couldn't bear to hear anything I had to say. I spent most of the day wishing it was over.

Isn't that a terrible feeling? It's the absolute opposite of feeling grateful. Which only made me feel worse about myself.

I used to have a lot of days like this. Days spent feeling sorry for myself. Days spent wishing for things I didn't have. Days in which I was unable to see the goodness right in front of me.

I'm thankful that I don't feel that way very often anymore. Days like yesterday are rare for me. I do think it's hard to feel grateful ALL the time though. And I think it's important to honor the lows now and then. Without lows, we wouldn't have such glorious highs, would we?

I wonder if the lower we experience life, the higher we are also able to experience it?

I think that was true for my father. And yesterday, in my dark mood, I thought a lot about him.

 It was 66 years ago today that my father was shot down during WWII. December 17, 1944. I've written about this many times and you can read the full story here, but the gist is that my father was a pilot during WWII and he was shot down in the air of the Czech Republic and taken to a POW camp in Germany for the last six months of the war. He survived extreme conditions, severe cold and starvation, dismal living conditions and mistreatment by the German soldiers. He even ate a dead horse at one point (always my favorite part of the story when I was a kid).

He stole the below photo, along with his records when the Germans abandoned the prison camp, upon learning that they had lost the war.

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My father was 24 years old when this happened, and when the war ended six months later he returned home to Michigan. He had married a woman just before he left for the war and he went home to her and to a son he hadn't even met yet.

He also returned home a changed man. A grateful man.

If there were days in my father's life when he felt depressed, I never knew about it. The man I knew was always strong, always positive, and always grateful for where he found himself. He could find pleasure in the simplest things, the company of a friend, enough ice cubes in his glass, a good movie on TV, the warmth of a spring day.

He was calm and patient and gentle, and generally happy. My father never rushed anywhere. He never got overwhelmed or stressed out. Sometimes my mother and I could exasperate him, but any tension he ever felt seemed to disappear quickly like a passing rain storm.

If I was in 7th grade right now and writing an essay about who my role model is, I would definitely say it was my father. I think about him all the time. I measure myself to the man he was, and I take inspiration from his approach to life.

I believe that life is all about the choices we make. That we can choose to be miserable or happy. That we can choose to be fearful or brave.That we can make the choice to live a life we are proud of.

My father taught me this.

Today I remember my father, and the other brave men who fought with him all those years ago.

 Dad Mountains

12 Comments

  1. This was very sweet. I found your blog awhile ago when something you had said about grief was reported on Yahoo or some other popular site. I enjoy reading your blog and can relate. I am 30 and lost my father when I was 7 and my mother when I was 27. Thanks for your insight. I look forward to it, and by the way, your daughter is ridiculously adorable.

    Comment by Tracy on December 17, 2010 at 9:16 am

  2. Such an inspiring post. Just what I needed today. Thank you!

    Comment by Christy on December 17, 2010 at 11:46 am

  3. It’s so interesting that your dad was in WWII. I don’t think there are many people of our generation who have such a close connection to that era anymore. Your dad sounds like he was quite an interesting character.

    Comment by Gavin on December 17, 2010 at 11:47 am

  4. I agree with the previous commenter, who finds it interesting that your father was in WWII. I have been reading your blog for a few months and, from what I gather, you must be about ten years younger than I am. I, too, have a father who was in WWII – or, rather, patrolled the perimeter of our neutral country (Sweden). I don’t think he saw much of the real war, other than a few German ships blow up from afar, but his years in the navy seems to have been a pivotal experience. I find myself rather alone in my generation in being so closely linked to our recent history. I can just about imagine what it means to you, as you are somewhat younger.

    Comment by marieben@live.se on December 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm

  5. Oh, thanks for your nice comment. And Im so sorry to hear about both of your parents. Its so hard to not have those anchors, isnt it? Wishing you a nice holiday season…

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on December 18, 2010 at 10:22 am

  6. Oh, thank you!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on December 18, 2010 at 10:22 am

  7. It IS really interesting. I feel kind of lucky, in a weird way. Its not something a lot of people my age get to experience.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on December 18, 2010 at 10:23 am

  8. Im 32. My father was 57 when I was born — a pretty huge age difference. Glad to hear you can relate — it really is an interesting experience! Your father sounds like he has some fantastic stories as well.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on December 18, 2010 at 10:24 am

  9. Every time you write about your father, I am moved to think of mine and be inspired all over again. Perhaps every girl needs to have a dad who she can really really look up to and think ‘WOW! Look at what my dad did! Look who he was!’. You remind me again and again how special that is (not that I strictly need reminding, but it can’t hurt!)
    You are so very lucky to have had a beautiful connection with such a wonderful, brave and strong human being.

    Comment by Tara on December 21, 2010 at 10:40 am

  10. Oh, thats so nice to hear. Thank you for your kind words. Im so glad that I make you think of your own father as well.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on December 21, 2010 at 6:37 pm

  11. You are so very blessed to have had an angel in your life. I truly believe that angels walk among us, and that we can see them if we just open our hearts. Just by sharing your beautiful story with everyone, he is able to live on.

    Comment by Amy W on September 5, 2011 at 6:49 am

  12. Thank you, Amy!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on September 14, 2011 at 9:03 am

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