Saturday, June 16, 2018

My dad, his dad, and me.

My dad was a Marine in 1968 in Vietnam, literally a war hero because of his bravery in battle. He saved the lives of two critically wounded soldiers by pulling them from a burning tank.

Harold Newell II
Dad, with medal
His Dad was an army paratrooper in the Pacific during WWII.

Harold Newell I
Grandpa, with rubble

I spent my early twenties in Chico, California interviewing bands, trying to be Hunter S. Thompson. I always wonder what my life would've been like had I been in the military.  This look is as close as I got.

I'm an idiot
My cousin was a Marine in Bosnia during that unpleasantness and then again later in Iraq. He was involved in the rescue of Jessica Lynch, if you remember that operation. We don't talk anymore and I miss him but that's another story altogether. The thing about Father's Day is that it always brings up these thoughts about what my life would've been like had my dad lived to see old age. He died when I was six.  The circumstances around his suicide are a tragedy and they have something to do with both P.T.S.D. and alcoholism and I don't have anyone in my family really to talk to about it that knew him around that time. I assume they would tell me they wish they could've done more to help him. I was given a box of his stuff a few years ago, mementos from his time in 'Nam and pictures of him as a baby and whatnot. Its a weird thing to sift through because of how weighted the items are. The Vietnam stuff is fraught with pain because it looks like he was at summer camp. In lots of the pictures he's goofing off with his buddies, they're holding scary guns in the jungle like something straight out of Full Metal Jacket and they look so young. He must be 19 at the time. Just a kid. He put the pictures in these photo albums like he thought he would want to look at them later in life. Like someone might have done for their time in college. But with the war, and the ugliness that followed it after his return, I'm pretty sure he never looked at them again. But I wouldn't know because, again, there's no one to talk to about all that. My dad's family kind of fell apart over the last couple of years after my grandmother passed away. She was the hub around which the family gathered. Without her, there's not a lot of reason to get together and since they sold her old house in the hills, there's nowhere to go. Man, this story got sad, didn't it? What I'm trying to say is that Father's Day is tough. But the good news is I get to completely embrace a new kind of Father's Day now that I'm a father. Sure, I didn't go to War, and I don't have any Greatest Generation kind-of wisdom to pass down, but what I do have is lots of love and support and a clean bill of mental health to provide comfort and care and a general sense of well-being to this little ball of love I brought into all our lives...the village its going to take raise her, I mean.

I could really fill out a jump suit.
And being a dad is awesome, man. It's really been a great thing for me because I get to do all sorts of stuff I missed out on being able to do because I didn't have a dad growing up. I get to be there for her. I get to live the kind of life my dad didn't get to because he had challenges he never had time or the will to overcome. That's too bad. But me, I get to build the kind of family I would've wanted. I get to teach her how to surf and ride a bike and throw a knife and build a tree-house. I get to take her to punk shows and read her Where the Wild Things Are and teach her how to make the best grilled cheese sandwiches.  Every Father's Day when I was a kid was just a reminder of what I was missing out on. But now it becomes a day I get to live in the present and be thankful for the kind of life I have made for myself and my little girl and that's the best thing I could ask for. She's two months old this weekend. She smiles at us, is becoming more alert to her surroundings, and really turning into a little person.  And let me tell you, it just keeps getting better.

1 comment:

Rachel Brand said...

Tears of sadness. Tears of joy. I am so proud of the man you have become. You worked so hard to get here and you deserve every minute of happiness with your beautiful wife and beautiful daughter.