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Friday, September 18, 2009

Mourning Concluded

This is probably a post that more properly belongs over on my yin blog; today is the third anniversary of my father's death. Some Chinese references tell me that three years is the proper time to mourn one's parents because that is how long they spent raising you to a point where you are sort of independent: walking, talking, eating on your own, if not always able to make choices, if any, that would guarantee your survival. Three years of mourning then is a kind of metaphor to become independent of a parent after their death...when they are gone, you are truly no longer a child.

I made some obeisances in Wudang on this very day in 2007 and 2008, but now I am finished with the mourning. Still I wish to make some sort of eulogy that didn't happen at the funeral (a Masonic ceremony that was quite interesting).

It is to my father that I owe my sense of global adventure. He joined the Merchant Marines in 1941 (not a combat service) because he wanted to DO something and it helped him see the world. It was a sort of lark. He joined up with my mother's cousin, who introduced them. The years in the service were probably the most meaningful and exciting ever to him. "I did things in Cuba I can't tell you about," he told me once. I like to think it was all CIA kind of stuff, but I think it was just sordid whoring, drinking, and sitting in with his trumpet with a Cuban band. Cuba in the early 40s must have been a trip! He had a pair of castanets and maracas, engraved with "Havana," that were home decor for a while. I don't know what happened to them.

Our house was filled with odd objects collected on his seven trips around the world, the first of which included the infamous Murmansk Run which he survived. One of the joys of his last years was discovering the Web; he did much searching about the Merchant Marines, even found links about his own particular Liberty Ships, confirming that his efforts were not in vain, were remembered. The Merchant Marines were recognized as veterans only in the past decade; it gave him a lot of satisfaction, and I got him a cap which went to his grave with him, recognizing that status. I was very moved at the funeral to have a flag presented to me honoring his veteran status.

Japanese porcelain, African carvings, a lot of odd old coins from all over the place. I have a bracelet that he gave me a few years ago. It is a silver filigree with "K A R A C H I" in the links. "This is the first thing I ever gave your mother, do you want it?"


I loved his stories of the war: he was stuck in the Persian Gulf for six months, where he lost all his teeth for some pre-flossing reason. He was very upset about the last war there, Desert Whatever, recalling Basra.

"We made a mess there," he said, mostly blaming the British. He was upset that it still was a mess. When he came home from the war, his family accused him of being a Communist because he was so compassionate about the suffering he saw. After 9/11, he said, "I didn't think we'd have to see this again."

Returning home, married and with a difficult daughter (me), he worked for Coca Cola for a while, before getting a federal civil service job that he detested, but that saw him through a retirement at 50 on a disability. The disability was diabetes as well as the great psychological distress after the death of my mother to whom he was married for 25 years. He later remarried, moved to Florida, (90 miles from Cuba) and buried his second wife after another long marriage. He was a faithful man.


sybil law said...

And he loved dogs?!
Love the picture, as well as the stories. I've always wished I could go to Cuba in the 40's. I thank The Godfather II for that fascination. :)
It's a lovely mourning. Thanks for sharing.

baroness radon said...

Thank you! Yes, he loved dogs, that was a little Pomeranian, the last of his many.