When my dad was dying of cancer six years ago, we spent loads of time talking about his youth. I learned that his entire group of high school skiing buddies was killed in the war; it made me understand why he never really had close male friends during my childhood. I heard about the sudden leave he was granted when stateside, causing hurried wedding plans down deep in Texas. I laughed as he told me of how he fixed the bus, when the driver couldn't, so that he could make it to the wedding on time, how he would 'waggle' his wings as he flew over the base so that my mom would know it was him, how his poker-playing buddy helped get him the heck off the base and into flying school just so he wouldn't get in trouble with the lieutenant. Those months in the chemo chair opened my eyes to a piece of my father that I hadn't known existed.
When my dad died, I went on a reading terror, reading all the WWII war books I could get my hands on...The Last Stand of the Tin Can Soldiers, Flyboys...in an attempt to forge another closeness with a man who was no longer there. When I read Unbroken by Lauren Hillebrand last year, I felt a further sadness, knowing that my dad was never able to read this amazing book; I know he would have loved it as much as I did.