I don’t remember exactly what I said to set him off. I do remember that the episode occurred sometime during my college years. Late sixties . . . early seventies . . . Vietnam era.
Daddy was a veteran of World War II. He had served overseas; the Battle of the Bulge was the one he talked about IF he ever talked about the actual fighting. I confess that I had not paid rapt attention to his war stories, most of which were just everyday anecdotes about stuff his buddies had said and done. The one that comes to mind is the joke played on some “greenhorn” where they sent him to borrow pie-stretchers or sky hooks or some other non-existent implement. These were not stories of historic significance, but to be honest, even if they had been, I was not really tuned in. He told the same old stories so often that I could have told them myself.
Most of the time my father did not get his feathers ruffled at stuff I said. And, to be sure, the nature of our conversations had never been the least bit political. More like . . . “May I do such and such?” or “Why can’t I do such and such?” or “Can I have such and such?” You get the drift.
However, I was in college now. My horizons were broadening just a bit, and I was beginning to question more than my parents’ rules and ways. As I said, I cannot for the life of me remember what I said, but it was something that Daddy considered to be less than patriotic. Possibly the statement I made was a criticism of our involvement in Vietnam. Possibly it was negative toward war in general. Possibly it questioned America’s motives or cast aspersions on her integrity.
Although I can’t recall the statement, I do remember the response it elicited from my father. With his eyes flashing, he looked directly at me as he reprimanded me. “I just hope your grandfather never hears you say something like that! Both your grandfathers fought World War I to keep this country free, and many soldiers in that one and World War II gave their lives just so people can feel free to say whatever they want to say! And don’t you ever forget it!”
The tone in his voice and the look in his eyes startled me. He was vehement in his patriotism and adamant in his concern that I should respect and honor those who had fought and bled and died for the cause of freedom. Gone was the amused tone he used to tell his little everyday stories. This was serious. He did not want his daughter to take freedom for granted. He wanted her to remember. He wanted her to be grateful.
He was successful.