My father’s footsteps

My dad, while he was in the Navy, around 1944

My dad, while he was in the Navy, around 1944

Freezing rain and sleet fell in Eastern Iowa last Sunday making travel treacherous for many. Some ventured out, but found it difficult to maneuver the mess the ice storm created. I choose to stay home and get some much-needed housekeeping done.

Since it had been a while, cleaning the storage room would be my first task. I began sorting through the boxes, each one filled with days gone by, mementos of events that our family held dear. 

I came across a lone folder. It didn’t have a label on it, and I thumbed through it to see if it was important.

The faded words, “when I was a boy,” stood out to me, and I realized that it was my father’s manuscript.

He started writing his life story many years ago when he had knee surgery. My mother told me it was great therapy for him as it filled the hours that he spent laid up.

He continued writing even after he healed, asking his brothers for editing advice, both of them giving it back with their critiques.

But as hard as he worked on it, he was never able to finish it.

As I skimmed through the folder, I caught glimpses of his life that I didn’t know about, and it was as if I was learning who my father was in those pages.

He had been in a car accident when I was 4 and he wrote about how he wondered why God gave him a second chance.

He wrote about the colorful characters he encountered while in  the Navy, and how that experience “broadened his horizons.”

I set the manuscript aside to read later and sifted through other boxes to see what treasures I could find. Photos, scrapbooks, old newspaper clipping; it was evident that my father cherished the memories he made.

In the same box I found stories and poems that he had written as a boy. They are faded and hard to read, (one story, titled, “Bunny Paradise,” I can’t wait to read) but seeing where he started and his passion for the written word, brought me closer to him, even though he has been gone more than four years.

The last box held baby books of my brothers and sisters, but at the bottom was another folder with more of the manuscript. I was excited as I looked through it, looking at the last page to see where he was in the story. But it ended in mid-sentence.

Disappointed, I gathered what folders I had and went to investigate. My mother told me that the manuscript was scattered; my brother had some of it, and more of it could be in other boxes. It might take some time, but I’m confident I’ll be able to find them.

Later that night, as I read the first few pages of his story, I saw that he was not only a talented writer, but a wonderful story-teller. Reading the adventures he had as a boy and the time he spent in the Navy showed me what a passion writing had been for him.

Though I have my work cut out for me, it’s an honor and a privilege to be able to walk in my father’s footsteps.


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