I don’t think my father had a dream. Or a plan.
He had only moments in-between the beginning and the end
I have pictures
Black and White and still unfaded
The first picture is of a little boy with the promise of adventure in his eyes
A toddler holding a stuffed bear wearing a large white scooped lace collar flowing over a little boys dark suit with short pants
This is only a brief glimpse in 1939 of the man he could have been.
The second picture is of a lanky 17-year-old with one hand reaching all the way up to lean on the open Ball Turret hatch of his B-24 Bomber. A light-hearted warrior
He seems to be laughing at himself in the picture, in his WWII Army Air Force issued jumpsuit
He’s cocky and self-assured
As if he had a plan
Or a dream
And this was it
My Dad, Carroll Walter Stanley, hated all 3 of his names, enlisted in the Army Air Force at 17.
He left high school to rid the world of Nazis, but along the way…
he dropped bombs on beautiful cathedrals and cities. Human innocence, and evil
And when he invaded Normandy on D-Day
He saw more than he was prepared for at 18
The horror never left his vision. He was unable to forgive himself
The third picture is of an ancient 20 year old fiercely handsome young man in his WWII Army Air Force formal uniform all promise and self-assurance is nowhere to be found
The tragedies seen up until now are clearly etched in his haunted eyes
He’s so handsome though. His pain is not the first thing to notice
My mother wanted him and only him. She spotted him on the dance floor in 1947.
She took him and wouldn’t let him go.
I don’t know what my mother saw in him that told her she couldn’t go on if she didn’t have him
Well, he was a good dancer. They were married 6 weeks later
Had 3 children
Built 3 homes together
He married her best friend,
Divorced again less than a year later and re-married my mother because he couldn’t forgive himself for leaving the mother of his children. He was a sin and hated every minute of life
Because he didn’t have a dream
Or a plan
Or any fight left
He just put one foot in front of the other and hoped it led…somewhere bearable.
He left his warrior leaning on that B-24, but the weaponed plane was forever with him.
No one had any idea he held such pain
The last time I saw him before he pulled the trigger on his survival, he told me why he married my mother, he had to keep her from doing what he was about to do to himself
He’d learned to fight in someone else’s war
He’d learned how to stay
He’d almost learned how to shove down the violent memories
But the warrior had long forgotten what it means to battle when he decided he didn’t have any fight left
To silence the images he couldn’t purge.