So, um, yeah. I kind of forgot to post a painting about my dad last Thursday, and forgot to post Monday’s with Muddy this week. Blame it on Sasquatch. He’s been up to no good and wreaking havoc in my life. Damn him. Trying to get back into the swing of things now.
This week’s painting from the Fractured Memories series and my dad’s identity before the dementia has to do with Vietnam. He served in Military Intelligence (a term he deemed to be an oxymoron) in Vietnam in the late 60’s, becoming a first lieutenant. When the dementia care facility was interviewing our family prior to him moving in, we told them that, which they took to mean that he was the first lieutenant in Vietnam, and put that in all of the bio stuff they post in newsletters and such. Snicker. Upon his return from Vietnam, he joined the protest movement, growing out his hair and beard, wearing his fatigues and combat boots, lying down in the street to block traffic, and generally becoming a dirty, dirty hippy. He even went to seminary. He was a man of conscience. His best friend was actually killed in Vietnam, which was something I think my dad never really got over.
Growing up, I tried asking questions about the time he served in the army, but he was fairly reticent. It wasn’t until the dementia started that he began talking to me about his experiences. He got shot at in helicopters on recon missions and suffered from PTSD when he returned to the States. He told me that a car would backfire outside his apartment in Chicago and he’d dive under the bed. But he also had funny stories about dating Vietnamese women, and about the pet monkey he had (he couldn’t remember the monkey’s name, but thought it might have been Monkey Mouse) that hated women and would hurl feces at the dates he brought home. The monkey eventually disappeared and was most likely cooked up and served by a nearby restaurant.
I still have one of his shirts from his time in Vietnam, and it’s a source of comfort for me. I’m proud that my dad had the courage to serve, and that he also had the courage when he came back to stand up and say that what was happening over there wasn’t right. I love that he didn’t lose his humanity, and did therapy in seminary that no doubt helped him deal with his PTSD and the loss of his best friend. I love that he remained loyal to that friend’s family, even when that had to be painful at times. I love that, later, as an alcohol and drug abuse counselor in CA, he no doubt helped other vets who hadn’t had the help he’d had early on. I love that he didn’t get brainwashed into thinking that the military was only ever right, nor that it was only ever wrong.
With all of that in mind, here is the next painting in the Fractured Memories series: