**ETA: I'm giving up on the photograph for right now...I have it, but no scanner....
I hope you enjoy this. Tribute to my grandpa, the best man I know. Happy Birthday Grandpa!!
I am going to paint a picture for you. A picture that brings tears to my eyes. A picture that is one of the saddest things I have heard in a long time.
Imagine it. There is a house. Rundown is an understatement. A hovel better describes it. Flies. Rats. Dirt. The floor is made of boards but when it rains the mud seeps in. The father is honest. He works hard with very little rest. But he's honest. And has morals and integrity. The mother is a Cherokee-complete with black braids. She is negative. Extremely negative. Her morals and character match the father's. But so does her scowling face. Nothing positive to say. Ever.
It is an incredibly hard life. These parents give birth to 12 children. Under the most brutal of circumstances. 12 children who started out in this world under the harshest of circumstances. Certainly no toys. No fancy nursery. No nursery at all.
Only 8 lived beyond childhood.
The children never experienced the kind of love that most of us take for granted. Never received an 'atta boy. Never a positive word. The parents weren't evil people, just ignorant of the needs of a child. Ignorant of how to show the love their children longed for. Life was just too hard to expend energy on frivolities. And displays of affection were frivolous. Apparently.
That's not the saddest picture. It comes years later.
One of those boys left home at 18. He had to "story" about his age to get into the army. There was a war happening. WWII. A war where many boys became men. In far away, horror-filled places. Places where the stench of death was thick. Jungles where the enemy was around every corner. This boy who had never experienced love lived in those jungles. Swarmed with disease-filled mosquitoes. Dengue fever. Malaria. Miserable illnesses. Unbearable pain and delirium treated with aspirin.
And still the boy struggled with self-worth. He was fighting for his country. He was fighting for his life. Many times over he should've died in the midst of battle. He watched others die. Comrades as well as enemies. This was not Sunday school. This was war. And yet, his first words of encouragement were heard in this place of horror. A Captain with a look of approval, a slight smile at his volunteering for a mission. The boy would have died for Captain Blackwell. Would have died for someone who nodded in approval.
He was given a medal. A bronze star to honor bravery in the line of duty. And he struggled with this because surely he didn't deserve any kind of reward. Not the bronze star. Not the Philippine Liberation medal. Not the Good Conduct Medal.
Every month he sent home an allotment to the family. The parents who couldn't tell the boy he was important and loved. Maybe this would convince them. The sisters and brothers told him later how much those allotments helped. That money sent home allowed for school shoes. A rare shopping trip for a sister.
And still, the boy, now a young man struggled. Struggled to find any kind of worth in his own eyes. Searched to find it in others' eyes. And when he did find it, struggled to accept and believe it.
Stay tuned for the rest of the story. (Because we still haven't visited the saddest moment ever yet).