Tuesday, December 13, 2005

1884 War's trauma wears on the children left behind

is the headline in the USAToday (December 13, 2005) with a color photograph. In March 1944 my father enlisted in the U.S. Marines. Things didn't look good either in Europe or the Pacific for the U.S. The same nay-sayers were around that we hear today. I don't remember being resilient or fearful, either one. But I know this. I looked to my mother and other adults like grandparents, aunts (all the uncles were gone to war) and neighbors for clues on how to behave and what to think. How do we know that children are helped by being asked to express their fears publicly about their mothers and fathers in uniform? We didn't draw pictures of airplanes and bombs to send to dad--we drew flowers, blue skies, and houses, with happy children. I'm sure the Marines were teaching him about bombs and guns--we needed to remind him why he'd enlisted.

My mother must have been fearful--I regret that of all the things we talked about over the years, I never thought to ask that. I can't imagine how she made it financially with four small children, let alone emotionally. But looking up at her from the vantage point of a four year old, I saw only confidence, resolve, determination, integrity, honesty and love. She was who she was and she never changed the whole 60 years I knew her.

One day Mike Balluf, whose father was in the Navy, and I were riffling through the trash behind his house (he lived directly behind me). We pulled out a beautiful, dark brown ceramic teapot. We didn't have anything this pretty in our house, so I carried my wonderful find home to show my mother. She turned it over, saw the "Japan" mark (I probably didn't know how to read), and put it in our trash. You don't always have to talk an issue to death for children to learn that war is serious stuff.

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