The Old Warrior was standing before the gate. He kept reaching, but couldn’t quite grasp the latch, was he too far away or reluctant? He had grown up in the dark days of a depressed economy. He became a man when the world became lost and couldn’t identify right from wrong, good from evil or fact from fiction, he stepped up and volunteered. Beginning at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, he progressed to Connecticut where he was assigned to the CV-15, USS Randolph aircraft carrier, as a radar operator. He rode the Randolph on its shake down voyage, traveling through the Panama Canal, to San Diego, California then on to the Pacific. The Warrior took his turn standing watch over the radar scope as planes came and left the carrier near Iwo Jima and the Philippines and during a kamikaze hit on deck; he earned three Battle-Stars. Victory brought him home to marry is high school sweetheart in 1946, raise a family, work and attend college.
We were summering in Minnesota when the long-anticipated called arrived. During the Fall, Winter and Spring months, my wife has tended the business of her father. We take a break in the summer months, while the siblings thankfully take over. See Mulberry RFD Our drive is 14 hours, we made it in 12 and half.
The next day, together, the daughters arrived at Mulberry, expecting a few hours visit and then return to town to buy a few personal items; but leaving was difficult. The warrior was lying in bed, reaching out and touching the near wall. Who did he see? Communication had been limited since the 1988 stroke, but it was even more difficult now, and his breathing slow and labored. When asked if he was reaching for someone, he said “yes”. Who? Who did he see? Was it his wife or mother or dad? One daughter held his hand the other rested her hand upon his knee. “It’s alright to let go”. The nurse checked his vitals, everything was, as it was. The doctor authorized a little morphine for the pain.
He rested better, easier, his hand less often reaching for the wall. “Who do you see”, the daughters asked….. “God” he said.
Standing at the gate, he lost track of time…the hours turned to days, the days into weeks.
He reached out and put his hand on the gate latch, turned it, and walked through.
The Warrior, March 15, 1926-August 6, 2012.