He was raised by his grandmother who was an Irish/Indian Medicine woman. It was a hardscrapple life, with little in the means of material possessions, but much in the way of love. At 10 he started working at the local graveyard to help provide for his family (his grandmother and two younger brothers). When he was 17 he lied about his age and joined the Marines headed to Vietnam.
Vietnam is something that defines my father in many ways. He was a patriotic man who believed that serving his country was the right thing to do. He spent much of his time in Nam as a Scout deep in the jungle sometimes 30 miles away from his companions. He carried an American flag with him through the jungle and sent any money he made back home to his grandmother so that she could take care of his brothers. The flag got sent home after he was shot for the first time as he believed he would not make it home alive.
At 19 my father cheated Death…when he had a grenade blow up in his face. I am not a historian, and I do not want to tarnish the details but I do know that it was a large battle and he was only 1 of 18 that survived. The grenade going off in his face took his left eye from him and left him with shapnal in his brain. He somehow managed to continue fighting and was later shot in the stomach as well. One of the things I remember most about this tale from my childhood is that he was not a spiritual young man and his prayer as he lost conciousness was “Please God let me live, I haven’t partied enough.”. Upon returning to the States my dad spent a great deal of time in the military hospital in Bethesda, M.D., it was a hard time to be a war Vet as 1970 was filled with people calling soldiers things like “baby killer” and the like. His time in Bethesda was long, with alot of reconstructive surgery and trying to find the right medical concoction to stop his seizures caused by the shapnal in his brain. His time in Maryland was also where he met my mom his first wife. They were both kids when they had me, my dad 20 and my mom 15. I know that seems absurd, but please note she was legally allowed to marry him at 14.
My dad always remained Patriotic, however upon returning to the North Country of N.H. and starting a family he set out to live life to the fullest and he lost his glossed over view of what Patriotism meant. A couple of years ago, I ran into a man who knew my dad. He told me that my father after returning from Vietnam went up to the local high school and talked to the boys who were a few year younger then himself. He went in with his glass eye and he told them what war was really like. He told them not only of his physical wounding, but how hard it was on a spiritual level. In the 80’s when the erected the Vietnam Memorial, my father was mad. He was mad that it had taken so long. He was mad that it all seemed so glossy and perfect when in reality all those Veterans of Vietnam had not only suffered deep wounding by the deeds and actions of war, but also by the way they were treated upon return. Wounded not only by the everyday people, but by the government itself.
My father struggled with Alcholism. He used alcohol to have a good time. He used Alcohol to cover up the hurt that lay deep inside of him. He was a charasmatic man that many people loved, but he was also a man of deep wounds. That wounding, and the behaviors that came from it left him out of control at times and his love of the ladies didn’t help. My mother was the love of his life, and he lost her after 15 years of marriage when she could take it no longer. I think that was one of the most devistating moments of his life, that and his grandmothers death 3 years before. When my parents got divorced my mother remarried and moved to Vermont, my father remarried and moved to California. I have nothing good to say about my fathers second wife. I did not speak to my father for 13 years, beleiving that he had turned his back on his children and didn’t care a damn about us. In reality my fathers second wife had withheld his mail from us to him. He didn’t reply because he didn’t know we were writing to him. He believed we hated him, the part that pains me most about this is that he believed he deserved to be hated by family.
10 years ago my Great Grammy Brown, my fathers grandmother who raised him came to me. She started telling me about my fathers life, and worked dilegently on me that I forgive my father and send him a letter. I sent him a package filled with pictures of my self and my family as well as letters and art work from my children. I waited a month with no reply believing he didn’t give a shit about me. Then I got a letter from him which began by telling me his letter was late because the mailing address I had was off by one number. (Pretty good seeing the information came to me from the Dead). Over the last 10 years we have worked on healing our relationship. My father came out that summer and was able to walk me into sacred circle when I renewed my vows to my husband at our 10th year wedding anniversary. That was the only time my father was able to be present at one of his daughters weddings, even though my sister Sandy had invited him to her wedding (he never got the invite). My father did not waste the time he had. In the last 10 years he has made a point of forming a close and personal relationship with all of his children and his grandchildren. Last year he came back for a long visit, he was here for a month and in that month my father opened significantly, opening spiritually in ways he had never dreamed of. Shortly after his visit he left his wife, and moved in with his dearest friend and soul brother Marc. In March he came home to his family in Vermont. In the 8 months he has been home he has spent deep meaningful time with all of his children, grandchildren, and made many friends. The thing that I love most is how he made a point of knowing each and ever person who came into his life in a genuine way.
In October of this year my father told my sister Sandy that he was going to die at Christmas time. He had many health issues due to a life of hard play and exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. On the Winter Solstice this year he went down to Massachusetts to spend Christmas with my youngest sister Stahr and her family. On Christmas eve he went into the hospital. My sister Sandy went down on Christmas night and on the 26th I drove down. As I prepared to head down to Mass. my grandmother told me I needed to make sure to bring my fathers flag. It was draped over my father for the last days of his life, completing the circle…bringing him back to Vietnam and his belief that he would not survive. When I arrived at the ICU he was still able to talk, although it was difficult. Some of what he said was delusional as they had him quite a bit of Morphine, but the there was also moments of deep clarity there. He said something to me that was so poinient and unknown to him that it actually startled me. In those last moments of conciousness he hugged and loved his family. He was made comfortable, but did not want to be kept alive. He was surrounded by his 3 daughters (Sali, Sandy & Stahr) and his 3 eldest grandaughters (Levi, Eden & Thyme) while my husband Noel kept vigil in the adjourning room. His sister Sheila and his neice Morgan drove down on the 26th to spend time with him before his passing. He was held in sacred space by many from a distance by many…his other son in laws Travis and Tony, his Grandsons Eli, Kaolin, Solstice, Finnigan and Brahms and his youngest grandaughters Odaiya and Piper, his Soul Brother Marc Sullivan, his brother Ed & his family. As well as many others who sent him love and held space.
My fathers passing was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. His daughters and grandaughters held his hand, rubbed his back, sang to him, told stories of him and surrounded him with love. When he took his final breathes he had just had his bedding and robe changed and his flag neatly arranged again as a blanket over his legs. He was surrounded by his daughters, grandaughters and son in law Noel. His girls sang to him and cheered him on as he passed into the Summerlands. The hospital staff in the ICU in Marlborough Mass was fantastic, truly caring people. They allowed us space to set up a family alter and when he passed they allowed us to wash and annoint my fathers body with ceremonial oil and do ceremony to help usher his soul across the veil.
Bringing my fathers flag to drape over his body as he died made me think alot about quantam physics and duel reality. The belief that in every major turning point in our life we continue in both or all directions. In one of those realities my father died from the grenade blast, he never returned to the States and I was never born. As he passed from this world surrounded by people who loved him, his daughters and daughter’s daughters draped in the flag that represented his souls journey this lifetime he completed that loop. It was like the cinematic cut and the directors cut of a movie. I for one am happy that he made it home from Vietnam & truly happy he made it home from California.
My father will be celebrated this Sunday @ my sisters home in Waterford with a Viking fire, for he truly came to God in a likeness of himself.
Blessings of Odin & Freyja onto you my dear father….