Twenty nine years ago, I got word that my father died. Had he lived, he’d have been 96 years old this past February. He had been a lifetime smoker, only having given it up about 10 years before his death. He told me once that smoking was the only freedom the Japanese didn’t take from him. Isn’t it odd that this one freedom is what led to the lung cancer that finally took his life.
I have shared a few things about my father. About his 3 1/2 years as a POW of the Japanese in WWII, about some of the atrocities he suffered, about how my mother was his nurse when he finally got back to the states, to an Army hospital outside Philadelphia.
What I didn’t tell you is how hard it was with him as my father. We were not allowed to scream or squeal, and he would hoard food to the point of it spoiling, yet we weren’t allowed to eat it. I understand that now, but as a child who grew up hungry because my father spent so much money on alcohol to drown his memories, all I knew was fear and deprivation.
As we became adults, we began to know of the horrors he suffered and I was able to forgive him. I really believe he didn’t know what he was doing, or at least he had no control.
He began to heal through the years, and actually became a really decent man. I love my dad and the sacrifices he made to help keep our country free. He taught us to stand for the National Anthem, hand over heart for the Pledge of Allegiance, to not park in handicapped spaces, respect for our elders, and so much more. I’m glad he’s in a place of peace now, where he doesn’t have to suffer any longer.
If you’d like to know a little of his story, read Behind Japanese Lines by Ray Hunt. He was my father’s friend since they met after having both escaped the Bataan Death March.
In memory of Walter DeHaas Chatham, Jr., February 1, 1921-October 1, 1989.
What memories are you cherishing today?
A Pocketful of Joy to Fill Your Day