Memories Monday, October 1, 2018

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

6 thoughts on “Memories Monday, October 1, 2018

  1. What a moving touching story. Your Dad most likely suffered what is now called PTSD. Many men who have experienced combat and are POW’s go through extreme trauma. Both my parents were born in 1930 and tended to horde things especially food because growing up during the depression and World War II had an impact on them. However my brother Stephen and I ate to our hearts content.

    My Dad was in the Air Force during the Korean War. He was a student at City College but dropped out to serve our country. However the Air Force kept him stateside so my Dad spent lots of time in California and Colorado. When he got out of the Air Force he took a civilian job at Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio where he met and married my Mom. They were married for 40 years.
    My Father was also a smoker and quit ten years before he passed away. Had he lived Dad would have been 88. Daddy taught us honesty, hard work and respect for others. Even if somebody disagreed with you still the American Constitution gives us the right to peacefully protest. As you can imagine Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement shaped my parents lives.

    The Armed Forces were segregated until President Truman signed an order to desegregate. I’m grateful that all Americans have the right to protest, demonstration and hold rallies for Human Rights.

    Looks like the Air Force had everyone strike the same or similar photo pose back in the 1940s and 1950s. Here is a link to my Dad’s Air Force photo.

    https://photos.app.goo.gl/6sDpTJBtYQSMgmMv7

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    1. Yes, I’m sure my dad had a severe case of PTSD, along with all the tropical diseases he ended up with…malaria and such. I still remember when it would affect him…he’d be shaking uncontrollably under the covers in bed, almost out of his mind with delirium…and there was no mental health then. If he’d have said he needed help, they’d have just locked him up in a psych ward.

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  2. It is easier to understand our parents and why they were the way they were once we are adults. It doesn’t change what we had to live through with them, but it can change our perspective and allow us to forgive. I think that is what you have done after reading about your father. He was a handsome man Betty

    Liked by 1 person

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