MY FATHER’S DAUGHTER

Editor’s note: Following is a page from my spiritual journal.

When my father returned from WWII, I was confused.

Conceived at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma in 1943, I was a pre baby-boomer. The Army drafted my father for a second time in 1942.

Yes, a second time. He had been drafted, trained then sent home, labeled “too old” for the Army at 32. A few months later, Daddy and Mother were married. The date was November 27, 1941 – just days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Suddenly the Army decided Daddy wasn’t too old to serve and recalled him. Before long, Mother and Daddy lived in married housing near Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Daddy wasn’t shipped out right away. Since he was already trained, he worked with new draftees.

In late summer of 1943, the Army shipped Daddy overseas. Mother drove their battered Buick back to Goshen, Indiana where they had lived before Daddy was re-drafted. Seven months later during a February 19 snowstorm, Mother walked to the hospital in Goshen. The next morning, I greeted the world.

Fighting in WWII’s Pacific Theater, Daddy never saw me until late 1946. When he first returned to The States, he was quarantined in an Army hospital on the East Coast.

During most of Daddy’s time away, Mother and I lived in a rented Goshen house with Auntie Alma and other “war wives.” When most soldiers returned in 1945, Auntie married her GI, Uncle George. They bought a house in a small town near Goshen, and Mother and I moved in with them.

In late summer of 1946, Mother picked up Daddy at Elkhart, Indiana’s train station. Hugging him, she felt his ribs. Thirty pounds lighter his uniform was loose.

Mother drove Daddy about 10 miles to Auntie Alma’s house. Coffee perked in Auntie’s kitchen. She set cookies on fancy plates and filled cups for my uncles, aunts, grammas and grampas. Waiting, everyone nibbled as they talked quietly.

Auntie had dressed me in a new dress. When no one watched, I stole a cookie and munched it out of sight in the bedroom.

Chewing, I heard everyone cheer. I ran into the kitchen and peered into the living room. Gramma Elizabeth was hugging a strange man. Auntie was sniffling and patting her eyes.

Mother stood beside the man who wore tan pants and coat. In a moment of quiet, she touched his arm and said, “Frank, I want you to meet your daughter, Frances.”

Everyone stood back and a path opened to me.

Mother looked at me and gestured to the stranger. “Frances, this is your daddy.”

No one said anything.

The man said, “Hello Frances.”

I looked at the tall man and ran to the nearby desk where an 8”x10” framed color picture of my soldier father stood. Shaking my head, I pointed to the photograph. “No! This is Daddy!”

Private (later Captain) Frank Ridenoure

Private (later Captain) Frank Ridenoure

Like fizz from a shaken Coke bottle, laughter erupted around the room. In terms of a father-daughter relationship, Daddy and I had a ways to go.

Over the years, most people said I looked like Mother, a redhead, with lots of large freckles. However, I was a childhood blonde who tanned so my folks explained, “She has her father’s skin.”

If I fell off my bike and skinned my knee, Daddy shook his head at the scrape and quipped, “There you are, beating up my skin again!”

Later, I developed more and more like my father. He sneezed at perfumes and

my allergies were serious enough to warrant allergy shots.

In his later years, Daddy carried green rolls of Tums in his pocket, often thumbing off a chalky tablet to

chew. In my thirties, my stomach distress began. Tums weren’t enough for me. I progressed to prescription medications.

Daddy also had debilitating arthritis, which I thought I had side-stepped through diet and exercise. However, sitting in the chilly Osteo-specialist’s office recently, the slender white- coated doctor pointed to an MRI of my left knee on a computer screen. After indicating white spots of “calcification,” he went on. “You have a small meniscus tear.” He added, “But there’s no flap. It’s not serious.”

I blinked. Not serious? I limp, ache and barely sleep!

Suddenly, I recalled Daddy at my age. Arthritis had swelled his hands and knees. He walked with two canes. I have Daddy’s knees, too.

There’s a difference, though. I have complained. Daddy never did. Over the after-war years, only physical evidence said Daddy was sick. He never spoke of TB, but Doc Turner made him stay home, and came to the house to give him shots.

After I was nine-years-old, I helped with family washing. Greenish-yellow underarm rings on Daddy’s white t-shirts said he suffered another bout of “jungle fever.”

In his later years, frequent soft rattling of aspirin he tipped from a large plastic bottle and later thin-blood, purple and blue bruises silently testified to his arthritis pain.

I would do well to be more like my soldier father. Perhaps I can see myself as a “veteran of life’s wars.” Daddy showed me how to soldier on.

God, help me be my father’s daughter in this, too.

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>