• ebhowell

Memorial Day: Remembering My Dad

It was 1968 and I wanted a wife.

I spotted her first. She was wearing a green minidress the color of spring grass with her long, dark hair hitting the middle of her back. She didn’t say hello to me. She slid an ashtray down the well-polished bar. She said, "Here," with her sapphire eyes more than with her voice.

I was tan and super-fit. I was wearing my dress blues after attending my last dog and pony show. My 'blues' normally catch the attention of the girls, but she wasn’t interested in my ribbons. Her name was Hazel. She didn’t ask silly questions about Vietnam or even my name. We sat with two tall stools between us as she nursed one scotch with lime until the ice disappeared as I finished three highballs and started in on my fourth. I knew Hazel would be my wife.

The girl in the green dress carefully wrote her name in all caps along with phone number with the waitress’ ballpoint pen on a fresh cocktail napkin below the red logo of the bar. She mentioned that she worked at the hospital up the street where I could find her. I’d never wander the halls of a hospital to look for her; I wouldn’t step into a hospital unless I was rolled into one. I knew that I’d see her, again. Hazel was what I needed to keep my head from spinning.

While I intended to impress my parents by fighting in a war, I returned with a mission to make a girl swoon like that Kissing Sailor did when the greatest war ended, someone who could be on my side for my whole life.

My dad, Skipper, fought in WW II. He never made it to Europe or the Pacific, he proudly served as an officer stateside where he kept track of supplies in a room filled with file cabinets and great stationery. When I was a kid, I heard about his war as if it was the proudest moment of his life. I thought that if I fought for our country, he would love me completely.

* From the chapter titled: "Back" in the Prequel to As Much as I Care to Remember: A Collection of Fictionalized Stories to Tell the Truth about Bipolar

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