It wasn't a special occasion, just an ordinary summer afternoon, when Dad came knocking on my door. My immediate reaction was concern something had happened to mom, as he showed up announced.
He had a tight grip on a plastic bag and said he had something to give to me. That’s when I really started to worry something must be terribly wrong with him. At this particular point in my parents’ lives, they were both healthy, so this was catching me off guard.
My relationship with Dad had been rocky, to say the least, although the older I got the more I understood who he was, and he seemed to be pursuing the father-daughter connection which had been abandoned since my rebellious teenage years.
So I asked him to come in and sit down. With the bag in hand he began to tell me he was fearful he was beginning to lose his memory. With my siblings living out of town he felt the need to tell me about his most precious belongings, all within the confines of that bag, so I might remember for him, as he had come to the realization he was developing dementia.
One by one he took out the various items, all from his days as a pilot in World War II. Flight wings and pens he wore on his uniform, medals, patches from his jacket and a small Bible.
The Bible was a bit of a surprise, as we had never talked about religion in our home, nor had we gone to church. I guess I always assumed my parents believed in God, but not until I found my own faith had I worried whether or not they believed.
This Bible, small enough to fit in the front pocket of his uniform, was inspiration during troubled times, he said as he gently rubbed the gold plated cover. It not only served as comforting words during battle, but also acted as a shield across his heart during times of gunfire.
That day was a turning point in both of our lives. Dad allowed me into his world, of not only the past, but the future, while I let go of the years of feeling as though we couldn't communicate past just polite hellos and goodbyes. We had finally figured out our roles, with each other.
Many conversations took place after that, mostly about his days in the military which was awesome as I slowly got to know the man behind the name of "Dad." His true self and grit came through with each story he would share with me.
When the dementia eventually took away his ability to remember details about his days in the military, I could complete the story with the names of those he would forever be attached to as they put their lives on the line for our freedom.
Lucky for me, Dad made it home from the war to build a life through hard work, perseverance, strength and loyalty to his country and his family. His memories of the military were the last to vanish and he held onto them as long as he could.
Even though Dad had all he needed in life, I felt the one thing most important to him, was someone was going to be his keeper of military memories.
Every day should be Veteran’s Day and we all should strive to be their memory keepers.
-- Sandy Turner lives in Independence. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org