This week, I had the sublimely intriguing task of transcribing a short journal of my father's. In 1952, he was a 28-year-old veteran, teaching English at a boys' boarding school in Connecticut. A devout Roman Catholic, father of three then (by 1964, there were seven of us), he took his responsibility as a schoolmaster very seriously musing about his duties to mold the young minds of the teenagers in his care. At the same time, he was equally committed to his wife, kids, colleagues, parents and brother. And he worked hard at understanding what his God and church asked of him.
Ten years earlier, 69 days after his 18th birthday, he enlisted. An eager patriot, he was proud and honored to serve his country, first in the Army's Air Force, and later as a young lieutenant in Germany. Seven years prior to these diary entries, the US had dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And, now, in 1952, he was troubled by his government's test of the H-bomb in the island of Eniwetok, the accusations of Communism by Senator Joe McCarthy and the "police action" currently going on in Korea.
This humble young schoolmaster, a mere 10 years older than his students, struggled with the cynicism of these boys who felt no connection to the Korean conflict and no desire to volunteer. They were, it seemed, so different from him, their attention turned to the hopes and dreams of post-war America and a burgeoning consumer society. Nevertheless, his personal desire to help and to understand his charges, as well as his family and community, rang clearly and earnestly in his words.
Times are different now, I think. But, then, "Are they?" I wonder. My father, who died young, has been gone for over 30 years. I wonder what he'd think about what's happening now in this country and government. He may not have succeeded in raising us all in his church, but he certainly taught us the importance of love of your fellow man, service to family and community. So, I think I can make an educated guess at his answer.
This brief glimpse into the musings of a young man who I eventually came to know as my father is like reading my genome.