You knew I didn’t want you to go, but you left anyway. In my head I said, Please don’t go, but all that came out of my mouth was ‘bye. You sailed away on the wide blue sea, leaving me and Mom alone to care for each other and wonder where you were and what you were doing.
Roosevelt said it was important to save democracy, but I wanted someone to save me.
Your first letter said you were training to invade Europe. Why? What’s Europe got to do with us? Their stupid wars aren’t our business. Why were you there, and not with me?
Your second letter arrived late. You were already in France when your letter said you were leaving. We knew you were already there because it was in the newspapers. How were you going to rescue Europe? Didn’t you care I was dying without you?
The day the telegram arrived I was playing in the backyard. I heard Momma scream and I ran into the house to save her. An eight-year-old running in to save her momma. That should have been your job. She trembled. She held on to me for dear life.
I said, Momma, what’s wrong? But she just burbled and didn’t make sense. It was all your fault.
Then Grandma came and Momma stayed in bed. Sometimes I went to see her but I wasn’t allowed to talk about you. Grandma said you were a hero. Why? Because your friends were more important than me? You could have saved me from a minefield. You wouldn’t have got shot. You could have lifted me out of of my fears and carried me to bed and read to me about Rumpelstiltskin. And you didn’t. I never saw you again. You destroyed Momma. You didn’t care about either of us.
Now my son wants to join the army. You never met my son. He looks like you in the photo I have where you’re standing next to your truck with a look-at-the-big-truck-I-drive smile on your face. It’s the only photo I have of you. You were so handsome.
You never met my husband either. You never came to Momma’s funeral. You were a hero, but you were never much good as a father.
Tell Jack not to join the army, please. He can’t leave me. My husband says it will be good for him. It’s his duty. We have to protect democracy. That’s what you protected, isn’t it. Do you know what democracy did for Momma? It put her in a hospital and fed her on Thorazine. That was worth protecting, wasn’t it?
When Momma was lying in bed upstairs, Grandma used to sit by the fire and tears would slide down her cheek and she would try to stifle a sob. I felt so guilty. Did you think about us when you rescued your friend and got yourself shot? Maybe if I’d stopped you leaving. Maybe if I’d thrown my arms around your neck and clung onto you and cried, Daddy, please don’t go, please don’t go. Maybe you’d have stayed and protected us, and Momma wouldn’t have gone mad, and Grandma wouldn’t have had to look after me when she was too old to manage by herself, and I wouldn’t be terrified of losing my son. But I didn’t. I held Momma’s hand and you kissed my cheek and said, Bye precious, and I said, Bye Daddy.
So it’s all my fault. I should have stopped you and I didn’t. I didn’t even try.
No one wanted the medal, we all wanted you. I don’t want my son to be as stupid as you. I want him to be a husband and a father. I don’t want him to be a dead hero. Please do one thing for me. Stop my son from joining the army.
The daughter you forgot,