Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Family History

A boat sits off the coast of Japan
in early August 1945, when
Little Boy and Fat man light up the sky.
The ground sits under a mushroom cloud
and 220,000 people die.

Victims to the American villain,
the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
have long been recognized as the
single worst use of weaponry,
the most costly
man on man attack on record,
the greatest cautionary tale of what can happen
when super powers escalate conflict.

A boat sits off the coast of Japan
in early August 1945
holding American soldiers.

I brought up the subject with my dad.
My dad,
The hippie that stayed in the commune to raise a family after everyone else left,
who got married naked,
who argued time and time again with his mother that Muhammad Ali
was a hero and not "uppity."
My progressive Berkeley in the '60s dad looked me
dead in the eye and said,
"I don't regret the dropping of the bombs on Japan."

what? What?

This is beyond stepping outside of the liberal script.
Further out there than ignoring the PC say this or believe that
I can't believe, won't believe these
words are coming from my dad.

He responds simply. clearly.
"My dad was in a boat off the coast of Japan. If they don't drop the bombs, he's in the
first wave of troops on the ground. He probably dies."

A boat sits off the coast of Japan
in early August 1945
holding my grandfather.

His hands must have trembled.
He must have fought to keep them still.
Mustered up whatever courage he could.

He must have known
why they were so close
to hostile land.
Gulped down his fate like
a brick in his throat.

a near certain death mission into Japan.

first waves don't go home.
they leave children behind to grow up alone.

He looked like such a young man in his uniform
and he must have felt like a boy.

I'm so proud of him.
If I were alive during WWII I know I would have served
with the same certainty,
a young Jewish-American fighting the Nazis.

But no matter how brave he may have been,
the news of the war's end
must have been such. sweet. relief.
Like heaven on earth.
Time to go home.
Like water to a desert wanderer
or more like the fulfilled promise of
stable safe ground
to an American in a rocky boat of the coast of Japan.

The gulp in his throat must have finally cleared after months
of breathing like it was a negotiation.

I can't tell my dad anything.
I understand.
What can I say to him as we drive to the supermarket together?
It's his daddy, and I get it.

I crumble under the weight of wondering
how many died so that his dad survived.

Grandpa I love you.
And I don't know I could choose that.
I didn't. He didn't either.
A sequence of events he couldn't control
turned his boat around in 1945 and sent him home.

Then I do the math.
3 years later in 1948, my dad was born.
38 years later, I was born.

What can I say to my dad?
I understand where he's coming from.

Still, there's this truth
that if my grandpa's boat doesn't get turned around
my dad is probably never born.
And neither am I.

A lineage dependent on
being on the lucky side of terrible history.

I love my grandpa and my dad.
And this all feels so American.
This privilege just to be born at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment