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Sent from my LG phonehttp://m.life.com/gallery/48231/image/ugc1125911/inside-lascaux-rare-unpublished
I found my Dad’s diary of the crossing of the Atlantic and his first month in Italy during WWII. It’s not that many pages. I can’t find more and it’s written on notebook paper and was loose in one of the photo albums I was copying but the picture of my Dad in those few pages is a very different picture than the man I knew.
The man of the diary is excited for new experiences. He’s outgoing and caring. He’s curious and intelligent. The man I knew was depressed and withdrawn with flashes of violence. It makes me wonder what changed him. Was it the war itself or living with my manipulative mom or having his dreams die? Maybe not the war itself since this diary is dated November 30, 1945 and VE day was in May. He talked about how poor the people were in Naples and how much better they were in the farmland around Naples.
He talks about having grandkids so he can tell them about going through the straits of Gibralter and being able to see Africa and Europe at the same time. He talks about the tall ship they passed crossing the Atlantic with the Swedish flag. He complains about the “Reading material on this tub is all over 2 months old,” so he is reading Robert Benchley which explains why he was tickled when I got hooked on James Thurber and Robert Benchley in Junior Hi. He talks about exploring Italy and about how wonderful visiting Pompeii was and seeing the volcano. He talks about having to carry a carbine to guard “Jerry” POWs because they couldn’t get a Jeep to go their assignment so they got a ride to it doing guard duty. I got the feeling that he didn’t like guns and carrying it bothered him. He talks about seeing the kids going to school and how it made him homesick. (He became and elementary school teacher after graduating from UCLA after the war.)
He went to Red Cross dances and stank at ping pong. On New Year’s Eve he missed going to church camp with his friends and being alone that night.
When I was a kid he showed me some of the pictures but Mom made him stop after he showed me the pictures of the Folie Bergere in Paris and the sidewalk toilet pictures. I wished she hadn’t because all he would say after that was his job was dumping confiscated guns in Naples harbour.
He didn’t show me the picture I found of a Nazi being hung, thank heavens. I wonder if being married to my mom changed him. The man mom wanted to marry, Reg, was shot down in the war so mom married dad. The pictures of camp he posted show a man that seems to have dated all the women that became my friend’s moms growing up and those pictures are from before he went to war. Pretty funny to see all these people you knew as “old” and know that the girls dated my dad at some point before they married their husbands. Dad married mom in 1952 way after most of his friends married and I wonder if he knew about Reg when he married mom. I can remember when I was little she used to get mean digs in when they fought but she stopped that around the time she went back to work when Alison was little. She used to get mad and storm out of the house to her car when I was really little and Cam and I would be left with dad. She wouldn’t come back for hours. She didn’t like being a poor teacher’s wife. She’d come from a family with money and she didn’t manage money all that well. She had credit when they got married and was also an elementary school teacher and quit when I was born and never let dad forget it when they fought. I know it depressed him.
We only saw flashes of him when he took Cam and I to museums and botanical gardens or the zoo and he’d get really excited to show us new things and to make us curious human beings. I wonder what he would have been like if some one had loved him for who he was and not being with him because she couldn’t have what she wanted.
I know he had already been through some hard times before the war. He told me about being a hobo and riding the rails and making me swear that I wouldn’t tell my mom. At some point he was a telegrapher for the railroad because he had a railroad watch and a railroad SS number which used to cause him no end of trouble because it started with 000 and he show it and people in banks and stuff would tell him it didn’t exist and he’d have to explain that railroad workers got the first SS numbers. He ran away to Los Angeles to be with his Aunt and lived with her and he became her heir. He must have been odd man out in his family in IL because he is the only one of his generation to go to college even though his dad had been an engineer and his grandfather a doctor. I got the feeling that his grandmother who raised him was glad to get rid of him and didn’t like him much. He broke his wrist as a kid and she refused to get him treatment and he never did get full range of motion. He had taken the pony cart out and the pony had run away with him and he wrecked the cart.
I wish I could have known him before life got the better of him.