I discovered a piece of my Dad’s unspoken story through a man who never knew him. The man, quarantined to his wheelchair, sat next to my desk at work and told me what Vietnam did to a man. I sat rapt, at he told me how, like many soldiers, he had to learn how to talk about it.
The stories coated in blood don’t come easily; they come in nightmares. They come in a sound or random gesture that morphs the mind’s eye into a battlefield all over again. This can produce all kinds of reactions which no one really understands unless they’ve walked the same dark mine fields.
With his yellow lab curled at his feet, he told me how someone taught him to expel some of the darkness through telling his story.
The three step snake. I literally pulled around my desk and sat forward. The three step snake was maybe the only thing I remember my Dad mentioning about Vietnam. “By the time you took the third step, you were dead,” said the man in the wheelchair and the memory of my Dad.
But nestled within horror, there was the honor. The lifted shoulders, the dignity, knowing that despite what others thought of that war, or whether or not a soldier volunteered or was drafted, the man and my dad both knew they could go in and lay down their lives for something bigger than themselves. They didn’t run—they stepped forward into the unknown.
I have a Russian sage in my front yard. It grows wildly huge, and the first season we lived in the house new sprouts of sage poked through the ground all over the front portion of the yard. Not wanting more bushes to take over the yard, I pulled, I hacked and cursed until I realized they were all connected to the same plant. I couldn’t see it at first because the branches were buried so deeply in the ground. This was the man in front of me. This was my Dad.
Although they were separated from each other through the dimension of heaven and earth, their stories live on just like their flesh and blood children. Part of my Dad’s story came to me despite his silence.
There’s something vitally important with our stories—something we can’t see in the physical realm, but something eternal. When people say to spill your heart out for your loved ones before you lose them, we all nod and agree, but if some things don’t get said, it’s okay. If there’s a story that needs to live on, God can extend it to you in His own boundless way.