Archives For Chuck

My dad always respected people in the service, especially those who “saw action.” This probably started from a guy named Grandpa Mallach, a Civil War vet in my dad’s hometown. He showed my dad how to whittle a whistle from a willow tree branch, the kind soldiers used in Civil War battles to signal to each other. When Grandpa Mallach died, the ground was so cold they had to blast dynamite to create a grave. The town turned out to watch a horse-drawn carriage carry his casket to the cemetery. My dad’s dad Carl was in World War I, but I don’t think he saw any action or went overseas. But I do recall Carl being a uniformed military man. And, my dad became an Eagle Boy Scout.

So when World War II rolled around, it seems as though some strong seeds towards the military had been planted.

Like most guys, my dad tried to enlist. He was greatly disappointed in failing the eye exam, as he was legally blind without his glasses. But he wasn’t ready to let a little rule keep him out of “the shooting war.” So he reinlisted, cheated on the eye exam, and became a soldier in the Army.

He was in battle for a little over 30 days. Nasty watching-guys-die-before-your-very-eyes kind of battle. Killing other guys kind of battle. Watching guys get hit with mortar rounds. Feeling bullets buzzing by your ears. Fishing dogtags out of foxholes. Watching Americans die from friendly fire. Watching your friends running scared to escape, and right into enemy fire. All in the freezing cold.

He got captured by the Germans, and spent about 6 months in 3 different prisoner of war camps. He said this was worse than combat. It was a different kind of battle. I think combat was more a physical battle, and being a POW was a more mental battle.

Between combat and camps, it’s amazing he came back on one piece, literally and figuratively. The fact that he came back, and was happily married to the same woman til the day he died, and raised five great kids makes the feat even greater. He had a good professional career, had hobbies and friends and golf and fun. But it wasn’t without challenges. Supporting five kids is a lot of work. But he did so with grace and aplomb, with goodness in his heart, in a positive, levelheaded way. To me, this was all rather remarkable.

Most remarkable of all though, is something that I’ve guessed: that he did all this despite living with the war every day. I really can’t see how anyone could experience what he did, and not think about it every day. That’d make 57 years of living with war in his head and heart, and he never really let it show. I can’t imagine.

My assumption is that anyone who has seen significant battle has lived with the memory every day. Those people deserve our respect, today, and every day.

My Dad was born in 1924, about 498 years before social media spaces were invented. I thought about him quite a bit this year around Thanksgiving, as that holiday was always big deal for him, and our family. Somewhere over the last couple of days, a social media light bulb went off in my head.

He loved Thanksgiving for a couple of reasons. One, because he loved being alive, and was very thankful for that. (I guess fighting through a horrid existence in the Army in WWII, and surviving a greater horrid existence as a prisoner of war will do that to a guy.) Two, he was thankful for his loving wife and family of five children. Moreover, getting us together as young adults, and with growing families of our own was no small feat. He said a prayer before every Thanksgiving meal, and it ended with “…and we’re all together.” He just wanted us all to be together for a day, laughing, eating, telling stories and having some fun. Together.

So here’s the cheap a-ha realization/analogy about my Dad’s sentimental big day.

Participating in social media is like being a Wallman on Thanksgiving: it’s about being all together. We share. Talk. Laugh. Tell stories. Debate. Engage. And eat pie.

When we Wallmans are not together, we’re living the life that we talk about when we come back together. When we social citizens are not together online, we’re living the life that we talk about when we come back together. We share. Talk. Laugh. Tell stories. Debate. Engage. If only we could eat pie online.

My dad was brilliant at swearing angrily without using the g0-to curse words. He could make “whale dung!” feel worse than any expletive. We kids would quake when hearing that stuff, not thinking for a minute that he was making up his own vocabulary. It took until I was about 16 before I realized all dads didn’t talk this way.

What’s the lesson? There are more creative, more memorable ways to do almost anything. Even swearing.

Official writing freak

November 22, 2009 — 1 Comment

My dad really liked writing. He was an official writing freak. He wrote about his experiences fighting Nazis, and being a prisoner of war. He wrote a few non-fiction history books after retirement. He was always a word guy, and invented a good number of them along the way. He could tell a good story. He was funny and witty. But it wasn’t until he had written a few books that it seemed like he was officially an official writing freak.

Here in the 2000’s, one measure of being an officially official word freak is by blogging. I have a feeling that if my dad were in my shoes, he’d be sharing his writing and ideas online as well.

CJW, 1944

So here’s the christening of my Idea Bucket. A place for writing and ideas and creativity. Hope you enjoy.