More than once I have described writing Dad’s story as a journey. As with any journey, there can be those moments when one sails effortlessly across the stillest of lakes and those days when the ascent of the steepest hill seems too great to conquer. That is the process of writing at its very heart and it is both a joy and a curse.
Through writing this book I have indeed come to know my father as a man as much as a Dad. For me, the book has revealed that his greatest complexity was his simple, straightforward outlook in the chaos that often surrounded him. In interviews with combat veterans I heard him described as “quiet”, “shy”, “nonchalant”, “unflappable” and as “never taking a backward step”.
There were so many proud moments of discovery, but there were difficult ones too. The confronting nature of the brutality of war and the discovery of horrific events that his comrades had held onto for half a century and now they shared them with me. These words were at times difficult to find, but they weren’t the worst of times.
Revisiting my father’s short, sharp battle with cancer has at times taken me to a place I did not want to revisit. Deeply buried details had to be revived to do his story justice and paint possibly his greatest act of bravery against a far superior enemy. Recalling how he suffered in silence and feared more for our future than his own mortality impacts me even more now that I am a father. And his final hours. The darkness. The breathing. The final fight and then the silence and then end of his pain.
At times I have had to walk away, my thoughts swirling and my emotions endeavouring to break the surface. In time, order returns, but after 25 years the pain is still very real and that is something that I had not foreseen. Throughout this manuscript I have recounted Dad’s incredible journey, but only now do I realise that in doing so I have revisited aspects of my own. Writing should be genuine and about passion. I just never thought that such a simple act could hurt so much.
Rest in Peace, Dad.