My favorite picture of my father was taken just after he entered the army in 1943. He was 18 years old, good looking, and oh so young just like so many of his generation. Next to this picture, my wife has placed his Purple Heart which he earned at the battle of the Bulge in a shelling in the Ardennes forest. Dad hit Normandy on D-day plus 6 with the 251st Artillery Division. He found through to the end of the war. He was truly one of the Greatest Generation.
He seldom talked about his war experiences. He never talked about his Purple Heart and when I first found it, he passed it off with “I was luckier than a lot of guys.” Recently, I learned of the many unit citations his group received. He was silent on all this. I do know that his best friend died the same night he was injured which is why I think he never talked about this.
Dad returned home to build a life after the war. When he could not break into the meat packers union in Cleveland, he packed up his young family and moved to Dallas. Here he taught himself to be a machinist eventually becoming a Master Machinist with Texas Instruments. After I entered the ministry, he admitted to me that he had hoped that I would become an engineer. He always let me know, however, how proud he was of me.
For many of my early years, he worked two jobs. I seldom spent time with him. Of course, this was before quality time and bonding. Truth is we really never connected until I was over 40. The older we both became, the better our relationship.
My dad never really wanted much to do with the Church even when my mother and I became quite active in the Episcopal Church. This was probably a reaction against the hell-fire and brimstone religion of his Southern Baptism mother. When our Rector found out that dad was a machinist, he asked dad to help him with the restoration of a pipe organ. They spend hours together in the evenings working on it. One day, to our amazement, dad announced he was going to church because he was going to be confirmed. He never missed a Sunday after that until illness prevented it. I found out recently that he often double dipped on Sundays taking communion from one of our LEMS at the Cathedral and then getting it from the Disciples of Christ folks at the nursing home.
My dad was, according to everyone including most recently his nursing home aids, “a good man who never complained.” He would have quite literally given someone the shirt off his back. He taught me to never regard someone’s income or race, and to be fair to all. He often ended conversations with “don’t worry about your mom and me, we will be alright.”
My dad never hired anyone to work in our home. He did everything and taught me to do so too. From him, I learned the dignity of hard work. It seemed every weekend as I child, I watched him doing repairs on something or improving our home.
Then when I turned 12, he took up golf. He took me with him, and this became the one really bonding experience between us. The last few years, our visits at the nursing home were punctuated by watching some tournament together. “Great shot,” he would often say. Last Christmas, a visiting church group asked “Mr. Glenn” what he would like. He asked for a new pair of golf shoes and to everyone’s amazement, they brought him a pair. He wore them regularly while being pushed around in his wheelchair.
After an emergency trip to Baylor Hospital last month, his doctor told me that he simply could not drink or eat enough to sustain himself any further. Reluctantly, we discontinued any further treatment, returned him to the nursing home to be close to mom, and we engaged hospice. While I had long expected this to come, I wept. My mom has no short-term memory and serious dementia. She does recognize “her honey” and he always smiled when she came into his room. They had a long love affair that lasted 67 years.
On November 6th, my dad passed from this world. I will miss him, but I am not worried, as he often told me, he will be alright.