Last week we accomplished two bucket lists.
Tip’s dad is 98. He is a WWII Marine who served in the Pacific.
My mother-in-law passed with Covid in December, and dad has been thinking about his bucket list. One item that has been lingering, is a trip to Fredericksburg to visit the National Museum of the Pacific War. With help from his son in law we began working to make it happen.
Travel is no longer easy for dad. We understood the 41/2-hour drive from DFW to Fredricksburg would be exhausting and walking though the museum would be impossible without a strategy.
We arrived early afternoon, with a wheelchair for dad. He didn’t think he needed one, but we insisted this would allow him to see more of the museum. One thing we learned during our time in New York City is that museum walking can be utterly exhausting. We have not figured out why it is so tiring, perhaps slow walking takes more energy than a brisk walk. I regress.
We arrived early and the two of us decided to take in some sightseeing in the town of Fredricksburg.
Fredricksburg is a small German town in Texas Hill Country. Settled in 1846 by 126 settlers, the town was laid out like the German villages along the Rhine. The influence is still very visible, and it is a fine place to find good German food.
A few hours later Dad arrived with his daughter and son in law. The 5 of us rented a vacation home that would be comfortable for dad and a good place for the 5 of us to have good quality time together.
After some grocery shopping, Karla and I prepared dinner while the boys anticipated tomorrow’s visit to the museum. Dad retold stories of the war and Tip threw in some from Vietnam.
War is never pretty, and men (or women) who have the honor, and duty to serve are never the same. Pride of accomplishment carefully wraps around the ugliness of war, and heartache that never really leaves them. Most of it is never again mentioned.
The next morning dad was up early drinking coffee with us on the porch as we sat in rockers and enjoyed the cool morning shade. These are moments that etch themselves into cherished memories.
The museum was very well presented, walking through the history leading up to the war on both coasts, the roles of various countries, decisions that were made, and the victories and failures that were felt on all sides.
Memorabilia displays were beautifully crafted and included both large and small items. A complete Japanese midget submarine which ran aground during the Pearl Harbor attack, to pocket items of Marines and soldiers sent home to loved ones. It was a day of reflection and a day to remind us of the importance of peace, diplomacy, and mutual respect.
As the day ended, Dad was weary and we were unable to complete the outside exhibits which include a Japanese garden of peace presented to the US by Japan in 1976, symbol of our nations’ complicated friendship and as a tribute to Japanese admiral Heihachiro Togo.
We headed back to the rental house for another meal together. After dinner, a fireside chat in the rockers with stories of other times together. It was all good.
As we departed, we all considered ourselves very blessed to have these days with dad, and with each other.
This time together reminded us just how important it is to share life with our families.
It reminded us that our veterans often present a strong face to the world, but inside they carry the pain of war for the remainder of their life.
And it reminded us how good it feels to get out and see new things with people we enjoy. Go do something you have been wanting to do.
Oh, I mentioned two bucket lists were accomplished. Special time with dad…Check.