“Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy …”
Franklin D. Roosevelt, December 8, 1941 in a speech to congress asking for a declaration of war.
This day was a defining day in the lives of my parents. For my father, 1941 was his last year in high school and my mother would soon have her driver’s license. For both their childhood world of the depression era erupted into a violent world war that would define a generation. Both could tell you exactly where they were on that day and both could tell you of the sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs as war was now thrust upon them.
My father loved to tell his little story of irony every year about this time. He was a senior in high school at the time and on Friday, December 6, father had given a speech in school. It was titled, “Why the Japanese Won’t Attack America.” Father told us that it was filled with logic, facts, and solid arguments. He received an ‘A’ for the speech and research paper.
He was, of course, wrong, but neither his teachers nor his classmates ever mentioned the speech again. One year after that speech the local draft board finally got around to sending him a draft notice, and by January 1943 my 18 year-old father was on a troop train heading for basic training and service in the pacific.
My mother would tell stories of 1942 – stories of boys she knew leaving for the front lines. Stories of listening to the war reports. Stories of volunteering at the hospital. Stories of how she learned to drive her father’s flatbed trucks because his building contracting business was having a difficult time finding men to hire. There’s was the story of grandmother saving rationed gas by turning the engine off and coasting down mountain roads in those big construction trucks.
The date brings many stories to mind – some heroic and some tragic.
It’s an important date in my family’s history and in one of those odd twists of life, it’s an important date in my personal story. It was on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 – just three years ago – that I went to the hospital for a routine biopsy. A procedure that my doctor told me only had a 20% chance of discovering any cancer.
He was wrong – perhaps not as wrong as my father was, but the pathology report clearly showed cancer and it sent me down a path I didn’t wish to follow.
The diagnosis was a life changing event for me and has colored my life since, but it was nowhere near as dramatic as the changes that my parents went through 70 years before in 1941. The only commonality between my December 7th story and my father’s is that it sent us both down paths we didn’t wish to go.
and we both came out alive to tell the story.
Till next week,