I was 18 months old when my father shipped out for Saipan in the Mariana Islands of the South Pacific in WW II.
I don’t remember the ship. But I remember the emotional wake its departure left behind: the memory of my mother crying on a train. The sounds of the clicketty-clack of the wheels rolling down the track and the whistle blowing like a lost child in the night still plunge me into existential loneliness.
Late in her life, I shared with my mother the memory or her crying on the train.
Because I was so young when it happened, she was surprised that I remembered it, She confirmed it in great detail.
Dad felt “a call” to stand with the brave men who were risking their lives in the war against fascism and imperialism. With my mother’s blessing, he resigned his pastorate in Mechanicsburg, PA to enlist as an Army Air Force Chaplain. After six-months in the States, he left my mother and me behind.
While he was preaching on board ship, my mother and I were on a train from Los Angeles, his point of departure, to Boston, the home of my paternal grandparents.
I never saw the photo or thought of him aboard ship until a phone call and subsequent picture arrived by email from a researcher of my father’s unit on Saipan last month. Dad was tending his “flock” on board ship. I never knew. Some things, like wine, take time.
Not everything is as it seems or feels. We do the best we can and pray it’s good enough.