Thursday, November 11, 2010

Generations of Courage

Courage is not the absence of fear. It's the ability to complete one's mission in the face of fear.This is not the definition I find in Webster's. But it's the definition I have always been taught.

My father and his father before him. My mother's father. My brother. They know what courage means.

World War II. Vietnam. Iraq.

When the time came, they served their country as their country asked them to. Knowing the risks. Seeing the horrific results of those risks. Days. Months. Years. They dutifully served so that I might live free.

I grew up knowing my daddy was a soldier in a time when men were drafted, forced into service, and then treated poorly when they returned home. Because of that, daddy didn't speak much about his stint in the military. Every once in awhile, though, I guess he would need to remember, so he would bring out stacks of black and white photos of Vietnam and rattle off story after story.

On the rare occasion, he would fire up the slide projector, and I would watch frame after frame appear on the living room's white wall as he narrated. I saw napalm-cleared land, forests of trees, airplanes, and a photo of a cocky young man holding a huge machine gun. It was a glimpse into another world miles away, at another fatigue-clad man with a dark brown moustache who didn't look like the daddy I knew.

As I looked at the photos, I knew my daddy was courageous. His job was to fly in the planes and take aerial photographs so American forces would know where the enemy was located. As you can imagine, a plane makes a pretty good target.

Yet, God kept him safe and returned him home to meet my mother. And to become my father.

Today, the Audubon Nature Institute offered free passes to all veterans and their guests. So, what better way to spend Veterans Day than with the veteran I love best.

The aquarium, the insectarium, and the zoo--my parents, my children, and I toured them all.

At the end of our day, my parents rested with the twins and a cup of Haagen Dazs while I took Wyatt to visit the new dinosaur exhibit at the zoo. As we walked through the door, life sized animatronic dinosaurs lept off the pages of the books we've been reading this past year, literally roaring to life...

Wyatt was instantly terrified and turned around to head back through the door that had (uh oh) closed behind him. I hurriedly touched one to show him it was ok.

"No, mommy! It's going to eat you!!!!"

Eventually, I convinced him they were plastic, not real. Yet, the fear still remained. It was obvious he expected them to come to life (for real) at any second and devour us both for their next meal. He didn't even want to snuggle close enough to any of them so that I could fit him + the dinosaur in the camera's frame.

But, he really, really, really wanted to "pet" one of his favorites--a triceratops. So, I stood back and watched as he sidled closer, closer, stretching out that hand as far as it would go, touching, then yanking it back and celebrating his bravery.
In the face of fear--courage. Just like his grand daddy.

(Top Photo: Grand daddy and Wyatt eating beignets.)

No comments:

Post a Comment