Tuesday, November 11, 2014

VETERANS DAY REPOST: In Honor of Lieutenant Colonel "Wild Bill" [USAF]

originally posted 3 July 2012


Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
— John Gillespie Magee, Jr

[reposted from July 3, 2012]

My father died last night, apparently, and all I can think of, at the moment is the first line of Camus' L'Etranger, one of his greatest, but beyond absurd in my situation.  And so, of course.

I cannot get hold of an actual obituary but I assume that my blood relatives wouldn't lie to me about a thing like that.  But I've been wrong before, and it's a crazy bunch.

So -- for him, the pilot, I offer "High Flight," which I believe was posted here just recently, for some eerie reason.

What's eerier?  A few nights back, I dreamt that the man gave me his watch.  It was not a Rolex.  Not even a Timex.  Just bulky and silver, with lots of do-dads on it.  That was it.  The extent of my dream profundity.

I had to go to the Infectious Disease doc's place in spite of the colonel's death, and it turned out my temp was a bit over 101 and that my blood work from last week sucked.  They drew blood cultures, stared at my staring eyes, and sent me home.  I'm screwed -- normally, I don't answer the phone.  Now, because of the colonel and the ensuing phone-yappers, I will also have to deal with the medicos who love to telecommunicate.  In short, the infection seems to be beating the crap out of the antibiotic.  "The one antibiotic we have left," El Infectious Disease Doodaloo reminded me.  He's a sweet guy.  One day, I'd like to sit out at a café, and I know the one I want, very Tuileries, very Café Renard, and have a beer with him.

One night, my father picked me up from a late baby-sitting job. I was in high school.  We lived sort of out in the boonies, on a lake, and he was an avid amateur astronomer.  There was a meteor shower.

We set up lawn chairs and watched the shooting stars.

When men walked on the moon, he and my brother-unit Grader Boob successfully convinced me that I could see the men through our backyard telescope.  They had me giving excited descriptions of all their lunar activity.  Have we discussed my gullibility much here on the blog?

I hope for him -- the after-death is flying, flying, flying... occasionally flipping his plane to smoothly bisect the space between silos and chimneys... a claim of his I always believed, mostly because I saw some other Fly Boys laugh and nod, ascots never askew.  Fighter pilots are grace-blessed nuts.

My thoughts are with his beloved wife, Margaret, his daughter Kathryn, and her son, his grandson, Brian. His sister Nancy, too, and brother Jim. Mostly, though, I am thinking of Tumbleweed and Grader Boob, his Good Sons.  

He's to be buried, I guess, tomorrow, Sunday, at 3 PM, with military honors.  I  guess that means an honor guard, a presented flag, salutes.  Were I there, I'd raise a scotch, and remember stars like bullets, his caring for his own aging mother and father, his love for a certain cock-a-poo, and the bevy of air evac nursing personnel who loved to scream out "Heyyyy, Wild Bill," whenever they scooted by in a jeep.  He flew many a mission, low over Cambodia, no lights, to rescue the wounded and bring them to Clark for medical treatment.  He also dropped a lot of bombs, and deforested with Agent Orange.  He lost, I was told, two barracks of men in a bizarrely successful nighttime shelling at Phan Rang.  He liked the album Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel.

But then, too, he adored Herb Alpert.

1 comment:

  1. I love Sweet Baby James. Your tags "Labels: the colonel died, the infection did not" - sure wish that was the other way around. I am very sorry about your father.


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