It was the only story Dad told us about the missions he flew when he was stationed on the USS Monterey , an aircraft carrier, during WWII.
Oh boy did we have fun, Dad would say. We’d go out on a mission, and then head back to the ship. We flew so low, we could feel the spray of the water from below us. We’d fly just this high over the waves! He’d hold his hand out at the exact height of my head. No matter how tall I got, that’s just how far above the waves Dad, Smokey (their navigator and Dad’s best wartime buddy) and their pilot flew. Not high above them at all.
The Japs, he’d say (before there was such a thing as PC), they couldn’t do it. They couldn’t maneuver over the waves. We could, and we lost them that way every time. They never managed to hit us, and they couldn’t follow us back to the ship.
And we had a blast. Cheating death, every day.
Every time, I asked the same question:
“Dad, weren’t you scared?”
You see, I’m a total coward, I fear pain and injury. The idea of anybody enjoying a near-death experience, riding 2-5 feet above the waves of the Pacific Ocean, with enemy planes shooting at them, well, it always seemed unbelievable to me.
When you’re number is up, it’s up, Dad would say, shrugging his shoulders, every time. Nobody gets out alive!
That was Dad’s philosophy, learned in the ready room of the USS Monterey.
That was where we hung out when we were off duty — the Ready Room. That’s also where the duty roster when up — where we’d find out when we were flying out to meet the Japs. Each squadron had a number. When you’re number was up on the board, you went out. And when your number was up, you never knew if you would make it back to the ship.
We understood that “when your number was up” meant a bit more than a flight for many of Dad’s fellow service men.
I’m not sure if Dad’s philosophy became my own through osmosis or because I thought about it and realized he was right. Maybe a little bit of both. But I more or less agree with Dad. When your number is up, it’s up. And worrying about it, well, to quote Dad, won’t make a lick of difference.
I think of this as a gift from my Dad. One that has lasted long past Dad’s own expiration date.
There is no point in worrying about dying. It’s gonna happen to all of us.
What’s important is how we live.
We need to remember who we are, recall the immigrant roots of our country, and how it was immigrants — my ancestors and likely yours — who made America what it is.
We need to remember that to our shame, we closed our borders to Jewish refugees in the 1930s and 1940s. Remember what happened to them?
We need to thumb our collective noses at the terrorists, and just not give in to the terror.
This cartoon, on the cover of Charlie Hebdo, the recipient of France’s previous horrible terror attack thumbs its nose at the terrorists.
Charlie Hebdo cover: They have weapons. Fuck them. We have champagne.
Source: Huffington Post.
Let’s all get our thumbs into position. Oh and get our hearts into the “open” position. Because that is who we are as people.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”