Most of what I've written about my father has been unhappy snapshots based on memories I've inherited or been given. He tried to kill my mother once. He drank to excess and when he did, he became (according to my cousin who saw more than I did) quiet, sometimes angry, depressed or sullen. According to others, he took pills -- many of them, and they were the cause of his death at 35.
Today is Memorial Day. My father served in WWII. This is all I know: he served in Africa. He was responsible for something to do with writing. In the photos he sent back to my mother he was often wearing a bathing suit and he typed messages on the back of them. As a fatherless child (who hadn't yet uncovered all the family secrets) I read the simple sentences on the back of those photographs repeatedly; trying to know out who my father was through those eight or ten words. He compared the beaches of Africa to Coney Island. He wrote funny messages to my mother; in my mind, I pumped those messages up until they became sonnets.
I have heartbreakingly warm memories of my father, despite the family history. I don't remember him high or drunk. When I cried, he told me to "stop the banana splits" and then bought me something special. (I don't remember why I was crying. I know it was on a weekend I spent with him, my sister and my grandparents. He and my mother were divorced.)
He played ragtime on the piano. He seemed to love me. He seemed sad. All the time.
After he died, no one ever mentioned him again. When I was old enough to be less afraid of upsetting my mother, I tried teasing bits information from her.
All she professed to remember was that she married him because he was handsome. And everyone was getting married. So I hold onto the love I feel for no reason I can truly remember, except that he once bought me pretty patent leather shoes with straps you could swing to the back.
When he fought in WWII he was so young -- perhaps 21? He was handsome. He played the piano. He fought in World War II when he was barely in his twenties. And when I cried, he noticed.