Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Bird Watcher Takes Flight....

Let the record show that one weekends, when he could get away from his family, my honorable father would tip toe into his room and using a pair of binoculars (this a man who'd be half blind from the age of twenty three) would bird watch for hours on end. He knew nothing about ornithology, he simply found the birds that loafed in our back yard droll and interesting. There may have been something of the "consider the lillies" variety going on, who can say, The Old Boy declined to discuss his hobby with the family. When you are Francis L. Galligan Sr, you have endured much and must therefore find grace wherever it may be found. Because if there was a man in this life who suffered, it was my father. He survived being orphaned, The Battle of the Bulge (St. Vith, the 168th Combat Engineers, his first Purple Heart), the Crossing of the Rhine (second Purple Heart wherein he stopped a shell with his head and lived). He endured forty separate plastic surgical procedure six years of hospitalization, a shoulder separation, partial loss of eyesight & hearing, a round of sepsis and a ruptured ulcer that damn near killed him right before my eyes in 1966. In later years there was anemia, vertigo, skin cancer, a prostate problem, eyesight issues, a god-awful stomach hernia, pesky digestive issues, UTIs dementia (induced by "blunt force impact trauma") and a fractured hip. And at long last, eight days ago, at the age of ninety one, the flu and pneumonia fetched Him off to that final muster, the one place I may no longer stand the honorable watch over him. He finally died for his country, it just took him sixty plus years, ah but that was my Old Man, he always took his time with the Big Challenges. And never once in all that time and in all that pain and suffering did I ever hear him express so much as an iota of self pity, he treated his problems with amused contempt and soon enough his problems learned to fear him. That is the secret of being an old disabled veteran, laugh and make witticisms, it scares Inscrutable Fate shitless. And oh how my father liked to laugh and crack jokes, a mere month ago up at the VA Hospital that was tasked with his care these last three years my mother asked my wheelchair bound father if he needed to use the bathroom in an unctuous syrupy tone. My Father templed his fingers with academic hauteur and muttered "That is an awful personal question dear don't you think..?" The man could have taught timing and dry wit to "Bert and I". Along the way he collected some titles: "All Highest, Son of Destiny, Supreme Leader, Boss of Bosses and King of Heroes", only about half of them were in fact tinged with irony. My boisterous uncles all dummied up when he sat down at the holiday feast, at Robbins Farm in Arlington dogs would cease barking & seek him out for vigorous petting and he could use the word "nomenclature" in a sentence correctly and despite the eye patch he taught me how to drive (wanna learn to drive the Right Way? Get a one-eyed man to teach you). The whole cult of "The Greatest Generation" left him cold "everyone has challenges" Father once muttered in response to it all. He was mild, gentle, peaceful, people looked out for him instinctively, he was patient and kind with one and all. What an Honor to be his son. But alas it is required of old men, that they die, it is a miracle he lived so long, truly if ever a man overthrew destiny, it was Francis Leo Galligan Senior, Last of the Stoics my departed Father. Take Care Boss, you are making a sentimental wreck of me at age fifty.

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