14 October 2011

St Thomas More & The Nuns

With sisters: Chapel Hill, NC 1967

Dad gets his ears cleaned: Vinh Thanh, 1967

Sister Jane did not like my Cub Scout knife clipped to my shorts.

Up to the Fall of 1966, Army posts had been my home. Any Army post since they were the same no matter where. Same front gate, P.X., Commissary, movie theater and MP barracks. Grade schools were usually on post and that was life behind the wire. St Thomas More (Grades 1-6) in Chapel Hill was a strange world where nothing was familiar.

My introduction to trouble came by a fund raiser for a new church. I violated all rules of low profile by asking a nun why the Vatican didn't pay for the church. Later, it seems that same week, I stood in line for confession without any idea of what it was or what I was doing there. I saw a line and like any Brat, I joined it.

At lunch, I was caught by Sister Rose with a Playboy picture in an empty chocolate milk carton that had been passed underneath a table to me. I was kicked out of advanced reading class and placed in the slow reading class. I pushed a bully off a stage into a pile of metal folding chairs and I was never fast enough to kneel by my desk when a priest entered class.

I knew I didn't belong, but I don't remember caring. This was just another stop and I'm here to leave. The nuns allowed me time alone in the school chapel everyday. They told me to light a candle for my father and pray for him to come home safely. I would light a candle and sneak out a rear fire door. Steps from the back of the chapel was a golf course fairway where I prowled through the pine needle rough looking for lost balls.

I didn't need to light a candle to know he was coming back. The idea that he might not? It never crossed my mind. Today, I'm not sure where that misplaced optimism came from. Some of it had to do with his being invincible. That much I remember. I was well aware of the Green Beret celebrity at the time. Back at Ft Bragg my father had told me Barry Sadler was an idiot.

If an idiot can have a best selling record and be on TV -- then my Dad is coming home. The principal, Sister Jane, taught the slow readers. She never asked me to read until my last day. After I finished, she stared at me with that pissed off look I had seen so many times. "You do not belong in this class." she said. "No shit." I thought.

Dad came home. The Mayflower truck showed up. It was time to go.


Anonymous said...

It's about time you got back to this part of the story. As elusive as "family" was in those days, there was still something...ok, magical about that time. Throwing sand in the air at night to bring the bats swooping in. Funerals in the ditch for the stuffed animals. The vine. The woods. Dirt roads and pops of gravel. The Four Seasons. Herb Albert.
If I could go back, that might just be my first choice.

skorpeo said...

as always, well written.

it's been a while since i've read your posts. thank you for reminding me that i need to get back into it.

Ben said...

I can't explain how, but I know how my son feels about me. It imposes a tremendous burden for me to bear and I intend to successfully carry it.

Glad to see a post here.

Anonymous said...

I wish you would continue writing on this side of your blg. I think they are brilliant. My dad is a Marine who did three tours in Vietnam and I relate to so much you write.

Mike G

Anonymous said...

I also forgot to say how sorry I was to learn that you lost your dad. He seems like a very special guy.

Mike G

tintin said...

Mike G- Would be interested in hearing about your experiences...only if you care to. Feel free to email me at, the.trad@yahoo.com.

This is the most personal writing I've ever done. And still, I think I'm just barely scratching the surface of military life. My memories as a kid growing up as an army brat in many ways connect to my four years of service in the army.

It's hard going. But comments like yours help motivate me to continue. Thanks.