I look at the picture of my father, the soldier, and this is what I want to tell him: "Run to Canada. Don't get on that plane.
Throw yourself from a ladder and break a hip as quickly as you can. Make sure it's a bad break. They can't draft you to Vietnam with a lame leg. Or can they?"
But of course, it's too late for that.
Still, I look at the picture, and I want to scream to the soldier with the cocky grin--the soldier before he became a husband and father:
"The things you see and do in this war will ruin you. You'll sleep on pads the rest of your life because you'll sweat bullets. You'll push away your wife and child because when you get close to people, they die. At nineteen, you'll see more blood shed than most people see in a thousand lifetimes."
But it's too late for that.
"Are you listening to me?" I want to say to my father the soldier. I have a good mind to shake the picture, to lean in close and give him a good piece of my mind. I'm almost double his age now. He should listen.
But it's too late.
My father is 64 now. With all he's gone through--the PTSD, the nightmares, the inability to hold down a job, the detachment from his family, the masses in his lungs and cysts on his fingers (possible side-effects from Agent Orange, the doctors say), my father does not regret going to Vietnam. He loves his country, and believes the right thing to do was to answer his call of duty--no matter what the repercussions.
"I would have gone to Canada," I say to my father in person these days. "I would have run like hell. Or hitch-hiked. I probably would have hitch-hiked."
He just looks at me with his ever-distant eyes and doesn't say a word. I don't know if he thinks I'm brave or a coward. I don't know what I think of myself either.
I only want to live.
To learn more about Christal Presley and her book, Thirty Days with My Father please visit her website at this link: www.christalpresley.com.