by Marie Gonzales Steiner
I was born into a family of five children. It was hard growing up without a dad. Oh, I had a biological father, but my parents divorced when I was two years old. My memories of the few times my father was in my life, a treasured memory.
Initially, my parents had three children Linda, Marie, and Joseph Anthony, Jr. My father served in the Army, during World War II, the European Theater of Operation 1944, and was injured. He suffered a head injury. Which affected him for the remainder of his life.
My paternal grandmother kept us in her and my father live’s. She made an effort to have me and my sister visit her on the weekends. Mother felt my younger brother was too little to give us the responsibility to take him along
We had many joyful weekends at my grandmother Catalina home. One memory I will treasure – her making flour tortillas, it doesn’t sound like much, as today you can walk into any store and purchase. She rolls the dough with precision, using only a few strokes to make a perfectly round tortilla. Then as if a patty cake motion, toss the tortilla from hand-to-hand before placing on hot plate on the stove. Then turning the tortilla only once, and with precision as she never touches the hot surface plate. We wait patiently, eyes on the tortilla, the minute it comes off the hot plate, prepared to spread butter roll-up and eat.
My father’s injuries continued to keep him under the Veterans Hospital care. My grandmother would make arrangements for my sister and I time to speak to our father long distance, our conversations short, it wasn’t too difficult, as we hardly knew our father, and he knew of us only by what our grandmother shared with him, and it was very expensive in the late 1950’s.
This continued until my grandmother passed away in 1960. I was nine-years old, her funeral clear in my memory. We called them Wake’s, they lasted 24 hours so that family and friends could pay their respect, no matter the time of day or night. It was the last time I saw my grandmother and my father.
During this time period children were taught to be seen, and not heard. Which meant as a child you didn’t ask questions. Question like why my father never called, or visited us or made contact after our grandmother death?
It wasn’t until 1974 when I was engaged to be married. I wanted to invite my father to our wedding. I made contact with the Veterans Administration, and they gave me directions on how to contact him.
My father contacted me a year later. I didn’t ask, and my father didn’t share his absenteeism from our lives, after our grandmother death. Our communication in letters and phone were only in the present.
One day he called me at work to ask for help, as he wasn’t feeling well. You can imagine my response, I was in Kansas City he lived in El Paso, Texas. My first action, I placed a conference call to the Division of Aging in Kanas City, they in turn connected me with Division of Aging in El Paso, Texas. I explained my situation and they immediately sent a social worker and police officer to enter his apartment, and ambulance was enroute. Though my father had a heart attack, he would live to see another day.
I forgave my father for not being part of my childhood. But it was difficult to call him Dad. I knew of my father war injuries. And now know how difficult it must have been for him. And I now know….
My father was not the only one injured by the war, and I believe there are many other children who have had similar stories. They could tell of their relationship with an absent father, from the war. Every little girl needs a male figure in her life…her dad. My wounds are now covered over with forgiveness.