As headlines announce the withdrawal of troops in Iraq and as politicians tout victories won, let’s not forget that all across America there are families who are missing a loved one this Christmas.
Excerpt from AFTER THE FLAG HAS BEEN FOLDED:
The night before Daddy shipped out to Vietnam, I had been to a Christmas party at church. Our Sunday school teachers gave Frankie and me each a sack filled with peppermints, peanuts, an apple, an orange, malted milk balls, and, at the very bottom of the brown bag, two chocolate footballs wrapped in gold foil.
Running into the house, I found my father lying on the couch with his head in Mama’s lap. “Looky what I got!” I squealed, shoving the bag under his nose.
Taking the sack from me, Daddy began to pluck through the treasures. He took out the apple and placed it on his chest. Then, digging deeper, he found one of the foil-wrapped footballs. “Mmmm, this is the one I want,” he said, pinching the tiny football between his thumb and forefinger.
I studied the candy’s shiny foil and then looked into Daddy’s sky blue eyes. “Oh, no, sir!” I cried. “You can’t have that. That’s my favorite!”
Then, pulling the bag from him, I fished for a malted milk ball and offered that to him. “But you can have this one, sir.”
Shaking his head sideways, Daddy again clutched the bag and held up the shiny football.
“Nope. This is my favorite. This is the one I want.”
Frankie cozied up beside me. “You can have mine, sir,” he said, elbowing me aside.
Then, looking into my face, Daddy reached up and stroked the side of my head and said, “No, it’s okay. I was only teasing. I didn’t really want any candy. I would like the apple, though.”
Reaching into his pants pocket and whisking out his pocket-knife, Daddy began whittling away the apple’s skin. He always peeled his apples before eating them. He was pretty good at taking off all the skin in one long, red curl.
Placing the chocolate football in my open palm, Daddy grinned. I tore off the candy’s foil and popped it into my mouth. Mama smiled at the two of us.
If my father had come home from Vietnam alive, I probably never would have remembered any of this, but as a child I believed the reason Daddy died was because God was teaching me a lesson.