A couple of years before her passing, my dear ladyfriend took over an abandoned community garden with the vision of turning it into a rose garden everyone could enjoy. After the news broke on Sept. 11, we spent some hours there working, grateful for the respite from the madness. It has become my favorite place to spend time. A few months before she left, her 80-year-old father came out for a last visit. He felt the need for confession to me, for some reason. I knew my friend had suffered some awful child abuse, but I had thought it was mainly from her mentally imbalanced mother, but I guess that wasn't the entire story. He had been in the Marines fighting in the South Pacific, he said, and the experience had filled him with a brutality that he had turned on his family in civilian life. He was so very sorry, he said. He died of a heart attack within a week of his daughter's passing.
These things do happen. My grandfather buried the dead in World War I, which no doubt had something to do with the emotional distance he maintained from his family. He lost his second son in a B-26 a month before VE day, which tipped my grandmother into something close to madness, with repercussions for the family for decades. Another old galfriend had a father who was a tanker in Patton's army, and within a couple of years of his return, he put his head in an oven.
These are the real war stories, if you ask me. Already, some newspaper stories tell of young American soldiers who don't know how to account for the savagery they've caused. Not that the Bush administration or Fox News cares, of course. The truth isn't what they're selling.