Today, October 24 is my father’s birthday. Born in 1922, Warren G. O’Brien would be 98 years old. However, he lived seventy-two years as the Scriptures say, and left us.

When my sisters and I were youngsters, Dad would tease Mom and say, “I married an older woman.” I knew my mother didn’t appreciate Dad’s remark by her pursed lips.

Decades later, I figured the math from Mom’s January 10, 1922 birthday and understood my father’s play on dates and words. There’s nothing he enjoyed more than stretching the truth for the benefit of a joke at someone else’s expense.
Well, Mom showed Dad a thing or two. She divorced him and outlived him twelve years.

Such memories come to mind on October 24 when I enter the date into my journal. Some flashbacks I’d rather forget, for my father and I often failed to exchange forgiveness, compassion and love.

Yet, God is merciful. He will not leave us comfortless.

For instance, the day Dad appeared at my door unannounced. Although perturbed by his untimely visit, I was glad to see him. How long had it been? We’d become further estranged after his second divorce.

I served Dad cups of coffee and leftover homemade spaghetti, forgetting he loathed Italian food. He lived on Little Caesar’s pizza.

Letting down my guard, I heard contrition in his voice. The loneliness in his brown eyes perpetuated by his improper behavior broke my heart.

Now was my chance, so I dared broach a subject most veterans of foreign wars avoid. “Dad, where did you serve with the Marine Corps during the war?”

“You don’t know?” he mocked.

“Now Dad, how could I know if you didn’t tell me?”


“Why didn’t you ever talk about it?”

He paused. “Our sergeant said, ‘What happened here, stays here.’”

As his rifle kept in the back of the coat closet, Dad longed to forget the stench of ammunition, death, and human waste in Guam’s trenches. Yet, memory is not a compliant human faculty.

Since those few, private hours with my father, I’ve wondered if I could’ve aided him like a midwife to deliver his nightmares into the light. Yet, I prefer to believe he loved me and would not release his demons to torment my mind with war’s carnage. I’ve never read a combat story or watched a war movie, particularly Saving Private Ryan.

On Dad’s birthday, I sometimes imagine his whereabouts the morning the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. At age nineteen and the last child at home, I see him gathering eggs in Board Tree Hollow, Kentucky, unaware he’d soon enlist in the armed services.

O’Brien family legend says Dad’s nine siblings gathered at Alonzo and Laura O’Brien’s house when their baby brother came home on furlough. They drank coffee all night and listened to his basic training adventures.

Dear Reader, I called my two surviving daughters this morning to commemorate their Grandpa O’Brien’s birthday.

God is merciful. He will not leave us comfortless.

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