Phantoms

I haven’t seen my Dad for a while. It’s an odd relationship that I have with my father. If we are together, we can lapse into conversation as if we’d just seen each other yesterday. If I’m not there with him, it’s as if I don’t exist. It’s a bit odd. But I’ve come to accept it. I have always felt like I know my father well. Even when I couldn’t quite figure out how I should react to him. If I see him when I’m home. I see him. If not. It’s just the way it is.It’s just his way. He lives in the present. He deals in the here and now. If you’re not in the moment with him, you don’t exist. It’s a coping mechanism, I believe. It was a long road to come to the realization that it wasn’t personal.

Early in my life, I reacted harshly to my memories of my father and his mistakes.

Resentment. Anger. Hate.

Ultimately, I turned away from those and decided to walk a different path.

Acceptance. Love. Fate.

He is what he is. I have no desire to change the man. And the effort would drive a man insane. An email every now and again would be nice, though. lol

One thing that I remember clearly about my father from childhood is that he had a fascination with the F4 Phantom. Pops was a Jarhead. A Devil Dawg. He served a tour in ‘Nam. Up near Da Nang on China Beach at the foot of Marble Mountain. I’m sure that an F4 or two probably covered his platoon out on patrol. The Huey UH1. The Patton Tank. Things I remember distinctly from childhood. Visiting Fort Knox and Patton Museum. I still smile when I pass the Patton Museum.

I was doing research for a post for my blog. A new post on Vietnam that I’ll put up at a later date. Vietnam always brings my father to mind. So I googled F4 Phantom and found the video below. The Phantoms are all but retired. They’ve been put to rest so to speak. The wars are over. I hope that the same can be said for my father. The name of the F4 is somewhat symbolic of my father. He is a bit of a phantom as well. He has been a shadow in the lives of his children. Existing on the peripheral of our vision. Rarely daring to venture closer. It’s fitting. It’s also a perfect video as the aircraft is taking off. (Lest someone think I’m angry, I’m not. I laughed when I typed that. lol)

In 2006, I visited Da Nang. I went there to go where my father had been during the war. I walked around Marble Mountain. Explored the fields around it. Explored it’s caves and sanctuaries. I sat and marvelled that I was fortunate enough to make such a journey. Fortunate enough to see Vietnam in peace. As it was meant to be. I sat and wondered what it was like for a young man to land on China Beach. Full combat load. Ready to fight. What is it like to move in to the country and attack ancient cities like Hue.

China Beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand. Da Nang is a modern city of 3 Million. Da Nang. It’s a peaceful place now. The Marble Mountain is a tourist attraction. It juts into the sky on the outskirts of Da Nang. A few hundred meters from China Beach and the sea. The top of Marble Mountain was knocked off during the war. Even so, it’s a beautiful place to visit. Tranquil. Perfect for reflection on the miracles, fortune and wonder of my life. Yet, like Vietnam and the Veterans who served there, it is scarred.

I met a couple of Vietnam War vets while I was in Vietnam. One guy probably served with my Dad. He was with the 1st MARDIV in 68-69. Perhaps, he ran into my Pops and they had a beer together. A very possible happenstance.

I found beauty and peace on my trip to Vietnam. The Vietnamese people were extremely welcoming. Nice folks. Especially out in the rural areas. I hope my Dad has found as much beauty. As much peace.

It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.

Kahlil Gibran

5 comments on “Phantoms

  1. It is good to see the old bird again. I was assigned to a squadron of F-4E’s while I was in Vietnam and in the Philippines. One of my main duties was to order the munitions for the next day’s mission. The F-4 can get under your skin. It was loved by it crews. And the Phantom was a good name for it.

  2. Interesting entry. I’m wondering if he was always that way, or do you attribute it to his experiences in Vietnam?

  3. I think it is a combination. I know that he was deeply affected by his experiences in Vietnam. I watched the movie We Were Soldiers with him. He was quite shaken by the movie. Said it was the closest that he’s come to being back in Vietnam. He gets a look when he talks about Vietnam.

  4. The Phantom’s a good looking bird that’s for sure. You’re right though he was a little obsessed with it, and the M-48 and the Ontos. And you’re right he is an odd duck. Just like you, when I go home we easily slip into yackin about the Corps as if it hadn’t been a year or so since we had last talked. He brags about not wanting to get a haircut when he was a Cpl, and I grumble “you were a shitbird” cause I’ve still got the whole Gunny thing going, hahahaha. Funny how the two of us can have such complete opposite feelings about the same thing. I guess that’s just who he is. Wonder if lil bro will ever see that?

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