Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Stacks and Stacks of Memories, Part One

As my sister Heather and I continue to clear possessions and items out my mother Sheila's house in the suburbs in preparation for its sale, more circumstances arise. Even the expected ones make one pause, and I'll mention them here occasionally over the next few weeks.
Our mother was a major scrap book compiler, making up one each for the three kids, including my late brother Brian (and his wife, Janet). Mine has become two books, as has my sister's, and I think my brother's was as well, and my mother compiled an additional one for Brian upon his death and the ceremonies and honors that occurred and continue to occur in his name. There are also books concerning his three children, Kim, Dan and Colleen, including the marriages of his two daughters, and Kim's son, David.
All told, I have found at least 12 scrap books and photo albums so far, as well as folders of information we thought were lost, and I think there are more to come.
Some of this concerns my father's U.S. Army Korean War service, and I was happy to have found a folder containing much of his military information. I had possession of his DD-214 and honorable discharge, but this grouping contains his induction and discharge papers, transfers, promotions, assignments and training, or at least the training he could have paperwork about, since the most important part of my father's military service is accounted for only by one sheet of paper with scant information marked "Restricted." Dad had a top secret clearance (FBI background check, etc.) and told me that he destroyed a lot of paperwork upon reading and that he never actually received his own copies of other things in his Army Security Agency service. He was asked to join the National Security Agency when he left the Army, but he chose to come back to Buffalo.
I was even happier to have found an old, very expensive looking photo album made in Japan, and when I opened it, it was what I had hoped it was, the legendary but never-seen-by-me album of photos my father took while stationed with the ASA in Japan. It showed the building of barracks and offices, fellow servicemen and some touristy sites. Halfway through the album, it suddenly switches from black-and-white photos to color, and each page has a protective sheet of wax paper between keeping the elements away from the photographs.
I have some old slides taken of my father when he left California to fly to Hawaii before shipping out to Japan, as well as a couple of when he first landed in Japan (wavy dark hair and looking almost too thin for his uniform), but this album had been lost/misplaced for years. Dad only appears in two or three photos, and he had become a bit of a photo nut while overseas.
I had been thinking about Camp Oji and other places my father was assigned in Japan as the pictures of the recent deadly earthquake and tsunami show utter destruction, and I have to wonder how these people and places are doing today.
But in the midst of some personal turmoil and difficulty, these and other items have given me a bit of a boost and filled in some memories. These memories can't wait.


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