Today is the first day of “World Trip Wednesday”. Each Wednesday I’m going to talk about how my planning is going for my “World Trip”. It may cover biking, backpacking, gear, travel medicine, route… you get the idea. As I learn how to do this “World Trip” thing I will share the information with you and with any luck you’ll share what you know about traveling the world with me.
I got my first glimpse of world travel from the comfort of my dad’s lap. There I would listen to the abridged version of his World War II experience. He would show me black and white photos of American soldiers, elephants, jungles and exotic looking, small, dark skinned people that dressed in sheets and placed dots on their foreheads. Years later while rummaging through his old foot locker I found pictures of beautiful girls from Christ Church New Zealand. On the back of the photographs was written, “To Tom with love”.
So I guess my desire to see the world began earlier than I thought and my dad’s war stories and photos were the catalyst. With that in mind I thought it would be fitting to share with you a poem that gives a little insight to the man that started me on this crazy quest.
The Night Watchman – a Soldier, a Poet and a Friend
He was tall, broad shouldered, and could do no wrong.
I was short and small and back then looked up to him,
like I do now.
In the evening he would board a bus then
work all night to make things better for us.
Often in the morning he would take me to the park,
there I would slid and swing and do all those things,
little boys do with fathers at playgrounds and parks.
Before I met him he was a traveling man
and carried a gun, a radio and tags.
He saw China, India, Burma too and on R&R
went to Christ Church to dance and drink a few.
He talked some about his travels, what he saw and the war,
but mostly he spoke of the men and the towns they were from,
then occasionally became silent as he reflected upon it all.
I would touch the scar that came from that night,
when his camp was attacked and men lost their lives.
He fought hand to hand at the entrance to his tent
but he never fully shared the details of that event.
As kids we told stories that this tall, broad shouldered man,
was a commando, a detective and guarded “the bomb”,
but those were just tales to make us feel grand.
The truth is he was a soldier, a poet and a friend,
who worked as a night watchman in Chicagoland.
He was honorable and old,
we were insecure and young.
He was proud of how he served and who he was
and would not have approved of the tales we spun.
The tall, broad shouldered man was brought to tears,
when he lost his step daughter of just 15 years.
Then the poet in him put into words
how much he loved that little girl.
At twelve years old I bid farewell to the tall, broad shouldered man,
as he laid in a hospital bed weakly clasping my hand.
He wasn’t a commando or detective, nor guarded “the bomb”.
The night watchman, was a soldier, a poet and a friend.