Back at home after the show, I found myself irritable with my wife, and in the wee hours of this morning I fell into a meditation about my own father.
This 25 year old Lt. Colonel piloted a B-17 bomber on 26 missions over Nazi Germany during the early days of the 8th Air Force and survived to tell the tale. He was followed back to the states by a "war bride." The only trouble was that he already had a bride, my mother, who promptly divorced him. He left the Air Force after the war and then returned as a Master Sgt. In 1950, when I was 5 years old, his new wife (really I do not know for sure if they ever got married) shot him in the back.
All this was hushed up, and throughout my life I sensed that my mother was fearful that I might turn out like him. I was too afraid to ask about him - it always seemed that it would be just too painful to face the truth. Even this morning, with the pain of Barack's search for his father fresh in my mind, I find myself seeing more clearly in my imagination the towns and villages of France passing below me as I prepare for the bomb run on Hamburg - the nightmares of my father. Will my plane be shot out of the sky? Will I be able to jump out of it before it bursts into flames and disintegrates in mid air?
I see my 4 year old self sitting on my father’s lap — touching his three rows of colorful ribbons with his little finger. I know that it was in that long cherished memory of my closeness to my father that I acquired my fear of flying and the terrors of war and the murderous rage at being caught up in a relentless push to be sent aloft to face death at 30,000 feet.
By age 23, I had my own khaki uniform and three rows of ribbons and my nightmares of Viet Nam. A subsequent divorce and separation from my own son completed the pattern as I worked to reconcile my life to the dreams from my father.
So, I now am creating a sober world. A context in which I dream the problems of the world can be solved. I look to the Cross where all my fears and doubts and terrors, and those of countless others have been nailed. There I am reunited with my father and we are one. This I share with a lost and dying world.
*A Biography by Barack Obama, “Dreams From My Father”