On the way back home, in the back of my father’s car, he told me the rest of a story he could not include in his speech at the reception, following TAPs and the internment of the urn at the funeral.
“When I was younger, around seven years old, I got my first look at what family looks like.
We [my Dad and his family] had just moved to a new neighborhood. Your aunt Minny and I, ran around the town and went through the woods exploring. We came up on a house where the basement was slightly above ground level and there was a window through which you could see in. I saw a girl inside and tapped on the window.
Now – at the time, there was thief on the loose in town who had been at large for several months. The girl inside the house screamed for her dad and seconds later the front door of that house burst open. Your Aunt Minny bolted straight for home. Now she’d probably tell you today that she was smarter than I was and figured out what that noise probably was. I however, stuck around, figuring that I had done no wrong and would figure things out or talk rationally to the man.A couple seconds later, when the man turned the corner, he was running at full speed and looked very mad. At this, I turned around and ran as fast as I could home.
I got roughly to the driveway before the man caught up to me and picked me up. And just then my front door burst open. Turns out my sister had run past the house and then ran back and into the basement saying “Daddy, a man’s got Patrick!”
At that point, I had never seen my father run before, as his leg was bad due to injuries from the war.
He looked madder than the man who was holding me. Unsure of what to do, that man dropped me to the ground. My father was shorter than the man. Yet he ran up, lifted the man up with one hand and raised his right.
“Mike! Don’t do it. You’ll kill the man”, my mother screamed out the window, “He’s a neighbor! He’s a neighbor!”
My father put the man down and said, “I don’t care who you are. You don’t touch my family”.
That morning I got a spanking in the basement which surprised me, I’ll say.*
Later, I asked my Dad, “Gee Dad, were you really about to punch that man?”
“Of course”, he replied, “Family is different.”
*My father added a comment:
Only factual error was that I had got the spanking the morning of the incident, not the next morning.
That’s was what surprised me most, and also made me realize that family was different/special – I had thought that my Dad was mad at me and maybe didn’t love me (because I was a “bad boy”). But, when outside trouble came – he was clearly my Dad, on my side, and ready to do battle on my behalf, regardless of internal discipline matters.”