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SoCS: Family Options, Letters from Vietnam, and a Thanksgiving Day Hike

26 Comments

Our Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “opt.” Use it as a word or find a word with “opt” in it and base your post on that. Have fun!

Have fun, because misery is optional.

We opted out of family Thanksgiving with extended family. It was me and David and Mama Cat who slept through dinner. (Mama Cat slept, not David and me.) We made an almost vegan dinner with stuffed acorn squash and a roasted cauliflower. David made an apple pie. There was a little butter somewhere which was not vegan and humane certified hard boiled eggs in the stuffing.

But that is not what I was going to write about. I was going to say that we always have options. But some people have fewer or more options than others. I was going to write about mask wearing options and how it annoys me when people wear a mask below their nose, but maybe they have a chronic respiratory illness….. I don’t know.

I’ve been reading my dad’s letters from Vietnam for NaNoWriMo research which has slowed considerably to a trickle, but has not stopped. And will not stop for more than a day, because I’m rolling slowly along. Gathering no moss so far.

My dad had options in Vietnam, but not many. Most were about attitude and whether to pray. Mom was having nervous breakdowns while he was there. It was an awful year, and we moved a lot that year. My dad did have the (illegal) option of deserting, or “bugging out.” But that option was so distasteful, so full of way worse consequences of shame and dishonor, that it probably felt he had no choice. He chose to make a commitment to the Marine Corps and to honor that commitment, to do his job well. But it was so hard. He had also promised my mom he would come home to her and us kids. He had orders to return fire, not knowing who might be killed. He was the only enlisted Marine (a Gunny, not an officer) in charge of a platoon in his company. He was a natural leader who would be haunted by nightmares for the rest of his life by what happened in Vietnam. I’m so proud of him and my mom who were half a world apart on Thanksgiving and Christmas when Dad was in Vietnam. They did a lot of good service work together after Dad retired.

My dad in Vietnam (1967) He lost about 40 pounds there.

I feel like I’ve spent more time lately with my deceased parents, through Dad’s letters, than other family members living outside of my household. Maybe for now, that’s okay. For now.

What happened to having fun? Fun is different now than it was when I was a kid, or a teenager, or in my twenties or thirties. Fun can be relaxing and watching a movie. Or taking a hike on Thanksgiving Day. Like this one at our neighborhood creek:

A pair of ducks
Graffiti on a drainage pipe

A pair of old hikers

For more Streams of Consciousness, rules, and maybe even some options, visit:

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS Nov. 28/2020 | (lindaghill.com)

Author: JoAnna

An open minded, tree-hugging Christian, former counselor, and life-long lover of animals, I'm returning to my creative roots and have published my first book: Trust the Timing, A Memoir of Finding Love Again. I also paint angels.

26 thoughts on “SoCS: Family Options, Letters from Vietnam, and a Thanksgiving Day Hike

  1. Great post, JoAnna! I enjoyed the photos and story of your Dad in Vietnam. I admire his dedication to duty in that awful war. It must have also been very hard for your family at home. What a treasure his letters must be!

    The Thanksgiving photos are beautiful, and the two of you look very happy. I had planned to cook Thanksgiving dinner, but was under the weather, so the two of us cooked a simple Thanksgiving dinner together. It was meaningful, the best Thanksgiving in our six years together.

    Have a great day! ❤

    • Glad you liked the post, Cheryl. I’m continuing to be amazed by my dad’s letters. So sorry to hear your were under the weather, but happy it was such a meaningful Thanksgiving. David said he liked the peace we had, and I have to agree with him. Sometimes peace and simplicity lets us absorb the meaning in the moment more easily.

  2. This is a wonderful post, JoAnna, a nice refection and a tribute to your parents.

  3. JoAnna, I, too, get lost in old letters and newspapers. I think I may have written a post or two about hanging out with dead relatives. I have letters between my grandparents when they were dating, he as a civilian teacher in the Philippines and she as a student in Tennessee. It certainly helps us appreciate all that we have when we see the sacrifices they made for us.

  4. Wonderful, thought-provoking post. I am a proud military sister. Both of my brothers enlisted in the Army and served in Vietnam. Living through that era as a child, changes my perspective on so many things today. Anyway, thanks for sharing a slice of your life. One of my friends told me a few months ago, “The dead are always with us.” That statement was one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard. Wishing you a nice weekend of making memories … as well as preserving memories!

    • Thank you so much for your understanding and support! I took my parents for granted when I was young, so it’s an honor and privilege to go back and learn more about their lives. It’s good to know the dead are still with us, that we can still learn from them. Sending peace.

  5. How lucky you are yet frightening to have your dad’s old letters. You get to know your dad in a way that most kids would not get the chance to do.

    • This is very true. Having these letters is good, enlightening and also frightening in a few different ways. There have been revelations – some sweet and some strange. Some things I’m not sure I want to know about. Yet, they were saved for a reason. What will I find out next? I’m not even halfway through the pile. Thank you so much for your insight!

  6. I love the creek photos!
    My dad was in the navy in Vietnam and has never spoken with me about his time there. Maybe he’s shared more with my brother since he’s in the navy now.

    • My dad didn’t talk to me about Vietnam until I was probably in my 50s or later. Then he told me once that he had to stop talking about Vietnam because it brought back the nightmares. Still, he did talk more when when he was ready in the years before he died. He had a friend he served with in Nam who moved in across the street. They became good friends. This guy had a sense of humor. They would talk about Vietnam more easily. I hope your dad is able to talk when he needs or wants to.

  7. Beautiful post, JoAnna, a must-read on Saturday mornings 🙂 Love the way you describe the options that your father faced as a Marine in Vietnam. How wonderful that your mother opted to save the letters he sent her during those difficult times for them both! I’m so glad that you’ve opted to share his story with us in your next book. I look forward to reading it.

    • Thank you, Rosaliene. The letters were in a cardboard box in the attic and some have been eaten around the edges. I didn’t find Mom’s responses, but I can guess from what Dad wrote. I also found letters from both of them when Dad went to Guantanamo Bay Cuba after Vietnam. They were in much better shape having been in a metal box. As for the book, it will be a while bc I feel I have a lot of research to do. Never imagined I’d become so interested in Vietnam or history. I appreciate your support.

      • I enjoy the research process. It allows me to get a fuller and better perspective of the story, whether fiction or non-fiction, I want to tell. If you haven’t already done so, I would recommend that you read “Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam” by Nick Turse (USA 2013).

  8. “Death before dishonor”….

  9. It’s amazing to me to think of your dad’s experience to my dad’s in Vietnam. My dad, as he said, “allowed himself to be drafted.” He was in combat and even ended up in Cambodia when no one was supposed to be there. It was amazing for me to be able to tour the area and see the tale told from the Vietnamese side. I was shown their termite mound breathing holes and how they ate tapioca in the Cu chi tunnels. I even went into the tunnels but not the most narrow because I was claustrophobic. My dad survived, and he was a young one. I didn’t come until much later. He always appreciated other cultures. He felt upset that he was there. Having a hike sounds wonderful and relaxing. I wish so many of us could see our families. It’s hard on all of us. Options are important, aren’t they? I am also bothered when people wear their masks wrong, and I give them the same possible excuse.

    • You were very fortunate to be able to go to Vietnam and experience those things. I believe there are layers and layers of experience, from what we saw or read in the news and history books to the deepest spiritual struggles. I don’t remember being consciously in touch when Dad was there. Maybe I didn’t want to know. Yet some sort of awareness was all around me, emotionally. Now, at almost 65, I find it fascinating to study. My dad’s letters hint at being in the DMZ and scratch the surface of horrors.

  10. This is such an interesting post, Jo-Anna. Vietnam was a terrible war and seemed to have negatively impact most of the soldiers who fought in it. I have been reading about PTSD following WW1 and WW2. So awful. Your Thanksgiving sounds nice and I like the picture of David and you.

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