Every once in a while, one of those books comes along worth savoring, worth dragging out for far longer than it should take to complete. I'm three fourths into one of those books now; My Reading Life by Pat Conroy is just beautiful. It's funny, quirky, smart, and not at all short on emotion.
In one particularly touching essay, "On Being a Military Brat," Conroy recalls his abusive relationship with his father, a fighter pilot in the U.S. Armed Forces. He discusses not only what it was like to be uprooted constantly and deal with abuse, but also how his father was reformed and learned to love in his later years. The end of the essay is especially touching, as he explains his vision and his dream of hosting a parade of "military brats" just like himself with armed forces fathers lined up in the stands saluting those brats' "service" to America. His mother, and the kids alike, always felt that they were part of the military just as much as the father and served America by being true to one of its protectors and constant in their devotion and service.
While I'm not a military brat myself, and I can't relate to the lack of belonging Conroy discusses in the essay, it was just unbelievably powerful. Here's a snippet about the parade he imagines:
To the ancient beat of drums we could pass by those erect and silent rows of fathers. What a fearful word "father" is to so many of us, but not on this day, when the marchers keep perfect step and the command for "eyes right" roars through our disciplined ranks and we turn to face our fathers in that crowd of warriors.
In this parade these men would understand the nature and the value of their children's sacrifice for the first time. Our fathers would stand at rigid attention. Then they would begin to salute us, one by one, and in that salute, that one sign of recognition, of acknowledgment, they would thank us for the first time. They would be thanking their own children for their fortitude and courage and generosity and long suffering, for enduring a military childhood.