I was pawing through the flotsam that collects on the top of my dresser and came across a piece of my father - his old eyeglasses, tucked into an amazingly slim clamshell case. These glasses were U.S. Army issue, circa 1943. My dad's serial number was written inside the case. The old lenses were held in place by these cool retro frames - wire, round, with the flexible earpieces that wrap around the back of your ear for a tight fit even when you are getting bounced around in the back of a Jeep going down a rough road in France in 1944.
My dad died suddenly at the age of 76 - it has been fourteen years since I got the 3 a.m. telephone call from my mom from the hospital. My mom died shortly thereafter - in 1994 from cancer. She smoked heavily most of her life, so the Big "C" took her out early - she was a hale and hearty 72 when the tumor broke out of her bladder and invaded her lungs and her brain. Those unfiltered Camels did the job. My dad died of vascular failure - he smoked too, but quit in his 50's. He had a massive pot belly and sat on his ass for the last 35 years of his life - it is amazing he lived to 76.
Well, I can't say that I was real close to my father. The reasons for this are many and varied - it would take too long to explain in this blog, and no one is interested in my mopey family history. I left California to go to business school at Northwestern and never moved back out west. We would see each other once or twice a year after I left the coast. But looking at those old glasses, I realized that there are many things about my father's history that I don't know. He never talked about his World War II service, for example. And he wore those glasses as he rolled through Europe. He got frostbite right before the Battle of the Bulge and was sent to England for treatment - so he avoided that horrible battle and lived. I exist due to my father's frozen feet.
I took the old specs down to my local optometrist and had them fitted with prescription tinted lenses - now I have a pair of retro shades. And I can meditate on my father when I wear these glasses - the things I know about him, and the things I will never know.