Reproach

When Mom died she and I my father had been together about 50 years. I’m not sure how much either one had thought about what life would be like without the other. I am pretty certain neither would have minded the other dating. I’m also pretty sure that neither would have relished the other having to experience the ugliness of dating, or the potential for it.

Dad didn’t seem to be that interested in “dating” per se, but liked the idea of having someone to hang out with. Probably for a while after Mom died he thought about a potential second wife, but I don’t recall it ever being that serious.

A few months ago Dad told us he had joined an online dating service. “Good for him,” I thought. Perhaps there would be someone who could be a buddy of sorts. Dad’s health has declined and he has a hard time getting around. He’s also always struggled with weight, so it’s not like he’s Sean Connery. Nevertheless, he’s a good man. He’s the best, I’ll tell you. So I was a little protective when he began a particular friendship with a woman on the other end of the Internet. They chatted for a while. Neither seemed interested in anything serious. That was good, I thought. They talked about meeting up some day and that day continued to be delayed.

After a few weeks they finally managed to get together. She came to the house. They talked, had a good time, it seemed. As she left she gave him a kiss. Whenever someone has to travel any distance, Dad always wants a call to make sure the trip was safe. Hours passed and she didn’t call. He called her and got voice mail. He may have called again.

On the dating service he joined, it is possible to not accept messages from individuals, with several reasons a user can choose for doing so. Within a couple days after my dad’s date with the woman, she had decided to not accept messages from Dad, choosing the option “other.”

Bear in mind again my father spent 50 years of his life with the same woman. He raised three boys and served his community as a police officer. The online woman he met has been through a couple marriages. He’s been a model of stability and basic goodness. He deserved better than “other.” His experience reminded me so much of my experience of dating in Utah. Things might seem to be going well, but then it all disintegrates and you’re the last to know. If you ever get an honest answer why you’re lucky. I never thought my father would ever have to experience that kind of gracelessness again. Neither did he. Nor is he willing to again. He quit his membership in the dating service. “Good for him,” I say.

Badly Wounded

The Los Angeles Times is fortunate to have a photographer who either writes very well, or writes well enough to be well edited.

In Iraq he took the photo of the man who has become known as the Marlboro Marine, aka James Blake Miller. When Miller made it home, however, his life was less than what we’d hope for a hero.

Luis Sinco, the photographer, took on an unusual role for a journalist, because in many ways he felt responsible for launching Miller into the world of being famous.

“I have to ask you something, Blake,” I said. “If I’d gone down in Fallouja, would you have carried me out?”

“Damn straight,” he said, without hesitation.

“OK then,” I said. “I think you’re wounded pretty badly. I want to help you.”

He looked at me for a moment. “All right,” he said.

Such a role is unusual, because most people whose stories we tell already have stong support, or at least some around them. A couple whose son died of a heroin overdose had each other. A boy whose injury left him mostly paralyzed had his family. A couple dealing with her cancer had each other, and when she died he had an entire community to buoy him.

Somehow in the case of Sinto and Walker, they bonded because the photographer survived the same nightmare as the soldier. For most of us, we can sympathize, but not empathize. In fact, we often avoid telling stories that are too close to our own.

In a war, that’s often impossible.