Don’t Whine, Do Hard Things, Eat a Live Frog in the Morning, and Pass the Torch

There was no whining allowed when I was growing up. At first, I did not understand why this was so. Many years later I came to understand. My father had served in World War II. He was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He survived.

He served in Korea. He survived but at great cost. While traveling in a jeep, his right leg was on the running board. After a mortar attack, it was no more. He returned home severely injured missing his right leg at mid-thigh.

Rarely did he talk about the two wars. He almost never complained about his situation, but you know it was a source of regrets and what ifs. There was no whining or “woe is me” at our house. You couldn’t use an injury or bad circumstances as an excuse. It just wasn’t done.

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I never heard my father say, “Look at me, I only have one leg. What are you complaining about?” It was more by example. He golfed, walking the course. Belonged to a bowling league. Swam and dove off the diving board at the community pool. Poured concrete for a sidewalk, steps, and patio.

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After my mother’s death at 94 in August 2016, my two sons and I were going through a box of photographs after her memorial service in Houston, when we came across a photo of my father with the “Cole Family.” This is the first time I had learned that my father had been in foster care for some years. His name appears on a 1930 Census form as being with the Coles. He would have been 12-years-old.

My father is on the right in the back row.

Nothing was ever said about these “lost years.” When my oldest son was doing research for Italian citizenship, he had found the census record. He let the De Mare (our real name) side of the family know about some of our family’s history. He found out from one of my cousins that her dad, my father’s younger brother, was also in foster care during this time.

Those were hard economic times. My father had 10 brothers and sisters.

We live in a culture where it’s easy to whine in the face of the slightest hardship. If something doesn’t go right, many people give up. For some, there is no desire to take the hard path, to choose to do hard things. Of course, it’s not everyone, but there’s enough of them that they get a great deal of attention. We’re made to believe that society is at fault for their hardships. I’m sorry, but I’m not moved by any of it.

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