He made his way through the showroom at a painfully slow pace, his daughter at his elbow for support and encouragement. Clearly, they’d planned for days this shopping excursion to buy him a comfortable recliner for his den.
His hand shaking, he tried to unzip his tan jacket. “I’ll help, Dad,” his daughter said quickly. “Last week,” she explained to us, “he couldn’t get the jacket unzipped so he called the fire department to come over.” Her father smiled and shrugged. Old age requires new skills, among them humility and a sense of humor.
His hat offered a hint of his long history. He wore a blue ball cap with a snappy beak. Emblazoned on it was the emblem of the U.S. Navy, a bald eagle proudly gripping an anchor in its talons.
“Where did you serve?” I asked him.
His shoulders straightened with pride, his voice boomed and his eyes twinkled. “The USS Tripoli, Korea,” he barked. The USS Tripoli is an amphibious assault ship that has carried some the nation’s most legendary fighting aircraft: Harrier II, Osprey, Venom, Viper, Knighthawk.
His was a voice that had given commands and commanded respect. It was a voice that was strong, certain and unafraid of danger. His was a voice that saved lives. We all stood at attention for a few minutes to appreciate the long-ago courage and power of this old soldier.
“Dad,” his daughter interrupted gently. “How about this chair over here?” He reluctantly turned away and followed her. Long ago, he’d been the one steering the ship. Now, frail but filled with a quiet dignity, he was learning how to follow others’ orders.
For an hour or so, the two tried out every comfortable chair in the showroom, finally settling on a leather recliner. They bought it and made arrangements for delivery this weekend. From his new perch, he’ll settle in to savor coverage of the Boston Marathon and a new season of Red Sox.
We’re proud to have played a small role in making his retirement more comfortable and enjoyable. He deserves it. He fought for our freedoms. He is one of the many we honor and remember this Patriots’ Day.