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  • Thanks, Pete, for taking us on your amazing journey. And the painting is spectacular, too. I wish I had had a chance to untangle life with my father. I loved him like crazy--and hated some of his actions. He loved his wife and family to the roots of his being--and couldn't seem to keep from hurting us. I'll forever be thankful that he pulled himself together through some inhuman effort when my brother was born. The two of them were best buddies for fourteen years, and then he lost it again and left us tragically. But Jacob had all those years, growing up with our mother, the steadfast, beautiful, loving, devout mother who never failed him and the father who transformed himself for the sake of his only little son. And the son they raised was a tribute to them. He was the best--and war took him.

    When I was younger, a pre-teen, I saw that hunting was an activity to which boys were invited, and I envied and was angered and acted out because of it. I tried going along on one short trip, hunting rabbits in the riverbed, but I hated everything about it, so my anger cooled a bit. Still, while I was always certain of mother's love, I still needed to make my father notice me, to make him proud. (Sound familiar? I did eventually do that.) So, one might think, hearing that, I would be jealous when a new brother changed my dad when all my hopes and dreams and, mostly, prayers could do it. Not so.

    Jacob's birth was second in importance only to the birth of Jesus--to us. I was twelve years old, and he was simply my baby. That's how much I loved him, for his whole life. Nancy was ten, so we sometimes argued over who got to hold the baby. Nina was five. For some reason, she had passed beyond the time when "babies" of the family resent the arrival of a new one. The two of them became inseparable. And Mother--how can I describe this woman? When she sat nursing the baby she looked like the Virgin Mary. The three of us girls--two with golden-red hair, one brunette, all perfectly curled and shiny, gathered around her knees--made a picture that needed an artist, I think. So, it's clear that there was no envy, only gratefulness when our dad came home at night sober.

    Thank you, Daddy, for those last fourteen years when you came back from what was hell for us and must have been for you. Thank you for showing us again the father we knew in young childhood--and what a great father you were.
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