Sunday, January 16, 2011
Carly wants us to photograph a gateway for the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot, actual or metaphorical. As busy as I've been with two jobs, buying a car and my dad's visit, I haven't gotten over to Reid Park to photograph a gateway to the dog park or the rose garden, and frankly a picture of my own back gate (above) is a bit yawn-worthy. Metaphor it is, then. For what it's worth, this could be a gateway to freedom for the dogs - if we ever unlocked it while they were in the yard! This would not be a good thing.
But I took my dad to the Pima Air and Space Museum today, very much as an afterthought. It was 3 PM when we arrived and they closed at five, but it didn't really matter. Dad was mostly only interested in one exhibit, a gateway to many old memories for him.
The 390th Memorial Museum isn't museum #390 in a series, collect them all, or in memory of a deceased ordinal number. It pays tribute to the history of a particular squadron in the 8th Army Air Corps (I think that's right) that flew in a B-17 bomber in World War II. My dad was a navigator for the 15th Army Air Corps, stationed in Italy. On this seventh mission, his sabotaged B-17 lost one engine after another, and he had to bail out over Czechoslovakia. After capture by farmers and interrogation by the Gestapo, he spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft One.
All the time I was growing up, I knew very little about my dad's World War II experiences. That changed today. Standing near a plane very like the ones he'd flown in, Dad told his story to one of the docents at the 390th Museum, and again to a visitor whose father had also been in a B17 and also ended up a POW. This man was very interested, and suggested further resources online for Dad to both give and receive more information about the history of Dad's squadron. And I got to hear, for the first time ever, about two of my Dad's missions - the disastrous first one, in which the lead plane was shot down and chaos ensued, and the seventh one, the failure of which was probably caused by a group of Italian POWs when they were meant to be building an airstrip.
Okay, it's a weak metaphor. But that seventy-year-old plane led my dad and me to a new place in our relationship, with me finally encountering a part of my dad's past that had previously been locked away.