15 June 2012

Happy Father's Day

The Old Man's in the Angora V-neck. Korea, circa 1970. Information Officer for the 2nd Infantry Division. Shortly after my father died, I was contacted by the man on the right.

I was a young Lieutenant in Korea and your father was my boss in the information office. He was a great guy and I’m sorry to hear he’s gone. He gave me the freedom to do what I wanted to but also kept me out of major trouble. I enjoyed the year I spent with him in “Freedom’s Forgotten Fighting Frontier.”

Part of our job in Korea was to print the division newspaper. It was type set and printed by a Korean firm, the type setters understood NO English so a p,d,q,b all looked the same to them. As a result we spend a great deal of time proof reading. These pictures were taken at a picnic held by the Korean printing firm. The young lady was the only member of their staff that spoke any English. I’m the kid in the straw hat.

I remember when your Dad got the Topcon RE Super. I remember thinking how huge it was. He was proud of that camera and took some good pictures. As I said before I enjoyed knowing and working with Major T, he did a great job of keeping everything in perspective.

It's strange to see him in photographs I've never seen before. It's even stranger to see him so relaxed. I think I saw him smile three times -- and that wasn't so much a smile as a grimaced smirk. My first reaction was not hard to understand. He was relaxed and happy because he was away from his family. Thousands of miles away.

And it hurts to think that. So, I came up with another theory. He was tired of the bullshit in Special Forces. He was frustrated with the strategy in Vietnam. But he loved to write and he loved photography. He was finally doing what he loved to do, publishing a newspaper and a magazine. Far, far from home.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'd go with your second theory.

Fantastic that your father's former co-worker got in touch and shared photos.


JKG said...

What is it about their families that makes men so tense and bitter?

I know my own military father has become much more relaxed and sanguine since we all left the house. It isn't a complete stretch to say he's a totally different man than the one I remember growing up.

Alice Olive said...

I also think it's lovely that your father's co-worker got in touch with you. A sign of how much he respected your father.

I think I forget that fathers, mothers and siblings have a life outside of our immediate family. So an image of them in another, separate environment (be it happy or sad) can take a bit to digest. (Realise that sounds narrow-minded... but there it is.)

Unclelooney said...

Tin Tin,
Maybe you've done this before but could you outline your Dad's military career? It seems like he
did quite a few different things
in the Army.

Anonymous said...

Like your post on Churchill, every great man has his struggles, faults. It's the little things, like your father calling the sergeant a fuck-stick and getting you out on leave after you got your jump wings, or taking you to jump when you were fifteen, that makes up for it. Surely, he loved you a great deal.

I agree with your second theory, not to blow smoke, but rather because my old man told me something similar after he left my mother to start another family.

I suppose that's life. We're thrown into it and stumble around trying to make the best. It's like the poet says, "In life there are no lessons for beginners. The most difficult things are asked right away."


tintin said...

DB- Actually, there have been several who reached out and shared stories and condolences via the Trad and the Good Men Project.

JKG- I don't know but, like your father, mine did mellow out eventually. He did close to a 180 but the military was always there. "Stop contemplating your navel." "No whining allowed" etc.

Alice- Yes, I guess you're right. I saw bits and pieces as a kid. The officers club, parties at home, with his parents...

We wrote a screenplay together about his experiences in Vietnam. He'd send me 40 page notes on details, the men, the strategy, the food, etc. After eight months or so, he told me that he always loved me as a son but was beginning to like me as a friend.

Uncle Looney
He started out as an enlisted man in a motor pool in an Air Defense Battery. After 5 yrs, he went to OCS and stayed in the ADA. In 1965, he went to jump school and Special Forces qualification. A team Cpt in 1966-1967. Promoted to Major upon return. National Guard Advisor to 1969. Information Officer with 2nd Infantry until '71. Public Affairs Officer in Ft Chaffee, for Vietnamese refugees. Conarc Command at Ft Monroe 71-73 as general staff officer. '73 was PAO at NORAD/Cheyenne Mountain. 74-75, Information Officer at Ft Belvoir. That's off the top of my head...I'm missing a lot.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful NYT article today that I thought you might enjoy. "Living In The Past":


tintin said...

Matthew- No one's perfect. And families seem to be the most imperfect. Churchill's kids had a tough time of it. We all do. Anyone who thinks they had the perfect upbringing most likely has Aspergers.

Anon- Thanks. That's a great slide show as well. Musicians have this thing for clothes and I don't think it's just being on stage.

Oyster Guy said...

Perhaps I am projecting a bit, but I tend to think some men lose themselves in work because the "rules" just seem clearer than at home. Personal interaction on the home front is so much more complicated and risky. If you randomly hurt someone's feelings at work, it ususally gets put aside quickly but at home maybe never. I don't have a spouse or children but can well imagine both could be quite confusing to be around. Add a violent occupation (even pro hockey!) into the mix and the contrasts between home and work can split yourself in two.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that NYT link is one of the best things I've seen.

Ben said...

Three things:

(1) It is worthy of note that upon hearing of such news, men of a certain character, despite being complete strangers to the bereaved, will seek them out to formally offer a kind word.

(2) I think your first interpretation is a little too gloomy. Can't your Dad still be happy for his circumstances, separate from being relieved of the responsibilities of home and family? I know when my son is with my ex, I'm relaxed and able to enjoy myself, but neither do I miss him any less, nor do I relish the lack of responsibility. I would trade the nights out with friends and early mornings surfing for my son in my house full time.

(3) I hope your Father's Day is filled with good memories and comfort, and free of any sense of emptiness.


tintin said...

Thanks, Ben. Very well said and all very true.

tintin said...

Oyster Guy- As always, you hit a lot directly on the nail. I'd add he was 35 when these were taken. Far from any regret, that I knew of, but closely approaching changes in his life. He'd deal with the change alone. But he wanted it that way.

I always said, he was either learning how to kill, killing, or teaching others how to kill. Hard to come home and pick up your babies and hug 'em after those kind'a days.

LDB said...

You're extremely fortunate to have such an extensive record of your father's life, both from your own family and from others, regardless of whether you have favorable or neutral recollections. Many of us don't have that luxury and, for that reason, our late parent will forever remain a mystery and an enigma.

tintin said...

LDB - A great observation. I was just thinking how lucky my family is that photography played such an important part.

All those years of slides, B&W darkrooms, contact sheets...We shot so much -- most of it was never printed. Most was 35mm while a small part was 2 1/4.

We were fortunate. Although, if I never had one picture of my father -- I could easily describe him. But a picture allows you to see what you see and what I see. Which can be very different things.

LPC said...

let's say you are right. especially given my 2 glasses of friday wine. but, still, i think it's not about the family. i bet he loved you.

tintin said...

LPC- I think he did but I'll never know for sure.

Brohammas said...

Sometimes reality and relationships are in fact troubled and dark. It isn't just a matter of perspective, it is just how things sometimes are.
Joy and happiness exist just the way sadness and wrong exist as more than just "frames of mind." It is what makes life, and your stories, worth it.

I need a cheesteak.

KSB said...

Your father loved you. Of course he did, just maybe not in the way you would have hoped for. Most of us can say the same but I realize that is cold comfort. Still, a beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

Tin Tin. Your father did not want to be away from you. Combat tours change your and it is difficult to overcome your own cynicism when surrounded by those you love the most. I find it easiest to laugh around those who carry the same scars I have. After four and some change combat tours, I pray I can be the father my sons need. I fear I over do with them sometimes but hopefully they will be better men for it and forgive me my faults.
De Oppresso Liber

Cathleen said...

I'm having a "Hurt Locker" mixed with "East of Eden" feeling after reading your post. Try not to overthink it, and enjoy these great pictures. (Easier said than done.)

Anonymous said...

it was probable that it also took being far from home to know the value of what was at home...
great post, posts that matter

William Foster said...

"What is it about their families that makes men so tense and bitter?"

Maybe 20 years of crushing responsibility and servitude to their family? When the buck stops here for everything from flat tires to medical bills to puking dogs and math homework it tends to wear on you after a couple decades.

Bill said...

This may be brief, and I'll elaborate further at another time, but Bill Semion and I are pretty convinced that the young man with your dad is Lt. Mike Shetter. Mike grew up in the Quad Cities (ILL) area and worked before the army for Deere & Co. in their video tape department. Video tape was a pretty new development back then.

He was an incredibly upbeat guy with a head of red hair and a smile a mile wide. Mike did not serve his entire tour in Korea, but was called home a bit early because of the death of his mom.

After Korea, Mike went back to Deere, wrote a book about video tape production, and caught the eye of Chicago's Oprah Winfrey. Things worked out, and he was hired to manage her Harpo Studios. He did that for a number of years, and then retired, we think.

I've tried to contact Mike, but to no avail.

BTW, the shot of your dad in all these shots is EXACTLY the Fred Tinseth we remember.

More later.

David Kronwall

Anonymous said...

David and Bill - Just saw you comments. Would love to catch up. please email me at mike@softscrap.com

Mike Shetter