I believe my grandpa Max has a story. It took a long time for me to figure this out, but I know it’s true. I had always seen him as not much more than my grandfather. He has always been a good grandfather, my favorite grandparent of the bunch, but not much more than that. All I really knew about him was that he was an optometrist and had fought in World War II.
About three years ago, my dad received a package from his aunt. It was a collection of all the war letters he had sent home during World War II. This sparked the story of how Grandpa Max enlisted in the air force. The cut off to enlist was 26. My grandpa wanted to enlist when he was 29. He had to create a fake driver’s license that put his birthday in 1916 instead of 1912. The idea of this was completely foreign. It’s hard to believe someone could pull something off like that. It also ended up deceiving my grandmother after the war. It was a few years before she discovered she had married a man ten years older than she.
As I read the letters, I discovered a completely different man from the sweet, old man I knew. The letters he wrote to his nephews and sisters were hilarious. He told tales about his crew and his plane. He was the pilot of the Hellcat Honey. His crew was a rowdy bunch. He wrote about his missions flying over to parts of Japan for “milk runs.” He never sounded even slightly serious in any of his letters. He would talk about all the girls he couldn’t get to sleep with him. My grandfather used to be a character!
It took me a whole weekend to go through all the letters. They were a fascinating find. I couldn’t believe my dad had never heard any of the stories directly from his dad. My dad told me that my grandfather never liked to talk about the war much. It all convinced me that there must be much more there than even the letters revealed.
Next month, Grandpa Max turns 95. This past year he has gotten very old. His muscles have gotten weak, and his speech has gotten very slow. He had someone similar to a stroke six months ago. But he’s still kicking. And I’m positive that there is still a story for him to tell.
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