Searching for Niel ... part 1

We have been visiting my father in law’s grave fairly regularly since his passing this past summer. They are short visits, and soon no doubt we will have to explain to the kids that this isn’t just a garden were we remember Babik. But recently I have been thinking of my father. It is not that I have any desire to go out to his grave. Twice in the last twenty something years is more than enough, we used to go very regularly when we were kids.
Other than hurt and resentment there is very little emotional bond. I just don’t know the man. I see pictures. My older cousins sometimes reminisce about their cool uncle Niel.  I don’t know how he walked. What he sounded like. What he smelt like. When he passed my brother and I were about the ages of my kids, and I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with that.
I have very few memories of him. One was him coming home from a business trip with a brown plush dog for me. Another was this amazing potato Au Gratin he made and we ate in the dining room at our old apartment. And lastly we had this small brownish box, it was fake wood grained and had round corners inside it had his military medals. I know there was a purple heart and two or three other medals. He earned those fighting in Italy during WWII.  I don’t know what ever happened to them, we moved twice since we lived in that apartment on Jefferson Avenue. Who knows?
Since the last of his siblings passed unexpectedly last year, there is no one I know who is still around who knew him when he earned those medals. I am going to see if with the power of the internet and some skills I picked up in journalism school, if I can find out a little bit more about that time in his life.
It won’t bring back those years without him.   But perhaps one day when Olivia or Niel ask me about him, I’ll have an interesting story to tell them.

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