My Dad; A Connoisseur of the Perfect Nap
Tales of an old man's youth
My dad is 91 years old. He wasn’t around as I was growing up. He and my mom divorced when I was six. To his credit he saw me as much as possible. When he remarried I was a part of the extended family with his second wife and her two daughters from her previous marriage. But that isn’t the same as having your dad with you when you grow up. Several years ago I purchased a home in upstate New York specifically for my dad to come and live with me. He had a bedroom on the first floor with attached sitting room and his own bathroom. He didn’t stay with me long. He missed his grandchildren from his second marriage. He moved back to Connecticut to be closer to them. But while he was here, I got him talking. I got him to tell me of his antics from his younger days.
I suppose you could say my dad is a connoisseur of sleep. Almost every story that he told me involved him finding a way to take a nap. Here are a few of his misadventures as he described them to me.
My dad worked in a factory. In this factory he assembled parts. Each piece was found in a bin. He would put them together to create a single unit. There was a quota. If you fell short of your quota you would earn a smaller salary. If you exceeded your quota you made nothing more than you would by meeting it. My dad would show up each morning and work feverishly to assemble the components and meet his quota. This was usually accomplished by lunch. He would leave for lunch and find a quiet place in the factory… and take a nap. In his own words “I found a nice comfortable spot, snuggled in, and went to sleep”. He would smile as he recalled this in the way that someone does when they’re remembering a pleasant moment.
He was drafted during the Korean War. Because my dad knew a great deal about radios and how to fix them he was assigned to the Signal Corps. This probably saved his life and set up the circumstances in which I was born. If not for his skill with electronics, he would have been assigned to a rifle company and sent to war. Many of his friends never returned from Korea.
It was a major at a base where he was assigned. The major learned of my dad’s radio repair skills. This particular major had a ham radio. He shanghaied my dad into being his personal driver, so he could also keep the ham radio in top condition. This major was assigned to the Judge Advocate Generals office. In short, the major was an Army attorney.
Being the personal driver for this major met that my dad had a great deal of downtime. When the major was in a meeting or in court my dad remained close by for when he was needed again. Since my dad was surrounded by law books, he occupied himself by reading them. He came upon one legal clause that gave him an idea.
One of his barracks sergeants was very aggressive. Even though they were no longer in boot camp, this is sergeant would wake everyone up by screaming and throwing garbage cans. If you did not get out of bed a.k.a. the bunk fast enough, he would knock it over with you in it. All the men in that barracks hated this sergeant. And this is where that legal clause came into play.
You see, in the Army you are not considered responsible for your actions for the first 15 seconds after you wake up. This was especially true for combat veterans who might have sleep terrors or confusional arousal disorder. There were men in his barracks who had fought in Korea. Many of them endured the various levels of post-traumatic stress disorder. In those days was better known as shell shock. Now, my dad never saw combat. The thing is the sergeant of the barracks did not know this.
When morning came, this sergeant stormed into the barracks as he did each day and began tossing around trash cans and kicking everyone out of their bunk. My dad stayed in his. He lay there with his fist clenched and waited. When the sergeant saw this he became enraged. He reached down and grabbed my dad to shake him awake while screaming. My dad suddenly rolled over and punch the sergeant in the face with all of his strength. Then my dad pretended to be sorry and try to explain that he was having a nightmare. He said that he dreamt that he was being chased and when the sergeant grabbed him he didn’t realize what he was doing.
The sergeant brought my dad up on charges of assaulting a non-commissioned officer. This is a serious offense especially when we are in a state of war. If found guilty, my dad would have gone to prison. During the inquiry my dad repeated what he had told the sergeant. Although it was a lie, he stuck to his story. The judge listened to my dad’s explanation and then looked sternly at the sergeant. He was appalled that the sergeant would treat his men in such a disrespectful manner. As I said, they were no longer in boot camp. There was no reason to abuse them this way. The charges against my dad were dismissed. The sergeant was demoted to private. As my dad told me this he burst into laughter. You see, my dad now outranked the former sergeant.
The last tale of his that I wish to share involves one night when he was on guard duty. His post overlooked a road that led to the recreation hall. It was late at night and as my dad was a connoisseur of sleep, he wanted to take a nap. Sleeping while on guard duty is a far more serious offense than striking a sergeant. Again, as we were in a state of war at the time, he could technically be shot. He knew this. But my dad was squirrely and had a plan. Keeping in mind that many of the soldiers on this base had seen combat in Korea. He had seen them when they had the occasional flashback. He decided to use this to his advantage.
As he walked his assigned post, he waited for the officer of the day to make his rounds. When he heard the sounds of footsteps, he leapt forward with his rifle aimed straight at the young lieutenant’s face. In those days your rifle was loaded when you are on guard duty. “What is the f-ing password!”. My dad challenged him in a paranoid manner. He was imitating the way many of the combat veterans behaved. When the officer spoke to password and showed my dad’s identification, my dad allowed himself to relax and report that everything near his post was quiet. He could see that the officer was shaken by this encounter. When the lieutenant’s footsteps could no longer be heard, my dad found himself a nice comfortable spot and took a nap. In his own words “I knew he would be coming back anymore”.
As he slept, a truck which he did not hear move past his guard post. The occupants of the truck drove up to the recreation hall which he was guarding and helped themselves to record players, records, food, and anything else they could grab. The following morning all the men who stood guard duty that night were lined up. The lieutenant and a higher ranking officer interrogated each of the men. “I demand to know who it was who fell asleep” screamed the higher ranking officer. As the lieutenant questioned each man in turn he paused at my dad. He didn’t know about the rest of the men that he proclaimed that he knew for a fact that my dad was awake all night. Once again my dad’s talent for skirting the rules in favor of a sweet nap worked out in his favor.
He was not famous. He was a simple man in many ways. He painted houses and fixed cars. But he was an incredible musician. He could listen to a tune just one time that he had never heard before and play it on the piano almost flawlessly. He never graduated from high school, yet a company that he works for sent him to MIT to take engineering courses.
My dad is now seriously ill. He fell into a diabetic coma a few years ago, and now resides in a nursing home. He has dementia and is not know who I am anymore. But his stories will entertain me for the rest of my life and hopefully these few that I shared were enough to make you smile or even laugh.
About the author
My stories come in the form of vivid dreams. The challenge is putting them to words. I'm medically a retired navy veteran and nurse, world traveler, artist, lecturer, and past journal reviewer with 5 ferrets who keep me very entertained