Thursday, September 6, 2012

I Think of Danny

I think of Danny every time I scoop grapefruit sections with a spoon.

In the early 70s, Danny and his very pregnant wife visited me and my husband, Danny’s brother. At breakfast one morning, my husband mentioned that the best part of the grapefruit, health-wise, is the white part between the rind and the sections.

Danny had finished spooning the fruit. He picked the up the empty shell and after a pause, took a huge bite, sending us into gales of laughter. If I remember, he managed to swallow it, too.

It was during that visit that Danny confessed to having gone AWOL from the army.

We were dismayed. We had warned him before he enlisted that the promise of assignment to Germany was unlikely. The war in Vietnam was in full swing.

He told us that after basic training, assignments were posted for all to see. His assignment: Vietnam. Another new recruit studied the list. He, too, was bound for Vietnam. “Let’s get the *&%! out of here,” the guy said. And they did.

Danny went home to Coquille. He wasn’t hiding exactly. He told everyone he was on leave before shipping out. But somehow, his ‘leave’ kept getting extended.

Then the county sheriff stopped for a chat with Danny’s dad.

“Daniel B., that your boy, Dan?”

Dan nodded.

“He’s on the AWOL list. Be best if he gets back on his own. It’ll go easier on him.”

And so Danny returned to the army, visiting us along the way.

Somehow, he never went to Vietnam and was soon out on a hardship discharge to help his mom and dad with the farm and to raise his newborn son.

I’ve just come into possession of a photo from that time—Danny’s wife, his mother, another sister-in-law and me—washing dishes in the old farmhouse kitchen. Our smiles are genuine, happy. I think it was the night Cindy confessed to being pregnant with their second child.

We all believed his life charmed. We never imagined he would die, his vehicle pushed into the path of a log truck, before his second son was born.

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