Susan Russo Anderson
He’s Still With Us
Updated: Aug 21, 2021
My sweet dad, a World War II veteran, has been gone three years this month.
His death was not unexpected. We’d been losing him for several years, due to an Alzheimer’s-like dementia. As we watched helplessly day by day, month by month, chunks of his mind began slipping away. But he never lost his good humor or his love for us, especially for my mom, his wife of over seventy-six years. And he never lost his ability to make us laugh.
One day, about six months before he died, as he began walking across the room, his legs became like rubber and he fell with a thud, his walker clattering to the ground. He had forgotten how to use his legs.
From then on the quality of his life did a dive despite family members and a great hospice team who cared for him at home. He never complained. Who knows why—perhaps what he was going through at the end of his life paled by comparison to the horrors of being on an oil tanker in the Pacific during the war. In his final days, there were times he’d sleep all day only to wake up and tell us a joke. The end—or beginning—came for him on a sunny day in June 2018 with his family and the priest by his side.
Several months after his funeral, my brother, a World War II buff, found a picture online of a large group of sailors taken in January 1945 on Mog Mog Island in the Ulithi Atoll. He knew Dad had been on an oil tanker in the Pacific toward the last months of the war, anchored at one point in Ulithi.
My brother easily recognized our dad among the men. In the photo above, he is toward the front, a little to the left of center, smiling and wearing the dark cap of a chief petty officer. It is one of the many ways he is still with us, my sweet dad.