What Have I Done to Deserve That?

Richard is 82 years old and not in good health.  He lives in the Midwest and called me asking for help with his possessions.  He was moving himself into a small private residence, since he can no longer care for himself.  From what I could tell, he is kind natured and soft spoken.  He told me about his many physical ailments such as diabetes, cancer, breathing problems, etc.  Richard was forthcoming, had his wits about him, and was very pragmatic about his limitations.  He told me he was “falling apart” and needed help.

One of the questions I ask people who call me for help is “Do you have any family that can lend a hand?”  Richard has two adult sons.  He said they never call, don’t care about him, and never showed any interest in him or his life.  As a highly decorated veteran who earned a Purple Heart in the Korean War, he lived a full life as a Marine, with many stories to tell.  He was there at the Battle of Chosin Resevoir — a brutal 17 day battle in freezing weather.  It was pretty clear to me that this man had endured the unthinkable, and even in his older age was still a tough Marine, but his voice held a fragility when it came to his sons.

“What did I do to deserve this treatment from my boys?  I worked hard all of my life to provide for them, and now they aren’t there for me.  What did I do wrong?”

Knowing I was in a position to help Richard, I did my best to assure him that the pitiful actions of his children are not of his doing.  They are adults now and have made a decision not to be present in his life.  One day they would live to regret it, as they sort through his possessions and find his Purple Heart, wishing they could ask questions about their father’s valor and what that great battle was really all about.  But by then, it would be too late; the heavy weight of guilt would be upon their shoulders.

I encouraged Richard to build a relationship with his only grandson, who seemed to at least have some interest in him and his life story.

There are times it becomes very clear to me that people cross our paths for just a few minutes, and in that short time, you can either make a difference or not!


Semper Fi, Richard.  May your journey be a peaceful one from this point forward.

© 2013 Julie Hall

3 thoughts on “What Have I Done to Deserve That?

  1. I for one would like to hear his stories being a Marine myself. Have him tell his story on your facebook if he would. If not thanks for the story.

  2. He sounds like an honorable and nice man. There are always two sides to every story and you never know how he treated his children. Although he says one thing…the reality could be that his children needed to create healthy bounderies for themselves. Sometimes that means disconnecting.

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