ThoughtBox

Remembering

I’m remembering my dad today on this Memorial Day.

It’s a holiday dedicated to honoring fallen soldiers, but he survived his military career as a WW11 hero, although he was so humble and would not claim that he was. My siblings and kids revered him, and we are all so proud that his journals are in the Library Of Congress. The journals describe life in the prison camp, Stalag Luft 17 with amazing detail, including poetry and drawings.

Richard Heh in uniform 1

My dad was a 2nd Lieutenant, Navigator in a B17. After his plane was hit and exploded mid air, he parachuted down, was captured, and survived prison camp until the end of the war.

He served in the Army Air Corps, was awarded a Purple Heart, came home, went to Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University), got married, became a successful electrical engineer, and raised 6 kids (I’m the eldest) with my mom. He was the most handsome of all my friends’ dads, playful, and had a nice singing voice spontaneously crooning his favorite 30s tunes like The Three Little Fishies, Show Me The Way To Go Home, and the song we all sang together at his funeral, I’ll Be Seeing You In All The Old Familiar Places. I’m crying right now listening to Billie Holiday singing it.

He knew celestial navigation from his time in the service, and loved showing us planets in the night sky with his high-powered binoculars. He was a great dad, and a really kind and brainy guy who loved helping me (read “doing”) my math homework.  He occasionally swam across the family pool in what seemed like 4 long lovely strokes. He was a good golfer, and when he played tennis he made it look effortless. When he moved into a senior community he joined a bowling league. My dad was a naturally gifted athlete, but he often said that he hated exercise.

My mom died of a cerebral aneurysm suddenly when she was only 59 in the mid-eighties, when I had 3 small children and my youngest brother was 19. He continued to commute to work in NYC until he was 75, and around that time was diagnosed with PTSD. Back pain, a hernia, and other orthopedic issues led to a slow decline.

Dad came with us on family vacations, for dinner every night, and we took walks together. A gym membership seemed like a good idea but he wasn’t interested unless I stayed with him. We found a lovely personal trainer, but he was in pain and more and more reluctant to move.

Years went by, and he passed in 2008 at 86 after a short bout in the hospital with back pain, headed to physical therapy.

Miss you Dad.

With pride and gratitude.

xo

Polli

 

 

2 Responses

  1. Given the hard work and accomplishments that you have shared with us in all areas of your life, I feel a podcast is a great idea. Balanced fitness is a mind, body and spirit journey and your newsletters are a reflection of that. We Boomers need more information like that.

    1. Ed, thank you so much for the encouragement. It would be a ton of fun to speak with people who are doing challenging things in their lives and share the interviews, mainly involving fitness, but really anything that gets them fired up! I’m thinking about a name for it! Polli

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