Ever so often not long after the war, my Godfather would show up at the house, dressed in his army jacket, trousers and garrison cap. On the right side of his head, he had one complete ear. On the left side was a small dark hole encircled by a lobe of flesh, and crater-like indentions on his neck and jaw. I would try to position myself in his lap for a better look, but each time I looked up he would turn his head and wink.
The summer he arrived for a family gathering at the lake, he wore Bermuda shorts and a t-shirt. His left arm and leg were festered with red pockmarks and jagged scars. I remember running to greet him with a hug, but when I grabbed his hand, he stiffened. I held on though, so he wouldn’t be afraid.
I knew not to ask the folks about him, and I didn’t expect anyone to offer an explanation. The generational chasm, that immense iceberg, divided family conversation into categories of what was proper and what was improper and nosey. Overly personal questions had no place in any conversation. The television, that immutable wall that nothing could penetrate, saved the day for the adults. A wave of the hand meant “not now.”
So instead of getting the facts, I told myself stories about him. One was that, as my Godfather, he had all the right characteristics. He was kind, brave, gentle, and I figured that he would probably be funny too, once he relaxed. I never had the chance to test this out, because I never saw him again, and no one said a word.