Monday, February 17, 2014
I stare into the black and white photo and see the face of a 27-year-old man who has seen things he never expected or wanted. He was a medic during WWII. He saw some of the worst of the battles in Europe. He was my dad. A good family friend and his nonagenarian mother have been looking through old photo albums. Recently, they spotted a picture that my father had sent to their husband/dad in 1945. In the photo, Dad is shown squatting in tall grasses, his forearms resting on his thighs, his hands clasped casually. His face is thin and tan, his brow furrowed, his eyes focused, his hair thick and perfectly groomed. He appears to be dressed casually, but he might have been wearing his U.S. Army fatigues. On the front of the photo, Dad had written "'Chuck' Naidl - 7/10/45 Germany." On the back, he wrote "10 July 45, Bad Sooden-Allendorf, Germany (viper hunt!). With regards to "Pete" from Chuck." Underneath his signature was the cartoon rattlesnake that Dad often drew under his name when he sent letters to me. My father had a lifelong fascination with reptiles that caused him to study them in earnest and to spend his career lecturing about their virtues to students of all ages in school lyceum programs across the United States. Although the atrocities of war must have affected him deeply, Dad found a way to feed his passions by going on a "viper hunt" in war-torn Germany. What a gift it was to receive this surprise photo and to be able to look deeply into the face of the young man who would some decade later become my dad and who would share the good news about reptiles for the rest of his life.