Last Journey book – A Father and Son in Wartime – excerpt 4

Posted: June 8, 2013 in Islam, Just War, Last Journey, Middle East, Mohamed, Uncategorized
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This is another segment of “Last Journey.” This is a book that is written by me with the help of my son SSG Darrell Griffin, Jr. He was killed by a sniper just outside of Baghdad. At the time he and I were working on a book that we planned to call “The Great Conversation.” He was conflicted about having to kill men or be killed. He was a philosopher and he had difficulty reconciling his mission as a combat soldier with the teachings of the great philosophers. This is except 4. We will be putting excerpts on this blog for the entire book so we estimate there will be about 100 excerpts.

The girl I got pregnant, Linda Sanchez, was Darrell Jr’s mom. I remember her being the only kid at school who drove a car that was one color and didn’t have any part of it painted with primer. She wasn’t supposed to be going to Franklin High School in Stockton because she lived in Lodi. Her mom was single and worked in Stockton so Linda was dropped off at her Grandma Zuniga’s who lived close to the school. We met in our junior year. Linda’s mom was always at work so we spent more time at her big house out in the country than we did in school. Days at her house with raging hormones and no parents around created the perfect setting for her getting pregnant.
Grandpa wasn’t too happy when he found out. He felt a lot of his troubles in life were related to his being an Indian in a white man’s world. He was proud to be part of the Ottawa Nation, and looked just like the Indian on the face of a buffalo nickel. He didn’t have much use for anyone of color and it bothered him that I would have a Mexican girlfriend.

“Are you telling me that you couldn’t find a decent white girl ?” screamed Grandpa Moxley. He got his crippled legs under him, grabbed his cane and pushed himself up. His legs had been frozen into a sitting position from his years of severe arthritis. As he hobbled toward my bedroom door he turned and said, “You’re messing up bad. I had hoped that you could have moved up from busboy to fry cook.” He shook his head. “You’re just like your no-account dad. He never was anything and never will be and neither will you.” He gave me a month to move out.
I had to get permission from the Juvenile Justice Department in San Joaquin County to set up a household with Linda. Since we were both under age we had to demonstrate to the assigned probation officer that I had a job and a plan to finish high school. We were married in July 1969.

I was working full time as a dishwasher and completing my junior year of high school. It was hard to find a place we could afford to rent and it was even harder to convince any landlord to rent to a sixteen-year-old boy who looked fourteen. I hadn’t even begun to shave.

We finally found a place to rent. The Brown Top Trailer Park was a place where only desperate people lived. There were about thirty trailers in the park. In the center of the park was where the two washer-and-dryers were located. Next to the laundry was a trash bin that was always overflowing with garbage and liquor bottles. Our little eight-foot-by-twenty-foot trailer was located across from the garbage bins. On hot days the sound of the buzzing flies would almost drown out the noise of the busy road that was about twenty feet from our trailer. Behind the trailer was a fence that was held up by six-foot-high weeds. The trailer was old. It had layers of tar on its roof to stop the rain from coming in, and a little two-step splintery stoop in front of the door. A dilapidated storage shed stood on the concrete slab that served as our porch. I talked the landlord into letting me sand down the splinters and paint the shed and the steps. I found a paint store, Paul Cox Studio, that sold its mixing mistakes for next to nothing. Mr. Cox gave me two quarts for free. Soon the stoop and shed were a light purple (the only mixing mistake the store manager had at the time), but at least there were no more splinters.

November 21st, 1969

Skip Rene inTub in Trailer

Rene and her future little brother, Darrell that would later be born on March 13, 1971.

I was sitting in my eleventh-grade English literature class when a runner from the attendance office came in and handed the teacher at the front of the room a note. Mr. Bentley looked directly at me. “Darrell, can you please come here for a minute?” I was so absorbed in coming up with an excuse for not having my homework assignment ready that I forgot that today was the planned due date for Skip’s older sister to be born. With a disgusted look on his face he said, “Well, Darrell, it looks like your wife is going into labor. You are excused from class.” I went back to my desk to pack up my books. “Before you leave, the attendance office wants to see you.” As I walked out of class the guys who thought they were cool gave me the “thumbs up” sign. The smart kids just looked at me and shook their heads.

When I got to the attendance office the attendance lady and my guidance counselor were in a huddle and obviously talking about me. They broke apart the instant they saw me through the glass of the office door. The attendance lady said, “Darrell, before we can officially let you off campus you have to bring back proof that your wife is in labor. You need to bring back a note from your wife’s doctor or at least from your wife.” I rushed home, had Linda write me a note and took it back to school, then ran back home and took her to the hospital. Later that day, Darlene “Rene” Griffin, Darrell Jr.’s older sister, was born. They came home two days later. Rene slept in a bassinet in the living room.

I stayed home from school for a couple of days to help Linda with Rene. Neither of us knew what we were doing. There was no glamour in midnight feedings and changing full diapers. I remember sitting up late one night thinking that if you put my and Linda’s ages together – thirty-two – it would be a good age to have a child.
Every week I went to the California National Guard offices to see how my application was going. The United States was deeply involved in the Vietnam War and the National Guard didn’t get sent to Vietnam. It wasn’t the idea of fighting in Vietnam that bothered me; it was the fact that there didn’t seem to be any reason for it. I had a copy of my completed National Guard application on my headboard along with brochures for Canada. There was no way I was going to go to Vietnam and fight in Nixon’s war.

April 30, 1970 – Stockton, California – Brown Top Trailer Park

I had just gotten home after a long day at school and an afternoon shift of washing dishes at the Hoosier Inn. I was lucky to have this job. The owner, Charlie Dyer, always let me move my schedule around my school schedule. The staff was like a second family. On occasion Charlie or Mrs. Dyer would help me with my math homework.

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