My teenage son is not a malleable person, something that has both its good sides and its bad ones. When he’s got the right idea in his head, such as his opposition to drugs, it’s admirable. When he’s got the wrong idea in his head, though, as happened when he accepted uncritically his AP US history teacher’s assurance that the Black Panthers were freedom fighters, his stubbornness can be extremely frustrating. Sometimes I wonder where that stubborn streak comes from and then, when I think of my father (as I’ve done often since my mother died), I know exactly where it came from.
One of Daddy’s favorite stories from his service in the Royal Air Force during WWII highlighted Daddy’s dogged dogmatism. I forget exactly how it came about, but one day my Dad — a German immigrant to Palestine who enlisted in the RAF on the day Britain declared war on Germany — was the highest ranked enlisted man in his military encampment, somewhere in North Africa. That is the reason why, when a new commanding officer took over, Daddy was the one who went to the officer’s tent to introduce himself.
After Daddy identified himself, the new commander stated, “I am Newcastle.”
“Ah,” said Daddy anxious to puff his nonexistent British bona fides, “You were named after that town in England.”
“No, the town was named after me.”