• Broadkill Review

"Portrait of My Father in His Dress Uniform" by William Ogden Haynes


Everyone thought he would retire from the Air Force as a major.

After all, he had been at that rank for over twenty years and only

had a little time left until mandatory retirement. But when he retired


five years later, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel after thirty-four

years of service through world war II, Korea and Vietnam. His promotion

carried with it the rank, but no extra retirement money because he had no


time in grade. But, as he often said, he still got to call himself Colonel. My

mother was an artist, and did an oil painting of him in his dress uniform as a

major when they lived in Japan. He wore a white dinner jacket with medals


and ribbons on the left side, a black bow tie, epaulets on the shoulders, and

a pleated shirt with silver studs. His white hat bore the air force eagle and he

looked every inch a senior officer. But after retirement, my mother decided


to alter the painting of my father as a major, to that of a lieutenant colonel.

Luckily, the metal insignias on the epaulets for a major were golden oak

leaves, and for a lieutenant colonel they were silver oak leaves. Majors


wore no embellishments on their dress hats, but lieutenant Colonels had

silver clouds and lightning bolts on the visor. So, all she had to do was paint

the gold oak leaves silver, and add the “farts and darts,” as they were known


to officers, to the visor of his hat. After all, she thought, he may as well benefit

from the promotion and have his portrait reflect his true rank. I still have that

portrait hanging in my home to this day. But every time I walk by, it reminds me


that I failed him. Twenty years before he died, he gave me a garment bag

containing that same dress uniform, so I could use it for his funeral. He died

in an Alabama nursing home, and I had him cremated and sent up to Michigan


to the family plot for burial beside my mother. When he died, I never once

thought

about that garment bag in the attic he had given me decades before. I wish I had

dressed him in his uniform, but I didn’t, and there’s no way to paint over that.



William Ogden Haynes is a poet and author of short fiction from Alabama who was born in Michigan. He has published seven collections of poetry (Points of Interest, Uncommon Pursuits, Remnants, Stories in Stained Glass, Carvings, Going South and Contemplations) and one book of short stories (Youthful Indiscretions) all available on Amazon.com.  Over 175 of his poems and short stories have appeared in literary journals and his work is frequently anthologized. http://www.williamogdenhaynes.com

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