Nonfiction (Memoir 1)
The following excerpt has been used with the permission of a former client and/or the publisher. Please note that I can adjust my prose style for a particular genre, and the following is not intended to represent my full range of styles or the number of genres I consider. For nonfiction, the level of complexity can be adjusted depending on client preference.
My father came home from World War II a different man – a broken man who was twenty pounds thinner and had a vacant look in his sunken, pale blue eyes for the rest of his life. He began to smoke and drink heavily, and he often stepped out on my mother. This was common knowledge among everyone in my family, including my mom, but silence was the norm. My father had been through hell from 1942 to 1945, and it was a given in my household that the indiscretions of this young patriot were not to be mentioned. I suspect the fact that he had lost his left hand in combat may have contributed to this conspiracy of silence.
In 1945, the phrase "combat fatigue" was common, but this era pre-dated the now accepted diagnosis of PSTD, or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. My father was never offered any psychiatric treatment by the VA, nor did he seek any kind of counseling for the rest of his life. The truth is that my dad lost far more than his hand during the war. He lost his belief in the goodness of mankind, although he always loved his children and remained a good provider – he managed a sporting goods store on Main Street – until he died of cancer in 1986.
During the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps in eastern Europe, my father was one of the first soldiers to enter Auschwitz, where he saw the results of Hitler's wholesale slaughter of Jews, gypsies, and others deemed undesirable by the Third Reich. The corpses he saw were comprised of loose skin hanging on brittle, malnourished bones. The faces of the dead had no features; rather they were skulls still attached to the necks of emaciated corpses, most of them piled high in mass graves. It was grotesque theater from the mind of a demented producer and director.
My father's actions during the baby-boom years may not have been morally acceptable, but I often wonder if most people, without proper therapy, would be able to cope with life after viewing such atrocities and suffering the loss of a hand. Today, soldiers returning from Iraq are facing the same challenges. While many of these heroes are finally receiving the treatment they deserve, many are still denied anything but a cursory exam and counseling. I look at their faces on TV and think that, because of what I saw my father endure after 1945, I know what awaits these men and women in later life.