The last time I saw Uncle Fritz for any length of time was in Happy Camp, California. He and Aunt Helen Mary had lost a lot of their money in a California real estate deal that went bad, and they were in a trailer. Uncle Fritz had cancer, and the end wasn’t that far off. Helen Mary showed me a plaque with all the decorations he’d won in the 82nd Airborne. He’d reupped for Korea, and there were a lot of them. He’d told me back in Alaska that he’d won two Silver Stars, but there was no sign of them.
I asked him about it, and he said when he ran away from home when he was twelve years old he was on his own. I knew why he had run away. His mother, Mary McCarthy Pettyjohn, a saint, had died giving birth to her ninth child, my Aunt Rosemary Zukitis. Rosemary was taken in by relatives in Nebraska, and has twelve children of her own.
He said he had to lie in order to survive. Who am I to judge?