Tom Moody was drafted into the military during World War II; but he never talked about it. Not once, that I can remember. Not about his decision to opt for the Army Air Force; or his training as a pilot; or his move to the bombardier position; or why his unit never saw overseas action.
It was only after he died that we found his training records: South Carolina, Florida, Texas, New Mexico, and elsewhere, learning to fly the Martin B-26 Marauder, learning to do what he was never asked to do—drop bombs on Germany and Japan.
He never talked about it, and I never asked. All that I recall was his comment, “Why would anyone want to live in Pittsburgh?” He asked that when I called him in 1981 (when he was 58 years old) to tell him we were moving to Pittsburgh, to the North Park Baptist Church. He explained: “I rode a train through Pittsburgh in 1944 on my way to training in Erie. It was a dirty town.”
I did not know enough or care enough to ask about his military service. I didn’t ask about anything: his childhood and adolescence, his conversion and baptism, his graduation from high school and relocation to Detroit, his entire college career—why mathematics and why teaching.
I never asked and he never said a word about his romance with our mother, or anyone who might have come before her—a contemporary of his once told me he had a girlfriend in North Carolina. He never said. I never asked.
There are so many stories untold.
Stories about the flooding of the Ohio River in 1937 that turned the western part of Daviess County—where the Moodys lived—into a sea of mud and debris. Stories about living at tenants on the farm of another and how a family of five lived in a three-room house owned by another. Stories about church and Sunday School and revivals and baptism.
After he died in 2013, we found his hand-written conversion/baptism testimony, prepared for a class in personal evangelism he was leading many years later. Using the least amount of language possible, he revealed how he attended a country revival meeting and made a profession of faith. I will save that story for later, for when I have unearthed a bit more corroborating evidence of what happened and when.
But for now, it suffices to say: he never talked about it. He never talked about reading or writing, about going to school and the courses he took and the teachers he had, about the clubs he joined and the activities he loved. Nothing about work or fun or love or faith. Nothing.
And I never asked. Not once.
Perhaps that is why I spend my days now asking people questions about their life journey and their faith journey. I am curious, genuinely interested in how people navigated life, survived trauma, and found happiness, or purpose, or success, or endured failure or disappointment.
I wish I could schedule my dad for a month of Thursdays in The Meetinghouse. I would ask him about the hanging in 1936 and the flood in 1937; about high school and college; about church, and ordination, and ministry; about romance, and love, and marriage, and happiness; I might even ask him about sex!
I would ask him about the picture of him standing with five other airmen. I’d want to confirm that it is indeed a B-26 bomber; I’d want to know the names of the crew and if he ever saw them after the war. I’d ask: “What was it like to nestle down in that glass-encased seat in the nose of the plane with just you and the brand new Norden bombsight thinking about the soldiers and civilians the explosives would encounter at the other end of their mission.
But I never asked, and he never said.
But what can I say: my own children never ask me any of these questions either. Like my dad, I have so much to say, so much that my children and their children will some day want to know. Which is why I am writing this column and all the others in this series, which is why I am spending hours and days excavating the life and times of an ordinary teenage boy in Owensboro, Kentucky, a boy that became a most extraordinary human being, with a wide smile, a hearty laugh, and a generous soul: a minister, a husband, and a father—my father: George Thomas Moody.
(Read other stores in the GTM file HERE)