HOW NOT TO GO TO WAR -- by Jane Kelley


This is my dad, Bill Kelley. He didn't fight in WWII. He never said why. Maybe because falling out of the hayloft ruined his back? Maybe because he worked for a company that made military supplies? Whatever the reason, I was glad he didn't have to go. Just look at that shy, dreamy smile. Could he have survived combat––or even the rough teasing of the other soldiers?

And yet, he grew up on a farm. He knew all about survival. He had been bullied by his brothers and even the goose. He learned how to handle conflict––in his own way. 


He was an electrical engineer and a tinkerer. If something went wrong, he didn't get angry. He figured out what was malfunctioning. Usually the thing he needed to fix it was in the basement. He had a collection of stuff most other people would have thrown away. He re-cycled, and re-used, and solved the problem.


He may not have ended conflict on a global scale, but he did succeed in keeping my mother and me from destroying each other. I don't know what he said to her, but I do know that he spent hours and hours reminding me that she loved me, that her lack of self confidence made her lash out at me, that things would get better. He didn't take sides. He treated us with equal importance. 


Where would we be without humor? He didn't re-tell actual jokes. He had his own dry, self-deprecating style. He wasn't afraid to risk looking foolish. Decorating his hat with seaweed was his answer to those of us who wanted him to be more stylish. 

I learned so much from my father. I may not be able to fix the toaster or change the oil in my car, but his survival skills have definitely enhanced my creative process. Especially this last one . . ..


Jane Kelley is the daughter of O.W. "Bill" Kelley who was a hero in his own way and never lost faith in my abilities.


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