My father was a mechanic. He always had black grease under his fingernails. Always had his head under the hood of some-body's car. He had an Amoco station and ran the business like a military unit. Every tool had a place. Every tool was cleaned after use. My job as his assistant was to clean and put away the tools. My brothers swept the floor. My sister never came near the place. She was too girly to be a mechanic's assistant. When I was ten my father faltered. He lost interest in us kids, lost interest in his work, lost interest in his life. He spent months at Bay Pines being treated for something that was a big secret. My mother would not tell us what was wrong with my Dad. He came home a shell of his former self. He spent time reading the paper and poring over military books. He mentioned the Battle of the Bulge a few times. Talked about starving prisoners, Hitler killing Jews, making tough decisions. The Amoco station was sold and my Dad became a stay-at-home-dad. He managed for a while. Then he started having severe bouts of rage and went back to Bay Pines Veteran Hospital again. As I grew into my teens my Dad spent months at a time being treated for something at Bay Pines. He was always sick, became bitter, easily enraged. When he reached for his belt buckle we scattered. Life with him was tough and I grew distant from him as I matured. He was a difficult man to be around and I wondered how my mother tolerated him. "He's had a tough life," she would say to me. "He wasn't like this when he was young. He fought in the war and is still fighting." I didn't know what she meant but trusted her because she was my mother. She was also an RN and knew how to handle sick people. She'd recognize the signs of an impending mental break and carted him back to Bay Pines on a regular basis. I married but stayed close to Mom. Dad was elderly but not frail. His mind and mouth was as sharp as ever. He'd say what he had to say and if you didn't like what you heard you could kiss his skinny little bleep and get over it. As the years passed his body began to fail. Years of smoking and drinking began to take its toll. Tough as nails, he constantly surprised the doctors by making a comeback. Finally the time came. He had given up and I called in the family. Before they arrived I sat alone with him in the hospital room. I didn't have the heart to tell him Mom was too frail to come to the hospital. He was confused by the morphine but seemed to focus once he started to talk to me. This is what he said: "I'm a murderer." "What?" I blinked rapidly. "I murdered a child." His blue eyes were suddenly clear and bright as he stared at me. "When?" was all I could say. "In the war. France. A small boy came toward us. He was crying. I scanned the area for snipers and started toward him. Then I saw he had a grenade in his hand. Pin was gone. I raised my rifle. The boy stopped. He knew. Oh God, he knew he was going to die. He knew I was going to kill him. I squeezed the trigger. Oh God, he looked at me. He screamed. Then he fell." My father's voice cracked and his eyes filled with tears. "I ran and the grenade exploded. The was nothing left of that little boy. I murdered him. Do you think God will forgive me?" I had no idea what to say but words came out of my mouth. "Of course God will forgive you. He may not forgive the person who put the grenade in the little boy's hand. You saved the lives of your men." His eyes focused on mine. "You really think so?" "Of course. I feel the forgiveness in my heart." I put my hand over his. Five days later he was buried with full military honors. 21 gun salute and so forth. My Mom stared as if in a daze when the uniformed officer gave her the folded flag. He spent a moment longer and gave her Dad's Purple Heart medal. Freedom is never free.