Climbing out of Guilt

Screenshot 2017-04-14 09.19.29
Cono Dennis, my father, at age 18

I still think it’s a crying shame that I had to spend so much time thinking it was my fault. I guess that’s what we do sometimes, take the blame for things that just aren’t our fault, especially when we don’t know any better. But back then I didn’t have a Colonel Posey to tell me any different.

Last week on the base, that responsibility was especially tough, and I don’t feel much like I lived up to it. I was right in the middle of running a training exercise when a young private missed the rope leading down from the

I still think it’s a crying shame that I had to spend so much time thinking it was my fault. I guess that’s what we do sometimes, take the blame for things that just aren’t our fault, especially when we don’t know any better. But back then I didn’t have a Colonel Posey to tell me any different.

Last week on the base, that responsibility was especially tough, and I don’t feel much like I lived up to it. I was right in the middle of running a training exercise when a young private missed the rope leading down from the Climbing wall. He fell fifteen feet to the ground, landing wrong. We all ran over and circled him like a bunch of buzzards.

“Sergeant Dennis,” he says, “My neck. I don’t feel so good.”

“Aw, you’ll be all right son,” I told him. “They’re coming to take ye to the hospital. You’ll be all right.”

But he wasn’t. Private Henderson died later that day.

So far, almost every night since then, I imagine him lying there on that hard ground, his eyes staring into mine with confusion and fear. I’d lied to him.

Colonel Posey told me I had done nothing wrong, that it wasn’t my fault Private Henderson had died. He told me I was the best sergeant he’d had so far, told me how he appreciated me. I looked at him for a second or two until all the guilt flew off my shoulder like specks of dirt in a windstorm.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper, my father’s story

Published by

Carolyn Dennis-Willingham

Carolyn's first book, "No Hill for a Stepper", was published in 2001. Her second book, "The Last Bordello" was published in August 2016. Her third novel, set in 1928, is currently being edited. When she's not writing, you can find her at the boxing gym, with kids and grandkids, or throwing a ball for her persistent mini Aussie. Carolyn celebrates diversity and is an advocate for social and civil rights.

3 thoughts on “Climbing out of Guilt

  1. Wow! Powerful stuff. I guess the thing to remember is the words uttered were the words that private Henderson wanted to hear. 😃🐻

    Liked by 1 person

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