I don’t know if my father brushed shoulders with any of the many dignitaries who'd been hosted at the world-class Colorado Springs hotel in its century-plus history, but I do know he visited the Broadmoor in 1945. While sorting a box of family photographs, I discovered a photo documenting his visit among dozens of pictures taken during Dad’s tour of duty in Germany during World War II. I’d tossed it in the pile with the other pictures of Dad’s “war years” but recently I read Dad’s handwritten inscription on the back: “Broadmoor Hotel—Col.”
Dad’s wearing his Army uniform and familiar wire-rimmed glasses, sitting on a wooden rail, and grinning at the photographer. Behind him are Cheyenne Lake and the slightly unfocused edifice of the Broadmoor. I can’t know what brought him to Colorado Springs. Perhaps he attended a training session before he shipped out to Germany.
Since 2009, my husband and I’d visited Colorado Springs three times to vacation with family. Each time, we’d been aware of the Broadmoor’s existence, but we’d never done more than drive by. I hadn’t known of this tenuous connection to my Dad, who died long before our first trip to Colorado Springs. When we returned last week, I made a point of locating the vantage point from which Dad’s photo was taken. We soon realized the lake was completely enclosed by buildings and wasn’t visible from any of the roads surrounding it. We parked across the street and walked casually around the manned entry gates to reach the heart of the Broadmoor where Dad posed in 1945.
My husband took various shots of me by the water’s edge, at a black iron railing more recently constructed than the one Dad sat on, from the pedestrian bridge across the lake, and other approximations of Dad's position in 1945.
“I got shot in the butt, and then they sent me home,” was all Dad would say about his Army combat service. He’d enlisted in 1943 and was discharged in January of 1946. It’s not clear how long he served overseas; it may have been only months before that stray piece of shrapnel pierced his flesh.
A scar was the only obvious effect of his injury. I suspect the pain of that hole in his butt paled in comparison to the sorrow he encountered not long after returning to civilian life: completing university, marrying, starting a family, institutionalizing his schizophrenic wife against her will a few years later, then caring for three young children on his own through more than a decade after.
The 1945 photo is a reminder of a younger, happier man who dreamed of a different future. His smile is radiant, broad with the promise of life with the woman waiting to marry him once his service ended, as broad a smile as I’d seen in the 41 years he was my father. A glance at our Broadmoor portraits, now side-by-side above my writing desk, fills my heart.
I wish I’d known that man.