I watched Melanie polish that band of silver every night, as faithfully as she took her birth control once we were parents. Her father’s MIA bracelet, stamped out in the ’80s and now older than our daughter, a co-ed prowling the job boards with a panther’s cunning. My father in law who I never met was less lucky. Mel’s story is that her dad fell into Cong hands in a province too remote for any exchange. On weekends she worries the Web like a squirrel collecting acorns, nuts of facts that shine up her story like she buffs that bracelet. She needs a hero that I can’t become, because I’m never going to be her father. I could use a hero too, but I didn’t lose my dad just months before I was born. Our friends all say that I’m lucky that way. But there’s no bracelet for me to wear, no auto-icebreaker that guarantees immediate compassion, love and acceptance.

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