That is a post worth reading if you haven't seen it- it could be a movie, honestly, for the sheer heartbreak and romance of it. Those letters were returned to my grandmother by the kind new residents, who went out of their way to find her, and I know they were a tremendous gift to her in what would turn out to be the final year of her life.
They were a tremendous gift to us all.
I am one of the two people left on the planet lucky enough to have copies of those letters, and some originals from his commanding officers too talking about his diligence to his duties. The paper is thin and crumbling but I won't part with them.
I also have his Good Conduct medal which makes me smile because I can't imagine him ever capable of anything BUT good conduct.
But then...as I was about to post it I started thinking about my Grandmother.
I started thinking of all the military wives, and I wanted to thank them.
My mother was three weeks old when my Grandfather shipped out- and he wouldn't see her again until she was four years old.
My Grandmother went to work on a factory floor immediately but when the boss came round one day looking for a 'girl who could type' for the office, she took him aside and told him she could do that and take dictation and do the books too but she couldn't afford the pay cut. He told her that he'd pay her the same salary if she'd run his office if she kept it quiet, and so she did.
Her sister Helen took care of my mother and her own two children. Helen's husband was not drafted due to some health issue, but he really didn't help out much at home- liability, not asset as I understand it--Helen and my Grandmother were the team that got them through the war on the home front.
My Grandfather actually sent home hundreds of letters, many photos, and wax records of him singing (not that he was particularly good at it but it was awfully sweet) so my mother would get used to his voice.
Grandma didn't save any of them.
When I asked her why, once, she kind of shrugged. I think looking back now, I realize that it must have been too difficult for her to remember the time he was gone and in so much danger.
He tried to downplay that in his letters (and you'd think from some of the pictures he sent home he was at a tropical resort on vacation) but the fact is once, through no fault of his own, he was late getting back from leave locally, and his unit shipped out while he was gone.
They did not survive. If he had been with them neither would he and I wouldn't be here.
|My Beloved Grandfather|
No, Grandmother never did like to look back. She was a force of nature in perpetual motion; always working, always cooking and sewing, hugging, kissing, wiping messy chins and tucking into bed. She never held still.
She's been still, now, so long, and God I do miss her. She left us in 2004 and I still think sometimes I'm going to look out my peep hole in the door and see the top of her little fuzzy, permed head. She was always tiny, I towered over her, and I remember kissing the top of that head more times than I can count. I remember exactly how she smelled, a beautiful combination of Ponds Cold Cream and White Rain Hair Spray and Revlon face powder and Wind Song perfume. I can close my eyes and remember, so clearly, how she and my grandfather adored little me as no one else in the world.
Today, on this day that I wish more people would remember is about reflection instead of throwing a party, I would ask that you give some time to thinking about the soldiers (even and also their service dogs, please...) and especially this year I would ask you remember the families- the wives and kids at home. They are often fighting a battle long after their soldier comes home, as he brings the demons of war home with him- and that is their soldier comes home at all.
And if you have a little more time today, please do read my original post.
I don't believe in wishing people a "happy" Memorial Day, I don't think that's the point. So I'll wish you a mindful one instead, and hope that with each one that passes we all become that much more determined to see a world without war in our lifetime, or at the very least, in our children's.