Wednesday, May 23, 2007

World War III

One of the odd comforts of working with my sister to settle the material aspects of our parents’ estate is coming across unexpected treasures. Yesterday she discovered a rubber squeeze toy bulldog that was a present on my first birthday and I have not seen it in 30 years. Last fall we came across a stash of letters written during my parents courtship. We had found similar letters of my father’s parents’ protracted courtship from 1909 to 1910 three decades ago.

It was especially disconcerting to read language I never heard my father use around me when my mother was alive but began using to describe her after she died in 2004 and he was alone for two and a half years, dealing with Alzheimer’s.

Walking along Valencia and seeing Toni Morrison’s Beloved in a book stall, these words he wrote to my mother when she was in New York and he in Dallas came back in a flash as dusk arrived.

December 29, 1947

My dearest Miss H_____________

Well, here it is 6:15 p.m. and there is no one else in this lonely office but me and the porter, sweeping and dusting in the distance. I hope you do not mind that I am working on my typing skills by writing you. This certainly is not something I would ask the girls in the secretarial pool to type out. I must say it feels so lonely down here, cold but not as brittle as I am sure it is up there. I can’t help but think of both of us, my beloved, in these big cities alone and waiting to be together. I count the days.

I do not know what to make of that silly family of mine. I write and call, but it seems they do not have the time for me. Oh, you don’t know what it means to get your letters. They are a light in this winter.

Last night Larry and I went to see the new movie “The Bishop’s Wife.” I thought it was quite good, with very good writing and acting. I know you and that you have probably already seen it and can write me a long treatise on the mistakes that I did not see in it, but I will look forward to hearing what you have to say.

There is something I have wanted to write in my past few letters but have struggled with how to state it. I know that you hear all the talk that there will be another world war, and this one may be even bigger than the one we thought would end them all. It seems that this time I would have no choice but to serve. That is something we cannot ignore, and I want you to know that if that happens I would not expect you to have to wait for me to return. The covenant we have made still means everything to me, and I want you to know that it is only you that I want, but I do not want to think of you ever having to be the widow. We will have to wait and see what happens, and I hope that I never have to serve. I just want you to know that you are my beloved, and that my life has been blessed if it was only what we have shared the past 12 months.

That war never came, they married ten months later. My mother spoke of them doing a lot of ballroom dancing during this period, something that, like the language in this letter, I never witnessed them sharing together in my life time. While this letter came up in my mind as the sun was setting and objects were vague in the distance, I was sure that I could see them waltzing in a world that would never witness another global war. And then the image faded into darkness.

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At 11:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn it JT You just made me cry at work. I should know better not to read your blog at work.

Gavin Elster - working late

At 5:54 AM, Blogger Salty Miss Jill said...

For lack of better description...what a beautiful love letter made even more precious that it was between your parents. Thanks so much for sharing this!


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