Today I decided to clean and organize one of the drawers in my bedroom dresser that normally holds my stockings. I hadn't worn any of them in years because, like most women, if we don't have to, we will avoid the struggle of having to put on pantyhose. But because I had chosen to dress up for Christmas Eve Mass, the drawer had become a jumbled mess while I had frantically searched for the appropriate hosiery, because the outfit I had planned to wear required it (I was wearing a skirt instead of pants).
In my rush to get ready, I had the drawer's contents strewn about, while searching for that "right" pair to wear. So today I decided to sort and organize my pantyhose drawer, which also included many pairs of knee highs, and yes, even thigh highs. It was then that I found a stack of old letters, tied neatly together with a blue ribbon, stuck way in the back of the drawer, underneath the jumbled mess of hosiery. I had forgotten all about having them. They had belonged to my deceased Mother.
I had had them since 1998 or so, when we had merged our two households and started a related living set up with my parents, after my Mom became too much for my Dad to handle after she developed Alzheimer's. We had lived together for about 5 years until her death in 2003. Actually both of my parents died in 2003, within six weeks of each other. My Dad died first, after surgery from a broken hip. We had never told her he died, because at that point in her disease, she was very frail and confused and I felt she wouldn't have understood or been able to handle the demands of a long visitation/wake and funeral. Yet, in her confusion, I believe she still must have known he was gone. At that point, she had lost her ability to speak, but she would point to his empty recliner and then look at me, as if to say "Where is he?"
Despite my Dad's drinking problem over the years, I believe she always loved him. When looking at old photos of them in their youth, they were a good looking couple, in my humble opinion. He was tall, dark and handsome, with beautiful blue eyes. She was very cute and had a sweet smile that reflected her disposition. She was a petite 5'2". But little did I know that when my parents had gotten married on Dec. 1st, 1945, after he was discharged from the Army at the end of World War II, she actually had another solider who was very smitten and serious about her at that same time, too. These letters were not from my Dad.....I realized they were letters from a different soldier who was very much in love with her! Well, it appeared that she had to make a decision between the two of them. I know she loved my Dad, but she had kept these old love letters from the other guy anyway.
Like I said, I knew I had these stack of letters that were hers from when we moved in together, and if I remember correctly, I originally thought they were from my Dad. But when I found them today, I realized they had a different name on the return address. I had always planned on eventually reading them, but at that time I was totally busy and absorbed in taking care of her. We also had 3 sons who got engaged and married, so I was busy planning showers and shopping for mother of the groom dresses. Then my husband got an early retirement and we decided to fulfill his dream of having a house on a lake. So then we were busy with that move and getting settled in. Grandchildren started to be born into our, once again, growing family.
So during the last decade we had happy times with marriages and births, and sad times with the passing of my parents. So those old letters in the back of the drawer were forgotten for awhile. But now, I would actually have some quiet time to sit down and read them. I was hooked with the first letter. It was dated July 7th, 1945 and it was from a fellow named Tom Griffin. I've changed his name because I don't know if he's still alive, but I rather doubt it because he states in one of his letters that he's 35, so that meant he must have been born in 1910. So that would make him 100 years old now. Some people do live to be 100 or more, though. So to be on the safe side, I will make the name change, because I am taking the liberty of publishing his private letters to my Mother.
I do so because I found them fascinating. Many of us have lost the art of letter writing. Also, women tend to be better at it than men. But for soldiers who are away from home and missing their loved ones, they can rely on writing down their thoughts, maybe not realizing that it can be good therapy for them. These letters aren't all mushy, but I thought he did have a good way of expressing his feelings....for a guy, that is. Many women would LOVE to hear the things he said to my Mom. Some cynics would say guys will say anything to get in good with a girl, but to me, this guy came off as sounding very sincere. He also had other interesting things to say about his service too. I will bet once you start reading them, you won't be able to stop.
Before I begin, I want to mention that for the last several years, my husband and I have been lucky enough to get away for a couple of months in the winter. Mostly we've headed down to Florida, but one year we went out west to Arizona and California. Last winter we were in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. Lo and behold, this is where these love letters were postmarked from. He had been stationed down there in 1945. Just a little coincidence, I thought I'd mention. During our own winter travels, I would try to keep in touch with family by sending out e-mails which came to be known as my travelogues. I tried to make them funny and interesting. This winter, it looks like we will not be traveling to a warmer climate. So instead, I am going to treat you to these wonderful letters from a solider who was once in love with my Mom. I have a feeling you'll like reading them as much as I did. Everyone who reads these, and knew my Mom, will know what a sweetheart she was, as he did.
I'll probably post one, two, maybe three letters a day. They're not as long as my intro here, ha ha! There's a total of 27 letters and 1 postcard. that he sent during a 5 month span, right up until about two weeks before my Mom's wedding. Knowing this, I figured at some point she was going to have to tell him about my Dad. I couldn't wait until the last letter to see how she (and he) handled the fact that she would end up marrying a different guy. It's amazing to learn about a time in my Mom's life that I was never aware of. Also, these letters show how most of those from that "greatest" generation treated their women. Here's the first letter, which will give you a hint of what I'm talking about!
July 7th, 1945
So far we have had a very tiresome trip although have made good time for a troop train. We left Chicago at three Thursday and arrived here at 2 a.m. this morning and will lay over here till about 10 a.m. We will be in Buckingham (airfield) some time tomorrow and I will sure be glad to get off the train. I really hated to leave Chicago after meeting you and having those few wonderful hours with you. But all good things must come to an end so, although I felt as though I have known you for a long time, I really hated to say good bye. I do hope that you will write as often as you can and will let me write. But if you can read this you will be doing more than most. I forgot to give you my address before I left and I hope this reaches you soon so I may get your answer. If I were to get to Chicago again, I would like to have the honor and privilege of seeing you again.
Maybe we could get better acquainted and have some nice times. But just to walk in the park and have you near me would be like heaven. I know that we have lots more in common than that. Even though I am just a cowboy and soldier, and the city is strange to me, I never met anyone I could talk to and have them understand more than you have.
Now, Dear, the train is moving and I will have to close for it will be too rough to write more. I hope you will consent to write soon and often as you can.
P.S. Please excuse the scribbling and I will do better next time.