Friday, November 14, 2014

A letter from my grandfather

One of the many meetings Beve has set up before Grampie moves in is with the VA, because we've been told that as a WWII vet, he should be able to get some medical attention, something he received on a regular basis in the skilled nursing facility. And an important piece of documentation for the VA is Grampie's DDN (date of discharge number). So we went searching for it through Grampie's papers last night, and discovered that what used to be very well organized files are now in complete disarray. I think back to when Grampie and his wife, just after they moved to our town, decided to purge themselves of a whole lot of paper and hired a shredder to come in. Hindsight being what it is, I wonder what they shredded if they were keeping what all these Staples receipts and the like in his Morgan Stanley Portfolio. Sigh.

This led Beve to go through OUR files. And he found a few treasures. I knew I'd put our family Christmas letters in there (I'm VERY careful to save them--I work hard at making them creative and entertaining), the studio pictures we had taken of our children. And this chache:

A whole packet of letters, pictures and v-letters from my grandfather (called Chief) written during the spring of 1943. He hadn't seen his wife or daughter in years at that point and wouldn't/couldn't for a couple more. And by his picture you can tell he wasn't a young buck who signed up after Pearl Harbor. No, my grandfather had run away and joined the navy when he was so young he had to falsify his age back in the early twenties. Then, one day several years later, he met a Kansas farm girl just out in LA for five days visiting a friend. If you believe in love at first sight, believe it of them--they surely believed it. Believed it all their married lives. Believed it enough to weather separation, war, sickness and they came out the other side, still deeply, always in love.

These letters, and others I've found like them, reveal that. But I won't just tell you, I'll let my grandfather say it himself. Just see what you think of this man with a strong voice, who should have written a book and could always tell as story:

June 7th you said you have wondered about the kind of letter you should write me--the kind I'd like. I dunno, darling. Of course I love you so doggones much that any letter from you is enjoyed. But I guess I like the newsy kind of letters that you knock out when you're not too tired. The ones that just kind of ramble along and tell me what you've done, and kind of brag on me a little bit as to show me how good I was at some things which you have to do now, and thus miss me for those reasons, too. As for being cheerful in your letters, my precious one, the same things hold now as during all the past years. When you are down in the dumps and unhappy, if it helps to unload it, why hop to it, Carol Darling. That's one thing a husband should be for--to lighten the load, even at long range. 
     However, one thing I have noticed, beloved, is that as I grow older, the loving thoughts I have for you are not so romantic as they used to be. What I mean is this--I think of you a lot, naturally, but not every minute of my waking hours. I am too busy for that. Every night, after I have smoked my last cigarette, and just be fore I turn over to go to sleep, I pray for the safety and happiness of you and Carolee. I've been doing that for years now--whenever I am away from you. When we are together, those two items are rather up to me to take care of, rather than bothering Him about it. 
     But the rest of the day, little things come up that bring my thots [thoughts] to you in a veritable flood of love and longing. A black head in my face; a button off my skivvies; sauerkraut at chow; getting sleepy in the middle of the day; a holey sock that I throw away; lighting up an old smelly pipe that you used to razz me about; nothing romantic about these thoughts or a hundred or a thousand other similar ones. And yet, they change my thoughts from whatever was in my mind and I think of you and Carolee.
     If I thought much about the more romantic side of our wonderful years of married life, of how much we mean to each other, spiritually and physically, I'm afraid it might get me down. So I veer from those ideas, and stress--no, that's not the words, 'cause it isn't a conscious will on my part--rather it just happens that I just think of you an Carolee in the common ordinary everyday things of life. But it all adds up to this. I love you both.

He was a grand man, my Chief. I wish I'd known him as an adult. 

By the way, the V-letter shown there mentions a letter he wrote to my mom, Carolee, for her birthday. I wish I could find THAT letter, because about it he says, "I'm a funny guy, beloved. Somehow I am undemonstrative about everything and everyone but you. However, in the letter to Carolee, I tried to break down and write her the kind of letter I think about writing her--but can't seem to do. She knows I love her, and needs no assurance from me, but even so, I hope she'll like my attempt at a "loving letter," which doesn't begin to express my love for her."

WOW. That's all I can say.

1 comment:

Pamela M. Steiner said...

Oh my! What a treasure! So glad you were able to save those priceless missives. Thank you for sharing them with us. Yes, he sounds like the kind of man we would all have loved to have known and called grandfather, or father, or husband. Your family was richer because of his gift of love.