When I realized the treasure I was holding in my hand, I smiled like a schoolgirl who had just found an old note from her childhood sweetheart. But these were 64-year-old love letters from my dad written to my mom when he was in the navy during the Korean conflict. They are yellowed and the edges are frayed and they bear the signs of human error where my daddy scratched out a word he had written by mistake. But the penmanship is beautiful, not just because it's my daddy's and he had a very attractive handwriting, but because it represents the almost-lost art of letter-writing and it confirms in hardcopy the great love he had for my mother. It is a testimony in written form of the kind of love that every person can only hope to find...the love of a true soulmate.
It's hard for me to relate to these letters, living in this age of texting, the internet, and instant everything. Email has for the most part taken the place of snail mail, but to me there is still nothing better than getting a letter or a handwritten note in the mail...one that you can run your fingers across the paper and know that the writer of that letter or postcard took their time to, first, choose it just for you and then, second, take their time to use a pen and put down in ink the thoughts of their heart. Letter-writing is romantic. When you think of how many people handle a letter between the time it is mailed and the time you receive it, it's another reason to remember just how special a handwritten letter is. When my dad was in the navy, letter-writing was the only way he and my mom were able to communicate during the long months he was away. I can imagine my mom's excitement as she ran to the mailbox every day, hoping for some news from him. And I can see my dad on his ship as mail was dispensed, wondering if this would be the day he would hear from his child bride so many miles away. Oh, the agony of not knowing if your loved one is safe, but then receiving that letter to confirm that, yes, they are doing well...and missing you very much.
As my parents were reaching towards their 67th anniversary the spring my mom passed away, one might find it hard to imagine the young passion expressed in the love letters they wrote during their early years. Many times in their latter years of marriage they snipped and snapped at each other like so many older couples do. I'm not saying that this is true with all older couples, but my parents were like that. I think their aches and pains and their lack of patience somedays got the best of them. But don't let anyone else say anything about their other half, or you'd have to answer for it. I remember many times planning an outing to get my mother out of the house and give them some much needed time apart, only to arrive and find that she had invited my daddy to come along as well. No problem. I can imagine after being married that many years it's probably hard to do anything without the other. One day my mom was reminiscing about how much as a young bride she missed my daddy when he was at sea. I don't know why, but it caught me by surprise because in the latter years I saw how much one got on the other's nerves at times. But as she told the story of how the navy was planning to ship daddy out for a year on a tour around the world, they decided not to make him go since he was so close to his discharge date. She expressed her overwhelming joy at knowing he didn't have to leave her for a year, and her voice cracked with emotion as she remembered.
If my mom had an ailment or my daddy had one, the one was always there, fretting over the other until they felt better, making sure they took their medicine and went to the doctor. When they drove the car to run their errands or to eat out, my mom was my daddy's co-pilot, doing her part to make sure they arrived safely to their destination. Daddy always made sure mama was cared for, and mama always made sure daddy was well-dressed and color-coordinated. Their greatest accomplishment together, and they would tell you this in a heartbeat, was the children they brought into this world. Then, when their children had children and the grandchildren had children, their life together was made even more full by the family that grew out of their love. They had some hard times in their many years together, but their devotion to each other and their family is a legacy that will follow all of us down through every generation to come. The last week of my mom's life when she lay dying, I have never seen my daddy so broken. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it, and I will never forget when he kissed her lips for the last time and told her goodbye.
So this found treasure of their long-ago love letters to each other is something I will cherish in the years I have on this earth. And then I hope my children will keep them after that and pass them on to the grandchildren. I know that one day they will be too old to read anymore and, as many things do, they will probably become misplaced or lost with time and one day completely forgotten about. But the words they speak tell of a great and decade-spanning love that was born many years before I was even thought about and one that I know, without a doubt, will transcend the years of time because it lives on in us, their children they loved so much.
Posted by CC
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