March 12, 2014
Remember the letter you wrote dated August 16, 1966? You were about to go out on a mission, a big one, and said that I wouldn’t be receiving the letter unless something happened to you. The envelope had no postmark. I figured it came home with you from Vietnam and somehow ended up with all the letters from you that I’d saved. Well, today I came across a letter dated August 21, 1966. This one was mailed.
You’d only been gone for a month. We’d only been married for three and, like you said in your letter, only known each other for a year and half—most of that time spent apart. “What if she finds someone else?” The she you write of is me, your wife, and what an ache it makes nearly fifty years later to read those words and know this worry was with you. Didn’t we marry too soon, too early, so you wouldn’t have doubts? I guess doubts come with the territory; by “territory” I mean “being human”. And we were both so very human, full of worry and loneliness and doubts about what our futures would be. If you’d come home. If I’d be there for you. I didn’t doubt that I would. But you did. So sorry, my ghost, that you did. So sorry that worry was with you.
On page 2 you write, Wow, who wants a purple heart? You hadn’t received your first one yet. Nor the second one. Nor the third. It was a long thirteen months you were gone. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Three times, Alsie, three times “close” counted for you.
Is it odd that I don’t want to deal with these letters? The above one from you and this poor excuse for an answer? Honestly, if this response was handwritten on paper, I would’ve crumpled the papers a dozen times by now and started again on new sheets. And if the paper was in short supply, you’d find so many scratched out areas it’d be like hunting for Easter eggs in tall grass to find three words together that made any sense.
Here’s the thing. I don’t like war. I don’t like reading about grenades and firefights and all hell breaking loose, about one man killed, five wounded, about the guys being edgy, or you, showered in mud from explosions. I don’t like the booby-trapped grenades left in front of your lines or the image of a VC setting one off. Did that VC lose a foot like you would eventually do three days before your time to ship home? Did he die? Was he alone in that moment?
My brown-eyed boy, it’s best if I close this letter and wait until I’m in a better state of mind. You wrote much the same thing on the first page of your letter, wanting to wait until you were “happier,” so I know you’ll understand.
Love, love, love,