March 16, 2014
It’s a few minutes after six and the sun is low in the sky. A week ago it would’ve been only five but we changed our clocks last Sunday, springing forward an hour. It’s a funny thing, time. I mean, it’s continual—whether a clock ticks or stops. It’s all numbers and degrees, dates and days—and none of these things at all. Your note on the back of an envelope postmarked MAR 9 1967 is what got me thinking about time. One hundred and fifty-three days. You’d started counting down. I want to write something deep and meaningful but “time” is confusing … too, I don’t know, ethereal, for me to wrap words around a concept that might make some sort of sense. Wait. I found a quote by Julian Barnes from The Sense of an Ending: “I know this much: that there is objective time, but also subjective time, the kind you wear on the inside of your wrist, next to where the pulse lies. And this personal time, which is the true time, is measured in your relationship to memory.” This “personal time” worn next to the pulse is the time we wear, Alsie.
Ok. So this is a picture of your letter fanned out on my keyboard area. Six pages! It opens with Dearest Lynn. (I’m on to you, my friend. A somber beginning of Dearest usually portends gloomy news the way clouds signal bad weather.
If you had access to a mouse you could click on the image above and read for yourself how miserable your days had been. Not that you’d want to. Who in their right mind wants to remember bad times? No wonder you never said much about what it was like after you came home.
Can you explain why, after asking Who in their right mind wants to remember, I’ve decided to transcribe your words to this page?
I’m sitting here in my bunker now, cold, miserable, discouraged, homesick, and in love. It’s been drizzling all day, everything is getting wet and we have nothing to look forward to except a possible all night ambush, departure for an operation at dawn tomorrow, the worst possible chow imaginable, wearing the same dirty clothes we’ve been wearing the last five days for at least the next five days, no mail, about four hours sleep a night and home in a hundred and fifty-six days. The latter making all the others worthwhile. I love you.
Alsie, how crazy is it that these lyrics popped into my thinking when I read the above: “someone left the cake out in the rain / and I don’t think that I can make it / ’cause it took too long to bake it / and I’ll never have that recipe again” – I think Richard Harris sang it. You remember him, the mountain man guy? What was that movie you loved? A Man Called Horse? Anyway, those lines popped into my head and you were the cake left in the rain and I’d never find another you because the recipe of you was a one-time deal. Pretty nutso, huh.
I really sound bad off huh? Its really not all that hard. It would be easy to just sit in our dirty holes and sulk about the rotten conditions, which is what I do once in a while. But most of the time we just keep goofing off [pg 2] and messing around like I’ve been doing since we got here. You wouldn’t believe some of the stupid things we do to amuse ourselves. Like for instance yesterday we had a grand time throwing hand grenades into the river and seeing if we could kill any fish. Then we shot flares into the water. Did you know that they work under water?
I didn’t know flares worked underwater. Honestly, Al, “not all that hard” [?] Give me a break. It was all that hard. And I’m not writing this because of what you wrote about the conditions. I’m writing this because of the lines in your letter I couldn’t bear to rewrite here because they showed a hardness in you, a conditioning of what makes you tick that allowed a meanness toward Vietnamese civilians I wish I hadn’t read. I can’t erase what I read any more than I can erase those stupid lyrics that keep playing through my thoughts. I wish I could.
I was thinking last night Lynnsie, while I was laying in my bunker, it sure is silly and stupid — here I am, a grown man of 21, supposably responsible, a loving wife at home. And me, laying in a [pg 3] hole in the ground, which is covered with logs and sand bags, trying to sleep. –Something I used to do when I was twelve years old, build a fort in the ground and pretend I was living in it. Its like I’m going through a second childhood.
My mind really goes on some wild tangents sometimes. It happens everytime I read a book that has anything in it like someones emotional feelings. I get to thinking about my own situation and just where the heck I’m heading and what I’m trying to accomplish in life. I love you darling, this is one thing I’ll always be certain of. Where are we going? What kind of life are we going to have together? Am I always going to be able to keep you happy? I hope I don’t scare you with my thinking. These are just [pg 4] some things I like to think about now and then. I’m goofy, huh? Do you ever think about these sorta things?
Yes. I think about these things. I thought about them then, about us, about what life would be like when you came home. I remember a time more than ten years after you’d come back. We lived in Cottonwood, 1980 or thereabouts, and we were driving north on I-5, just the two us, and had made the crest of the hill before dropping down into Anderson. You had a lot of irons in the fire with property investments back then and said, “Lynnsie, what if we lose it all? What then?” And I said, “We’ll start over.” It was that simple. You squeezed my hand.
Love, you didn’t always keep me happy anymore than I did the same for you. Happiness came and went and came again. We were good together, Honey. Mostly, we were good.
Before I came over here, my mind never did any real deep serious thinking, it just sorta took the simple ways. (I’m sounding like some sorta crazy, wide-eyed fanatic huh?) Maybe I’m maturing and growing up finally. I even tried writing my thoughts down before. Just to see if I could express myself. I didn’t do to well though. That was way back in September, after I’d first seen what war was like.
Don’t worry, I still act as stupid and crazy as I always have, but once in a while I like to ponder on what makes everything the way it is.
I got a letter from you yesterday sweety. It was a beautiful letter [pg 5] like all your others. You can’t imagine how much your letters mean to me darling. I love you too, and its not a little piddaly love either. My love for you is huger, hairyer, and a fatter kind of love than even yours. You sure have been making a lot of dresses on your new sewing machine. I want you to know Lynnsie, I’m awfully proud of you. I just swell up all over with pride when I think of what a wonderful wife I have. I bet you look so cute in your “little-girl” dress. Could you send me a picture honey?
“Little girl” dress? New sewing machine? I think the machine must have been a small Singer I bought for around $40 at Sears. I did make a lot of clothes, didn’t I? The aprons and dresses I used to sew for your mom—there were dozens. I think I made things for her as a way to win her affection. After all, I’d stolen her favorite son. She wasn’t a happy camper when we married. Let me tell you, it took a lot of yardage and even then, even after our babies were in school and you’d obtained your degree in Civil Engineering—when she called and heard my voice answer, she was all ice and stone.
So you went to a birthday party for my grandmother, huh? I hope she enjoyed it. She’s like another mother to me, she’s always helped take care of me since I was born and she’s probably given me more whippins than my mom has. You asked if I thought we’d both be raising hell at 82. [pg 6] Shoot man, we’ll be teaching our grandchildren how to ride bicycles and shoot a shotgun and all the new dance steps and in the evenings we can sit out on the front porch and drink Coors and neck. How’s that sound? Yea, Yea!
I remember how your grandmother used to bang your heads together—yours and Paul’s. Or thump the top of your head with her knuckles. Not that she did while you were in uniform.
Sorry you didn’t get to teach the grandkids how to ride bikes. I know you would’ve, given half the chance. You did teach Don and Dani and Aimee. You did good there, Alsie. I think I was the one who had the privilege of spending time with them while they learned to drive.
I’m sorry I never got to call you honey. If I ever get back to my sea-bag I’ll get that tape and finish it for you, Okay?
Well Sweetpea, I must close now. Its getting dark. I love you, dearest, I love you with all my heart. If we go on that operation tomorrow I may not be able to write for a while. So remember I’ll be thinking about you, my darling little wife with the gorgeous green eyes. Please remember me.
Yours till the end of time,
Mr. & Mrs. A. L. Doiron Inc.
P.S. I love you.
Darlin’, you never did finish that tape – or, if you did, I never received it. Or maybe I did and it’s been lost along the way, lost from memory and lost from old boxes of keepsakes.
Must say good-bye and close this letter now. Will write again soon. Promise.
xoxoxo and love, Lynnsie