Happy Valentine’s Day! I looked for old Valentine’s greetings from you but didn’t find them. A few years ago Aimee asked to borrow a fistful of letters you’d written to me from Nam and I think what I handed over included the last weeks of January and the first weeks of February, 1967. The sorting I’ve done and chronological ordering of words I still own from you leaves a gap, an emptiness, between 1/8/67 and 2/27/67.
I opened 1/8/67 and found an odd bit about a trade I’d made and birthday greetings.
Have I mentioned how these envelopes fall to pieces in my hands? Or how the photos enlarge and are readable if you click on them? (Who knows, maybe the great unknown of hereafter has wi-fi salons and you’re at one.)
I laughed out loud when I read what you’d written: You traded your car for a cow? When I first read these words I was flabbergasted. It just sounded so funny, trading a car for a cow. Don’t worry, I’m not mad at you. You did the right thing. You’re sure you don’t need a car?
Honey, it sounds more than funny. A car for a cow? The car had to be my mint green ’56 Buick. The trade had to be with my brother (although I don’t remember him owning a cow). He was four years younger, would’ve been nearly 16 and in need of a car. Maybe the cow came from Mama and Daddy in exchange for me giving the Buick to Randy?
Page 2 of your letter:
You wish me Happy Anniversary for 8 months of marriage. Ah, love, we made it through 22 years, eventually. Mostly good years–not always–but mostly. I’d take back all of the bad just to see you again. You also send greetings for my 20th birthday. Oh my. Twenty! I’m forty-seven years older now. You wouldn’t know me to look at. Or maybe you would. For me, of course, you haven’t aged a day–still 43–still brown-eyed and ruggedly handsome–still a perfect blend of Charles Bronson and Tom Selleck manli-man-ness.
There are four letters postmarked February 27th on ship stationary. You were on your way back from spending several days with Paul in Okinawa and headed for the place indicated on the stationary letterhead.
This one’s addressed “Dear Gumdrop” … I’d forgotten how many little names you had for me. Sweetpea was the one I remembered. And Lynnsie. Sweetheart and Darling and Little Girl. Short Change. I don’t understand “Short Change” used as an endearment. But without understanding the Why of it, I know in my heart that it was.
One of the four letters included an idea you had percolating inside your homesick head, an idea about signing on for another six months overseas. The sign on would allow you thirty days leave and you wanted that leave to come home to me. Luckily, you talked yourself out of that bad idea before the letter ended by figuring out you’d be back in Nam after the 30 and not home again for another eight months. Alsie, I’m so glad you changed your mind. Who knows where that sign on would’ve taken you once you’d committed to it? You could’ve never come home at all, could’ve caught more than malaria, lost more than half a leg. Our children, those loveliest of lovely children (all parents themselves now), wouldn’t have been “ours”, wouldn’t have you living on within them, and within theirs.
I love you my old best friend. I miss you, my favorite Sweetheart ever on this earth.