Tuesday, July 17, 2012
BETWEEN THE LINES
In an attempt to locate a copy of my high school diploma, I begrudgingly had to haul out a chest of items that possessed a lot of my past. Many things were stacked inside and many other things were placed upon other items. It was a reality check on how we continue to stack things in our heads until so much is buried until you go looking for an answer to a question you may have. On this occassion I did not go looking for an answer, I wanted a physical paper, but what I uncovered was one hell of a reality check, so momumental that its remnants are still hanging on to me I was quick to find what I was looking for and I should have just shut the damn lid and put it away but my curiosity took over and I just kept digging, virtually unaware of what I was about to find. I had stashed so many things in that chest over the years and never really took the time to see what I had been storing for so long. Some items I remembered and some I had never looked at when I stashed them away. I came across a very old cigar box with a pink ribbon. I had never seen a Havana cigar box look so elegant with its stained pink ribbon that was tied around the box with a small bow....as if to say "Do Not Enter". I did not easily recognize the box and then I remembered it had come from my Mothers hope chest along with several other items that I had stored after her death. At that frivilous time of my life I took no time to see what lay inside the box, I just placed it from one chest to another. I could still smell the scent of the cedar wood from Mothers hope chest as it still permeated from the cigar box. I gently untied the ribbon to see the contents within. Inside were old letters that were tied together in three different stacks. I looked closely at the return address and discovered that they were letters from my father when he was in the Korean war. The army address was an official PO Box and the dates preceded my birth. Suddenly I felt a twinge of guilt from discovering items that I am sure were not for my reading pleasure, yet the devil sat on my shoulder and I could not stop myself from opening the first letter dated chronologically. I hesitated at first but my eyes became glued to the soft yellowed paper that I held in my hands. What lay written on the pages were stories that my father had written within the trenches of war. Amazing stories of where he was and the details of what was going on at the time of writing the letters. Between the lines of each and every letter were fears and trepidations of perhaps not ever seeing the green grass of home again. Although the stories were riveting, each letter spoke words of adoration for my Mother who was sincerely missed. He wrote of yearning to see her again and, what they would do if he returned safely to his homeland. It was my first experience in realizing that my Mother and Father actually were at one time in love. While my presence on earth proved the consumation of their love, I never recalled a moment when I saw an act of a loving touch between them. I spent five long nights reading those letters and came away with a whole new insight into the dynamics of what I considered a tumultuous married relationship between my parents. While the detailed stories of war were frightful they were counterbalanced with endearing words of love and affection written in a way that I never knew my Father was capable of expressing. Within the pages of each and every letter were the hidden answers to so many questions that I thought would never be answered. The explanations to so many queries were exposed through the gentleness and anguish of the stories that he wrote, often while he hid in a trench with other soldiers. It seems as they hunkered down in the holes of mud and sand they all would take turns writing letters to distract them from the bullets and bombs that flew overhead as they huddled to protect each other from whatever fate lay beyond their control. He wrote letters by the light of a cigarette lighter that was being shared by his fellow soldiers who were also writing letters to their loved ones. All of them concentrating on the hopes and dreams of getting out of their trenches alive. It was obvious that writing perpetuated the fantasy that kept their reality in check. Letter by letter, each had detailed plans and dreams that he wanted to do when he arrived home. Some hopes came to fruition and sadly many others did not have a happy ending. Knowing how it all turned out in real life and then reading the words on paper created a huge reality check for me. The universe delivered him safely home but the shock and the horror of what he had to face during two wars sadly left him shattered and at times, unable to face life and its emotional upheavals easily. His comfort zone was to be left alone when he slid into a depression caused by his inability to talk about what was bothering him. The essence of their love for each other dissipated year after year as my brother and I watched it play out before us. Luckily for my brother he was removed from the finale by enlisting into the Air Force and saw his four years of duty behind the lines of another war, both abroad and at his family home. I reached in that box one last time to take out the last letter that was written to Mother. At the top of the letter in bold letters was written, "I'M COMING HOME" What followed were the most poignant and thrilling sentences that spilled off the paper and melted directly into my heart. Through moist eyes I read that he was overwhelmed at getting to see his baby boy, my brother, again and he wrote intimately that he wanted to spend many evening's in "bedroom sessions" making up for lost time" since he had been apart far too long. He told Mother of his processing orders and when to expect him, give or take a few weeks but he would not know the exact date until he was to be shipped out. Instructions were given to be prepared for his arrival and he would make sure that the earth would shake in their home from the loving he would give her. Though my face was wet with tears I could feel myself blushing from reading such private thoughts only meant for Mother to read. After reading all the letters I now had a new perspective on the many assumptions and the many questions that now were laid to rest. I knew now that love had once really existed between my parents. The affection and kindness they once shared was now a reality that I had only wondered about and never had any proof until I untied that stained pink ribbon on that box of love letters. Those letters were the offering from beyond to satisfy my silent curiosity. So in the closing words of this story I can only assume that upon my Fathers arrival that the earth must have really shaken because it's eruption would deliver another baby boy to the family nine months later...and that boy was ME.