Sunday, June 09, 2013

A New Perspective On Dad

I've mentioned that I've been transcribing Mom's journals.  I've been taking a break from that to transcribe my dad's love letters that he wrote Mom while he was in the Navy, and which she saved.  (I only wish Dad had saved her letters as well.)

These letters were written from November 1958 to June 1959, and Dad wrote Mom nearly every day during much of that time.  I knew these letters existed and even made every effort to find and preserve them when Mom's house was being cleaned out, but I have never actually started reading them until now.

They are a treasure trove indeed, and I will tell you why.  Not only do they capture what Mom and Dad were going through in the infancy of their love (which later led to their marriage in October of 1959), but they capture the thoughts of a man who never talked much about himself, his history, or what he was feeling.  They also capture a time he never talked about: his time in the Navy.

I've written before that Dad disliked the Navy a lot.  My great aunt said when he came home from the Navy, he threw away his uniform, and I believe Mom confirmed that story as well.  I think Dad probably didn't like the rigidity of service life nor did he care for the atmosphere; I also think he just plain hated being away from Mom, which is very evident in his letters.

The dad I knew was very loving and a wonderful provider to his family, but he was not very demonstrative or open with his emotions.  He was very quiet and kept a lot inside.

The 19 year-old boy who writes these letters I'm currently reading is funny, poetic, and madly in love with my mom.  I've always been a mama's boy and always considered my interests closer to Mom's than Dad's, but I see from my dad's letters that I probably inherited my writing skills, my love for music, and my singing ability from him.

The dad I knew tended to be serious, but the guy in these letters is goofy, intelligent, and poetic.  It's so great to see this side of my dad.  He was a great man who I admired a lot, but these letters bring out a whole other side of him.  I can see why my mom fell for him (and vice-versa).

Some of my favorite passages so far:

"Tell me, if a person talks to a picture, does it mean he’d better see a...head-shrinker ...I’ve found myself talking to your picture two or three times since I put it on my dresser-drawers – It is the large picture of both of us.  By the way, I sleep facing the dresser so you’re the last person I see before going to bed and the first one I see in the morning."

"I guess about all there is left to say is I Love You and imagine by now you’ve already guessed that.  So I’ll sign off now with this little thought: Confucious say, 'Boy and Girl who get caught in revolving door go around together'
"P.S. I do love you...more than words can tell and Confucious was right ‘cause we’re both caught in the revolving door of love"

"While I’m downtown today I must remember to pick up some more writing paper or my next letter to you is liable to be written on Kleenex tissues.  Do you realize that since I’ve started writing you, I’ve used up what would ordinarily be a two months supply of stationary for me.  I don’t care, though, ‘cause it’s worth every sheet of paper, every envelope, and every stamp I use just to hear from you and know that you still love me."
 "I hope to see you in a week and I’ll meet your plane no matter what time of day or night it comes in.  In the meantime I’ll keep sending my love to you by mail."

"It is now 11:05 A.M.  That...means in exactly 5,163 minutes, providing the plane is on time, we’ll be in each others arms.  Actually I haven’t started counting the minutes, yet.  I just figured it out.  I have started counting the hours, however.  I started counting them last night just before I went to bed.  If you get this letter at 6:00 PM Monday we’ll only be 31 hours apart as you read this.  I can hardly wait..
"You know, several times during the last two nights I’ve awakened from my sleep and just laid there thinking of you for about 45 minutes or an hour before I would fall asleep again."

"I’ve never loved or missed anyone so in my whole life.  All I can think about anymore in my spare time is you and the good times we’ve had together and dream of...good times yet to come.  Oh, my darling, I miss you so, and your letters mean very much to me so write often."

"I was singing the song, “Linger Awhile” to myself today.  The reason I tell you this is because the song has taken on a new meaning for me.  One verse starts out 'and when you are gone away, each hour will seem a day.'  Each hour away from you...does seem like a day and these past four days...have seemed like an eternity.  Oh, my darling, I love you so, and I miss you so and wish you were here with me, but I know this cannot be so all I can do now is send my love by mail and save the love in my heart until I am with you again."

Dad was a "smitten kitten."  I'm glad it worked out.

On another note, most days I feel I've adjusted well to Mom's declining mental health.  I'm able to see the humor in it and appreciate who Mom is.  And the fact is, she's healthy and seems happy.  But every once in a while I do have a melancholy or angry day where I just miss the woman I grew up with.  Of course, she's the same person, but her personality and mental capacity have altered a great deal.  I never would have imagined nine or ten years ago that we would be where we are now.

I call Mom every single day.  Most of the time we have the same exact conversation, but I'm grateful she's still in a stage where she can still create new memories (although sometimes she's not so successful at hanging on to them) and that she's able to communicate; that she still knows who I am and remembers much about my life.

But I do miss the woman I once had deep conversations with; who was an excellent Trivial Pursuit player; who read (and retained) a lot; who was very independent; who knew her history the way it happened; who I would go to lunch with; etc.  I just miss the old times.  

But I'm adjusting to the new.  It's all you can do, right? 


Trev said...

Great post. What fun to be connecting with your dad like this!

It's interesting to see your process with your mom. I've had a couple relatives pass with Alzheimer's, certainly no one as close, yet, as my mom, but it's interesting to see how rather than with sudden death like my uncle with a heart attack where the grief comes all at once as a shock, Alzheimer's draws out the process so you're letting go and saying goodbye over a long period of time.

I don't really know which one is harder to deal with; maybe they're just different. Either way, It makes me happy to read about your special relationship with your mom and how you are enjoying your time together the best you can. Your blessed to have each other, I think.

Gay LDS Actor said...

I'm not sure which is harder, either. It seems that Alzheimer's and dementia are a slow, drawn-out way to die, but a quick, sudden death seems like it would be too shocking and painful in a different way.

I will say that my dad had a lot of physical problems before he died whereas Mom's are primarily mental. Whether it was due to my lack of maturity or what, I found Dad's problems harder to deal with than Mom's, but I also think Dad's problems prepared me for Mom's.

Mom is like caring for a child; Dad was like caring for a grown man who was trapped in a body that couldn't do what it once was able to do. Both are hard, but Mom has been easier I think.

We are blessed to have each other. I love her a lot. She took care of me a child; now it's my turn to take care of her as best I can.

Thanks for your thoughts.