Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Letter, Part Two


The Letter-

My dad wrote 4 love letters in his life. This piece is about the last one

April 28, 1978-

"There are only three love letters that I have written. The first, in March of 1943 to my mother - which I wrote after having been on an army transport for 47 days, had been terribly unhappy, and felt that after 25 years of experiencing the love that only a mother can show, that I did want to tell my mother my thoughts before the tropical sun addled my little brain."

"The next love letter was written in 1944 to Dot - after I returned to British Guyana from a month long furlough and during which she agreed to marry me. That letter was written as an expression of the love that I finally discovered." 

"The third love letter was written in the summer of Gail's birthday, her 16th.... I realized at that time what a wonderful young lady Gail was. I told her so and told her that I knew she would mature into a wonderful person."

"And now, at the ripe old age of 60 years and 1 month, I am writing my fourth and last love letter - and to a man and a woman too!" 

My father was dying when he wrote this letter. He had been diagnosed with terminal cancer the year before, and he would succumb to the disease before the end of 1979. So, when he mused that this would be his last love letter, it fills me with an overwhelming sadness.

This letter was found, this week, by the son of Hope and Max, the people to whom the 1978 letter was written. As I put these thoughts on paper, Hope lays dying. She carried my father's note for the past 37 years. It was located among her important papers. 

In 1948, two young couples moved into the same garden apartment complex. My dad and Dot, my mom, had been married in 1945, but has lived with my dad's parents for more than two years. New housing was in scarce supply as World War II meant that all resources were focused not on building homes but on building a strong military. Max and Hope were also newlyweds, Hope a stunning beauty and Max equally as handsome. And from the first there was an inseparable bond that grew between these couples.

If we are very lucky in this life, we are able to know and appreciate the love for a parent, for a partner, for a child. My dad was very lucky. But good fortune  also allowed him to experience the love of friends who were so much more than that. 

To me, they were always Aunt Hope and Uncle Max. In writing his letter, my dad reflected on what it meant to be something more than mere family by circumstance. "To friends, or even ordinary blood relatives, I write a prosaic note of appreciation. But you are not friends, you are not relatives resulting from an accident of birth or from marriage- you are as I think Goethe wrote "relatives by choice."  To such, I write love letters."

But unlike parents or partners or children, expressing love that one feels for someone who has made your life so much richer, does not always flow easily. At least it didn't for my dad. "Perhaps because society has, since our birth, taught us to mask our feelings in public... we have lost our ability to express our feelings for one another. So- you will have to accept my inability to express my love -(one of my many shortcomings) and accept my plain, simple unadorned statement that I love you both, deeply." 

Hope has, in her dying days, allowed my sister and me to hear our father's voice, to listen to him wax eloquent on his gratitude for the love that was in his life and in his heart, to bring his words back to us after such a long, long absence.

For all of us who feel that death is a final chapter, this week's discovery seems like I was permitted to peer into the secrets of the universe. 

Farewell Aunt Hope. And thank you for your most unexpected and overwhelming final gift.

And thank you dad. It was wonderful speaking with you again. I love you.


Robert said...

I have shared this piece with a few of my friends prior to posting. Here are some of their responses. I thank everyone who has expressed such kind thoughts about me, but more importantly about my dad. Most are now meeting him for the first time.

There are tears in my eyes.

Beautiful, so well written, full of such depth and love for your remarkable parent....thanks so much for sharing

Thank You Robert for sharing the letter from Your Dad about Hope and Max. All of them such amazing people! So much love among everyone. Thank you Mom Hope and Dad Max for keeping this wonderful letter for so many years, thank you uncle Dick for writing such a delightful letter and you Robert for bringing it to us in your blog.

How wonderful that your father was able to express himself on paper and how extraordinary that you had the opportunity to read his words...it's obvious that you're picking up where your father left off...and what a wonderful gift that is for your family and for your "too early to call" admirers

We love this piece.

Anonymous said...

It is both sad and beautiful at the same time. I think your father would have appreciated the completeness to the circle this message took. It's a real message in a bottle. I loved it.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Your father must have been an amazing guy


NL said...

Goosebumps, tears and a lump in my throat. A very physical response to this.

Anonymous said...

i never knew him as well as i knew your mom, but through these letters, i get a glimpse of the amazing man he was.
and how much like him you are! in your writing, sensitivity, intelligence, etc.
thanks for sharing


Anonymous said...

This is just such a beautiful tribute to your dad. And to love and friendship! I remember Hope and Max, of course. It just says so much about who your dad was, and who all of you are, that he appreciated and accepted that kind of friendship love. And that he could express it so beautifully - and it was 36 years ago! Not exactly when men shared their feelings. So, so incredible.


Anonymous said...

Wow what a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing.