“Letters from Mom”

Mom wrote me hundreds of letters and would often send me greeting cards with snipped comics or articles from newspapers or magazines she thought I'd enjoy.

In January of 2021, more than eight years after she died, I found a handwritten letter Mom wrote to me and my little sister about three years before she died. It was in an envelope with “Letters to Kids” scrawled on it. The letter itself is a photocopy, but I have no recollection of receiving the original.

Dear David, and Jen,

I guess what I’ll do tonight is talk about Papa. I never really understood him or the cynergy between him and Nana. I’m pretty sure papa’s ego was wounded early on, especially since my paternal grandmother openly preferred her elder son.

When papa was in the army, he sent money to my aunt Olga every month. She used it to buy the three story house my aunt still lives in.

Unfortunately, Uncle Dic somehow lost all of papa’s medals, including a purple heart and a bronze star for valor.

At one point, during the war, papa was stationed near Panama. He was a heavy drinker at that time. I guess it must have been on a bet, but papa stole the fire engine where he was and made a lot of noise in the middle of the night.

Papa was a staff Sargeant. When he finally got the fire engine back, he was thrown in the local jail; and, as a result of his shenanigans, he was demoted.

Years later, when papa and I were on a bowling team, I, who never drank alcohol, used to get rum & coke to drink. (Cuba Libra).

Papa and I had never talked about alcohol, but one night, while we were bowling, he told me what I was drinking were Cuba Libras.

Papa loved to bowl. During his lifetime he had two perfect games. (300) I’m sure you remember the bowling alley.

Ok, papa mostly worked in construction and was an expert on cement mixing. Do you remember one day at the beach when papa took you up one of the big machines he was driving?

The elephant story always breaks my heart; but I’m sure you’ve heard that one several times. For some reason, Uncle Dic won’t give money to the Red Cross.

Papa’s feet were a mess, especially his toes. He told me that, at one point while they were marching through swamps, they could never get their socks dry enough to wear. I can only picture how awful it was, never knowing when you might get shot.

Merril’s Marauders were an elite group. Thousands started out and only a few hundred survived the march through Burma, India, and China. They made a movie about it.

I don’t know if papa acted the way he did because of his upbringing or because of the war.

I do know that, at some point he had a sense of humor. I’m sure you know the story of when he came home from the war and received a letter requiring him to go to the recruitment center. He asked him why he had never been drafted. The fact was that papa was already in the army when the war broke out.

My aunt Dora owned a store, and so did Nana. They became friends, and, when papa came home Aunt Dora asked him to be Richard’s godfather and asked Nana to be his godmother.

That’s how they met. I can imagine papa being awkward and ill-at-ease during the process. He was awed by Nana, but he looked like Clark Gable, and they got married after a few months.