Love at First Sight
That is how my parents told me it was for them. They saw each other and knew they had to be together forever! And they were. They met right as the war broke out while stationed at Fort Devens in Mass.
From what they told me, they only knew each other for about a month. I also knew they promised to marry each other when the war was over -- "if they survived." However, it wasn't until I was snowed in this past week and started reading the "forbidden" love letters my Mom hid from me that I pieced together the actual time frame.
As I opened the box of my Mom's treasured letters, I was reminded of a scene from "Bridges of Madison Country." In one of the opening scenes, the adult children discover the secret affair their mother had. After her death, they read several letters locked away in her trunk of memorabilia. Spoiler Alert! I saw the musical version of "Bridges" this summer and this sequence was deleted from the script. Sad! But I digress...
Enclosed in the box was the story of Mom's shocking affair with my Dad! The date on the first letter I found was postmarked "February 21, 1942." Apparently, it was the first letter he wrote. An article from her local newspaper states that she left Millinocket Maine for Fort Devens on January 12th 1942. Therefore, giving my Mom a few days to arrive, settle in and actually meet my Dad, I suspect he proposed on or around February 14th 1942.
Here is an excerpt from that first letter that makes me think so:
February 20, 1942
As I told you I am going to write as soon as I get on the train. I just can't tell you how much I miss you, darling. When I said goodnight to you it was as if I lost my last friend. The whole bottom seemed to drop out of everything. Just the mere thought of not seeing you with your big brown eyes and lovely smile makes me feel so sad. But then I think of what you told me: "You'll love me forever." This makes me very happy.
Darling, I wish I had a picture of you to keep me company. Even just looking at something that resembles you is enough for me. (see photo)
But what will the future bring to us? Will you always remember me in the same way as you do now? All I can think about is you and how lovely you are. Why did we have to fall so hard?
I suppose you are surprised at me for the way I acted when we said goodbye. Darling, I hope you understand that I'm a "tough guy." But I just got a streak of sentimentality. That was the happiest week of my life so far. The next happiest week will be when we are together again forever.
Sometimes I wish I could write just how much I love you, but all I can think of is: I Love You, I Love You, I Love You. That is all I have to say, is that enough?
As soon as I find out where I am being sent I will send you my address. In the mean time write me a little note each day and tell me you feel the same.
All my love,
I believe my Dad felt that way to the day he died. Of course so did my Mom, but she was not as verbal about it as my Dad was. In fact, I have not found any of the letters my Mom wrote him. It could have been because he was in combat most of the war. Or I just haven't looked hard enough. There is still one footlocker I haven't pried opened yet.
Love in Every Card
We had a rule in our home. If we purchased a "store-bought" card rather than making one, it had to say "Love," All My Love," or "I Love You" in the verse. House Rules! After reading his letters, I now understand why. My Dad was famous for his "Hank-Made" brand of greeting cards with special verses.
In the excerpt above he refers to himself as a tough-guy!" That is so true. My Dad was big and gruff on the outside, but the biggest marshmallow inside. This I did not discover until I was about 40.
The Last Valentine
My Dad ordered my Mom a beautiful onyx heart necklace for Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, he had to be taken into the hospital shortly before it arrived. He was so concerned that she get her Valentine's present on Valentine's Day. It wasn't to be. The order got screwed up.
The beautiful black necklace she is wearing in this photo came after he passed away. Even though she was in and out of dementia, she knew it was the "last gift" she would ever receive from him. She said to me, "Black, he must have know he was going to die. Damn him!"
She wore that necklace to his funeral. And this is the photo I used for my Mother's Obituary. Now they are together forever.