fourth of July
When a soldier is serving his country, so far away from home, he often feels like he will not be returning to the same world he left when he joined the service, or was drafted, as used to be the case. The letters from home mean more to that soldier than their writer could ever imagine, and yet, so often, what starts with the best of intentions…to write daily letters…soon slips and ends up being every couple of weeks or once a month. That schedule works well for the person writing from home, but is terribly hard on the soldier, so far away, and wondering if they have been forgotten.
My dad’s letters home from World War II, while varied in content, really said just one thing…I wish I was home. In his letter from July 4th, 1944, he talks about all the great things the family did on Independence Day. My dad writes, “The picnics, drives, swimming at Manitou Falls, the ball games, and all kinds of stuff like that.” He goes on to say that it all seems “so long ago” and I can almost hear the sense of loss in his words. Then he talks about how he can “remember each little detail” and how the “little things like that stick in a fellows memory their whole life, because those things that seemed unimportant at the time, all go together to make up one wonderful word…Home.” He continues, “And the fourth of July is as much a part of that word, as the front door is a part of the house.”
I have found that there was a writer living inside my dad too. Something I had no idea about before. His words painted such a clear picture that I almost felt like I was there. And, between the lines, lived the pain of the loneliness that a young soldier was feeling. Then, I could see my dad, pulling himself up by the bootstraps, and setting aside his feelings so his mother wouldn’t worry, when he lightly said, “Say, let me know what you did on the fourth. Will you? Where you went and if you had fun.” He went on to talk about the flowers that grew in England…a subject he knew his mother would like, although my dad always did like Lilacs too, and missed them in England. When I was a girl growing up, our yard was always full of them. I guess he always wanted to feel like he was home and Lilacs were a big part of that to him.
Dad always tried not to let his feelings worry his mother. I’m sure that is what every soldier has to do. Still, I can’t help tearing up when I think of his feelings. I have always thought of my dad as such a strong man, who always knew what to do, and he was when I knew him, but there was a time that he was, as every soldier is in war time, a scared kid, trying to be brave and not let anyone know what they are feeling, and most of all a kid, wanting to go…Home again.