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Sunday, December 16, 2012

  The most popular posts on this blog was not written by me, they were written by my father and his friend, way back in the nineteen-forties. The letters written to my mother during world war two. They are about a man alone in a foreign country. He followed the rules and wrote covert letters. All that he could not say because the letters were censored and for fear of punishment lest he say something he should not have. He writes about the weather, the mud, the rain. The constant rain of war. He does not speak of the perils or the fear. Simple notes that give one an impression of a new father fighting in war. He chose to volunteer because all his friends were drafted and he felt he had to go to help them all win the war.

  He was not especially tough or arrogant. He came from adversity and made good for himself. He was not rich, but learned the value of reading and thinking for himself.

  While in Europe on holiday, (joke) he learned about the peoples of the countries he visited. His letters more present his appreciation of the local populace and their battle to survive during war, that the hardships the military faced. He immediately warmed to them all and felt a little more at peace while fighting, because of the kindness the 'locals' afforded him.

  There is no description of anything much except for Uncle Franks letter warning him, when he got closer to combat, to not go into any buildings for shelter but to dig his fox hole. That recollection was vivid, that was the only time you could get a tinge of caution from his words.

  Most of the letters are about the cold or the wet and the request for socks and cigarettes. Smoking was a big deal in those days. Watch any of the old movies showing everyone with cigarettes in their mouths or the poise of offering a cigarette from a case to another, the match or lighter the focus of the camera, and the ballet of the parties meeting. Prelude to romance. But during the war it was the only escape, the first drag, the fade from reality. Cigarettes seem to be more important than food, or food so available and cigarettes less so.

  On the other hand, Tony's (Nunzio) letters were written stateside. His vision so poor it is a surprise he was ever accepted into service. He was stationed in all the places everyone wishes for military service. Colorado and California. He was more worrying about all his friends, he was at home concentrating on the plight of all his friends. You can see the measure of comfort he had compared to being in a combat zone. You can also feel his disappointment that he is not out there with his friends.

  With both writers, it is evident how homesick they are, how much they miss the familiar. And how strange it is for them , as little boys, it is to be away from home. Fighting or working to support the fighters more a secondary sense. With Tony you can feel his commitment to the safety of folding the parachutes in the proper way. That he was in a personal relationship with whomever got that particular chute. How important it was for him to do it right, his total sense of responsibility, an honourable man.

  With my father, you can sense how much he did not want to be there. He did not say so in so many words but like someone having to do something distasteful, like swallowing Castor oil. He had to do it, and did not want to. And it just kept dragging on, soon he would be home, soon the conflict would be over and month after month, wishing or writing, it has to end soon.

  Seeing the Follies in Paris, was probably his favorite. He loved to go to clubs and listen to the music. I am not sure if he also enjoyed the girls, my recollection of him was a prude.

  Around the world his and Tony's letters are being read. Seventy year old notes home. It is a compliment to my effort to see the words of faded pencils and the persistence of putting them all on the web, instead of trying to get a book published and making millions of dollars. (chuckle.) It was years ago I began with the first letter my dad wrote. It was the gotta do it inspiration. The idea that my mother saved them all those years, and my sister sent them to me after my mother died. Along with boxes of other papers to sort through. The stuff  to discern whether of not to throw it out. The letters sat for two years before I even opened one. And then I read another and then another and then another and then realized it had an impact on me. Not the conscious kind of slap in the face but the visceral touch, even though his letters didn't say much. They touched something that sparked the need to share the information. And now I have been proven right. The most popular items on this site were not written by me. And yet, it makes me feel good, that perhaps they are doing some good somewhere in this world.  For those of us who will never see combat and for those close to the front lines these notes seem as real as if they are happening today.

  So I am not the great writer I had hoped  to be, and I have found something that is touching all of us, where ever we are. Happy New Year.

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