Tuesday, July 29, 2014

And now for something a little different...

The whole crafting thing has taken a bit of a backseat to life in general these days.  Growing a new human while caring for an existing small human, planning house renovations, trying to sort out getting my parents' house sold, while fitting in time for husband, friends and fun does not leave a lot of time and energy for much else.  There's been some dabbling in craftiness, but largely free moments are spent on the couch playing iPhone games.


But there is this.  I've taken on a project that is going to take a crap load of time, but I find so fascinating.  In cleaning out my parents' house, I have become the custodian of all of the letters that were written between my mother and father from November 1969 through October 1970, when my dad was doing his tour of duty in Vietnam.  

My parents were 22 when he left.  They had been married just 5 months.  I find this unfathomable.  And yet they endured it.  Reading and typing these letters reminds me of the e-mails I used to write to my high school boyfriend (a year younger than me in school) who was back in the Seacoast of New Hampshire while I spent my freshman year in Williamsburg, VA.  Moaning and groaning about how hard it was, how much I missed him and counted the moments until we were together again.  Christ, what a wuss I was. 

Dad's time spent in Vietnam was never a secret, and it never seemed to trouble him much the way you hear about other Vietnam Vets being really negatively affected by the war.  But the details of that time were not spoken of often - or perhaps I was so self-centered I never bothered to pay attention to them.  I'm learning so much about his experience that I never knew before and while I don't think there's any possible way I could have had more respect for my father or my mother, I'm really glad to be able to see what this time in their lives was like.

It's very strange to think of my folks as people in their young 20's, completely unaware of the life that is to come ahead of them.  The children, the house, the careers, the grandchildren, the cancer.  It's all looming out there in front of them and they don't even know it.  Wild stuff.  Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share some excerpts from the letters.  Hopefully nothing that will betray the personal nature of what is written in them, but maybe some fun little nuggets and my thoughts about them.

So I'll leave you with the last paragraph of the first letter my dad wrote from Vietnam.  After relating  his journey over there and his initial impressions of the country he writes, "Well, Bub, that’s about all I can think of to tell you right now."  Before October 2010, I had never heard my dad call my mom "Bub," nor did I know he ever had.  But there was something about her getting sick, about their relationship coming full circle, that made him pick the nickname back up again.  I don't know where it came from or why he started calling her that so many years ago, but he began again after her diagnosis and lovingly referred to her as "Bub" even as she lays in hospice.  Seeing it there in print was incredible for me.

Well, Bub, that’s about all I can think of to tell you right now.  I think of you quite often, but I can honestly say that I don’t have that sick feeling of missing you.  And I’m really pretty glad.  I’ve got enough things over here to make life unpleasant without that. Maybe it means that my love for you has matured out of some previous adolescent form.  All I can say is I hope it keeps up, because it will make things a heck of a lot easier all around.  I’m sort of in a dream right now, things have been happening so fast.  I still don’t realize that I’m in Vietnam, half-way around the world.  I love you more than ever before, Bub.