Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Issue 4 Flow

Yesterday, I went in search of the illusive missing issues of FLOW. Texas Art Supply didn't have it. *sigh* Our B&N didn't have it! I almost passed it up at the third B&N. I was hot and sweaty, creeping up on frustration . . .  Determination can be a good thing. I found Issue 4. Maybe 5 is on its way? I can only hope since I am a skeet underwhelmed by this one. Sorry. I'll tell you more about it some other time. I don't want to run things in the ground, so here's a nice change-up that came in the day's mail.

I had to Google Memorial Day. Since it's May 26, I'm ahead of the game by twenty days. I'm usually a day late and five dollars short, but not this time. The lead story on AARP's cover was write up my alley. "Last Letters Home." You can put the sadness in perspective if you remind yourself how grateful their families had to have been and probably still are, to have those letters to read over and over, as often as necessary, and to be able to share them. Everyone should know how important a letter is, because if they knew . . .

The photos are as special as the letters. The images immediately took me back to the day my mother showed us the first photos taken of our father in Vietnam. We were so excited. I know I was. He'd changed! Gone was the mustache I loved. The man in the photos had to be an imposter. I'd never seen Daddy without a mustache. Already, in a handful of months Vietnam had changed him, and would go on to change him--in more ways than we could have imagined--to the point where grew up confused. Was he the father he'd always been, or was he the father I imagined? 

It wouldn't be just the missing hair above his top lip, it would become too much more than that. Okay, I never imagined he would change. My father/daddy was the man in the letters, although I had a difficult time matching the man in the letters with the man in the photos. His beautiful handwriting was the same. His sense of humor was intact, as were his reminders to do well in school and help Mama while he was away. In my heart and head I knew he was my father just as I just knew someday he'd include a photo of at least one of the elusive gorillas we kept hearing about on the news. I peered at the television screen every time there was footage from on-the-scene news correspondents. I held my breath at every scene with helicopters, thinking a camera might show a gorilla crouched in fear as the blades flattened the tall grasses when a chopper hovered. 

In the beginning, every time I wrote to Daddy I asked why they had to fight gorillas. He never said. I was old enough to know better but how was I supposed to know? No one in our family talked about the war, especially not Uncle J. He had a metal plate in his head, a "dead" left arm and a "dead" right leg--"souvenirs" from the Korean War. I learned not to ask him much of anything. And I never asked how my father found a Kodak camera in Vietnam, but I wondered.  It arrived in time for my birthday. Long live the PX.

My goodness. This started out about as a bookmark for a future post about FLOW Magazine, Issue 4, and AARP's Memorial Day Tribute. The author wrote: "On Memorial Day, remember those who died in service. Their sacrifice is captured in letters collected by Andrew Carroll, author of War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence From American Wars."

Listening to the letters as they are read aloud is painful, my heart thuds and my throat tightens. The first time I listened I was yanked back to the confusing times when my mother tried to read Daddy's letters aloud to us. It wasn't always easy to piece together what he wanted to tell us about being away, and what it might mean if we didn't hear from him for a long while. The most honest letters were heavily censored. 

One of the worst times of our collective lives as a family was when Daddy wrote, asking for a clipping from the hometown newspaper. He was in it! There was supposed to be a picture of him receiving a medal and a citation for bravely leading his unit into battle to take a key position. They succeeded. Not a man was lost. Why hadn't we sent him a copy???

Mama received a beautiful photograph of the moment, along with a letter explaining how she would be interviewed, and how there would be a big story written about the local hero, her husband. We were so excited! Mama was going to be presented with a  . . .

Write on.

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