Letters a While Ago

Today, in case you missed my tribute, is my grandson’s birthday.

We sent him stuff. We called and sang to him. i wrote a poem about him and posted it.

Then i received a letter. The connections rang true.

Nancy Orr Winkler Schwarze sent the letter. Nancy is a cousin, but she is really like a long distance sister. On random weekends for about fourteen years, we would meet on weekends, sometimes in White Oak, then Red Bank, suburbs of Chattanooga; and sometimes in Lebanon, not a suburb of anything but near Nashville. Sometimes we would meet in Monteagle for lunch. Sometimes, especially Easters and Thanksgivings at Mama Orr’s Victorian home on the hill overlooking Rockwood. And in the summers, we often met in the cabin in the Smokies, hanging out on the hill above the creek’s waterfall and played and played and played. Nancy served me the first meal she ever made for a guest in her home in Cocoa Beach, i think. i do remember it was about five courses because she hadn’t quite figured out the timing. But it was good, very good.

She was stunningly beautiful. Still is. And boy, could she dance, especially with her brother Jon.

Long distant sister.

And the letter today was from long distance. Cocoa Beach, Florida to the Southwest corner. It was a nice note. Then i took the enclosures, a good IPA, the Bluetooth speaker, and my iPod out to the backyard sitting area, put on Narada guitars, set down with a pen and tablet to read the letters.

Didn’t write anything on the pad. Didn’t really even here the music.

i did cry.

You see, Nancy, like me, is going through stuff, not necessarily collected but just acquired through years of living, family stuff. When she saw some of my stuff in these posts and on Facebook of my acquirements, she decided to send hers to me. i’ve got a whole bunch she sent earlier of photos and stuff i’ve been slowly scanning and posting. But this was a bit different.

And i guess, thinking of my distance from my grandson Sam and his great grandfather from whence Sam’s name originates and all of that, i got just a tad emotional. i’m that way you know. i used to be embarrassed when i cried about things close to me. Like daughters. Like siblings. Like Mother and Daddy. Sorry. It’s just the way i am.

But these things Nancy sent are rather incredible.

World War II. Letters. “V-Mail,” they called it, abbreviated from “Victory Mail” long before victory was even close to fruition. From Wikipedia, it was explained as “a V-mail letter would be censored, copied to film, and printed back to paper upon arrival at its destination.” The copies Nancy sent me look like what us old folks recall as thermofax, but smaller.

More remarkable, these were six letters, five of them V-Mail, the other marked “Passed by Naval Censor.”  The censors work is evident with words blotted out by some super sensitive desk sitter making sure my father would not put our country in jeopardy by telling my aunt and uncle something terribly classified. i was struck how real it was to them back then and also what an annoyance to the recipients. i was also struck about how important for him to communicate.

We were at war. Real war. Not some political foray to squelch evil in a land far away. Even though my father and uncles were far away from that little town in the heart of Tennessee, they were fighting to keep evil from conquering our world, not perceived potential. Real.

Yet he doesn’t write of war, even if the censor with those editing blots thought my father was revealing a terrible secret. He was writing of love. From far away to far away. My father, from whom i received maybe five total letters and notes in our life times together, was writing to his sister and brother in-laws with love. Showing concern. Talking about his niece and nephew. Missing all of them.

And expressing how much he wanted to be with his wife and child. Me. “James” he called me. Bragging about pictures of me.  Received somewhere in the limits of a Tennessee country boy could grasp in 1944-45: Bouganville, Solomon Island;  New Guinea, the Philippines. He still bragged…from long distance.

i read the all, six one-page letters. Perhaps one day, i shall scan them for all to see. Remarkable specimens of days long gone, a time we really can’t imagine.

i cried. Not because i miss him. i do. Not because of the trials and tribulations he, my uncles and our families had to endure. Not even because how much he loved me.

No. i cried because he was a fine man, a good man. And because he loved his first great grandson, as he did all of his brothers, sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, and…oh could i go on about that. But as i read, i kept coming back to James Rye Jewell, Sr. and Samuel James Jewell Gander.

Oh how i wish i could adequately confer with my grandson just what his namesake was really, like really like.

But tonight, Sam too, like Nancy, is distant. Too far to convey such things.

But i really cried because i know Sam is blessed. He’s kin to his namesake.


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