MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF
A Love Story by
Diane Stark (McConnell) Sanfilippo
Chapter 69 – Mischief in Paradise
When Michael celebrated his third birthday on May 24, just a little over a month after we moved to our new home, I thought, with relief, “No more terrible twos”!
Unfortunately, no one told our precocious son that now he was three, he was supposed to be a big boy and stay out of trouble. In fact, when I look back on the year he was three, I recall it as the ‘horrendous threes’! Not a day went by that he did not think of some mischief - some incidents worse than others - but I think that I should share a few of these so that his children will know that he was definitely not an angel!
He was a handsome child, with a mixture of Billy’s and my features – Billy’s ‘bedroom’ eyes that seemed to gleam with the mischief in them. In fact, Margaret once told me that Michael just had the devil in his eyes. He definitely had my fair skin and his nose, much like my own, was scattered with freckles, although by the time we had been in Hawaii for a month, he had begun to get just enough tan to blend the freckles into his complexion. His mouth was all Billy and when frustrated by a task that he found difficult to complete, he would draw his lips thin, just like his father, and with the most determined look, I had ever seen on so young a child, he would continue to try until he got it right. Yes, he was just as stubborn as both of us, and he had come by it honestly since Billy and I both still had that sometimes not so pleasant characteristic.
However, his mind boggled both of us since Michael could think of things to do that we never imagined.
The incident that stands out in my mind the strongest happened on another of those lovely Hawaiian mornings when the clouds looked like puffs of gossamer against a sky as clear blue as my handsome husband’s eyes, and, as usual, there was a pleasant breeze blowing inland from the ocean. It was another perfect day, and already I had begun to take those days for granted since it was unusual for a day not to be just like this one. When it rained, it was more a shower or a squall at sea, and over almost as quickly as it had begun, and it was not odd for it to rain only in the front yard and not in the back. This day was just too perfect for anything bad to happen, or so I thought until the Military Police jeep stopped in front of the house and two M.P.’s got out, one soldier carrying our grinning three-year-old son, as the other soldier lifted his tricycle down from the back of the vehicle. Instead of waiting for them to come to the door, I opened the screen to the lanai and walked out to greet them and to gather my child. They did not look very happy, but I was the first to speak and asked if I could help them.
“Ma’m, does this young man belong to you? He told us this was his house.”
Owning up to being Michael’s mother, although by now I was not sure this was the smartest thing to do, I waited while they told me how they met my small son. Their jeep was the lead vehicle for a tank convoy using the ‘Kam’ Highway to reach a training area, and had just rounded the corner past our house where they set up road blocks at the next intersection and stood there waiting for the tanks to pass. When the tanks did not reach their post in a reasonable time, they left one M.P. at the intersection and retraced their route to see if perhaps one of the behemoths was having some kind of mechanical trouble. What they saw as they neared our house was far from what they expected. There was Michael, on his tricycle, pedaling furiously down the center of the highway leading the convoy, which, of course, had slowed the tanks to a crawl! Picking up their reluctant charge, they asked him where he lived, not thinking that he would know, but not only did he know, but he told them that his daddy was a ranger and that he was in ‘C’ Company. Then he told them his name and everything about his life to this point, how he had just moved here from Georgia, etc. No, this child did not have a shy or discreet bone in his body. The Military Policemen obviously did not know whether to laugh or to be stern, so were trying to maintain a happy medium, but I knew that Michael’s escapade was sure to be the subject of gossip all over Schofield before the day was over! I just hoped that Billy would not hear about it! Taking my son from the soldier, I apologized and explained that I had left him for just a moment while I changed his little sister’s diaper, but they could not have been more understanding and kind.
“Look, Ma’m, we know that your husband is in the military, and an officer from the tag on your car, but we know that some commanding officers might not look too kindly on an unsupervised child riding down the middle of the highway, holding up Uncle Sam’s finest. At least that is to hear the boys from Armor brag, so we are just going to forget his last name. Just try to keep him tied to your waist! He could have been killed.”
I had not thought of that last fact, and when I did, I was almost physically ill. Contemplating whether I should spank him now or wait until Billy heard about it, if he heard at all, or whether I should risk not telling him myself. My mind whirled as I wondered what the chances were that he would be around anyone from either the Military Police, or the Armor Battalion to hear this rather unusual tale, but what if he did, and I had not told him. At least I had all day to make up my mind whether to incur his wrath at both me and our son, but just in case, I disciplined Michael with words, and a horrible story about how he could have been smashed flat by the huge tanks, the drivers not even knowing that they had run over him.
Often I had tried to protect my son from Billy’s discipline, which much like his own father’s was far too harsh and far too physical for such a young child. Michael was still just a baby to me, and when Billy would make him pick his own switches, it broke my heart, and I would plead with him not to use the switch on him. I remembered my own striped legs, and I could not bear to see this on my child, but usually I could not get Billy to listen to reason, his anger was so great, and Michael would feel the lashes of the switch. I would go into the bedroom, close the door, and put my fingers in my ears, and then when it was over, and Billy had calmed down, I would take my son in my arms and calm him while bathing the red marks with cold water. Often Michael was so exhausted from fear and crying that he fell asleep in my arms, and Billy knew better than to try to take him away from me to put him in his crib. I just wish that I could have stopped it in the first place, but sometimes Billy was beside himself with rage, and I felt powerless. He wanted his son to be perfect, although I tried to explain that he was just a curious little boy who was bound to get into mischief, just as he had when he was small, but Billy did not hear my pleas, and I cried harder than Michael did. Behind his anger, the knowledge that an officer faces judgment by the way he runs his household, and that an officer’s wife, and his children, are a reflection of his ability to handle his subordinates. I knew this, and grew up with the knowledge that officer’s children are supposed to behave, although we often were the biggest brats on base, at least I was. When Billy started spanking Michael, he was only two years old, and I just thought that he was far too young.
All day I kept my now fearful child by my side, and worried about what to do when Billy got home, but in the end, I decided not to tell him since it was most unlikely he would hear about it. We spent the afternoon walking along the beach, with Margie in my arms, Michael holding my hand, and Pele` running out in front of us. Michael was not afraid to go down to the edge of the water with me since he knew that I would never drag him screaming into the breaking surf, but he still walked on the side furthest from the waves that were lapping at our feet. We sat among the large rocks while Michael made roads and I let him use my foot to make a tunnel for his cars, and I talked to him about how dangerous his little adventure had been, and how sad his mommy and daddy would be if anything happened to him. He appeared to be taking it all in, and seemed to understand the boundaries that I gave him for riding his tricycle, which included the firm warning that he was never, ever, ever to go beyond the big hedge, and he promised me that he would not go onto the highway again. I hoped this would just die down and go away, and Billy would never know about our exciting morning. Tricia had not been home at the time, which meant that she could had not have seen the M.P. jeep delivering our son and his tricycle to our door, so hopefully all would be well.
As we walked back to the house, Michael saw Elizabeth playing on their lanai and asked if he could go play with her, and I told him it would be O.K. as long as her mother did not mind. Trish poked her head out the door and told Michael to come on over and have some juice and cookies with Elizabeth, and asked if I wanted to come in for a visit. I really needed to get back to the house and start supper, but decided that a few more minutes would not put me too far behind.
“Did you hear the tank convoy that came by this morning?” were the first words out of Trish’s mouth, and when I replied to the affirmative, she said that she had heard that a child on a tricycle had been in the middle of the road, but she had no idea that it was Michael.
“Where did you hear that story,” I asked calmly, and innocently, and she told me that two of the clerks in the P.X. were talking about it! I was shocked! How had the story gotten that far and that fast?
“At first I thought about Michael,” Trish continued, while I tried to hide my horror and act surprised. “But I know that you keep a better eye on him than that. It must have been one of the little native boys whose mother has a dozen children.”
Whew! At least no one was saying that the child belonged to an officer, or even if it was a boy or a girl, but it was very difficult to keep up the pretense with Trish who knew how I felt about Billy’s sometimes-harsh discipline, although Rusty was just as harsh with Elizabeth. We both hated it, but both felt powerless, and I knew that she would have warned me if she had heard the child’s name. I hoped that, true to their word, the two Military Police had not given out the name, and Billy would never know.
Finally, when my legs were no longer rubber and I could stand without shaking, I told Trish that I needed to get home and feed Margie and start our supper, and she told me that Michael could stay and play until they were ready to eat since they kept each other out of trouble, usually. She was huge with child by now, and as tiny as she was, I wondered how she carried around such a burden, but she was always cheerful, seemed to feel fine, and never complained. Luckily, I thought for her, she was going to be able to deliver in the civilian hospital in Wahiawa since there was no hospital at Schofield, and we were too far from Kenner, the main military hospital on the island, which was closer to Pearl Harbor and Honolulu. I knew that after Margie’s birth I would do anything to avoid having another baby at an Army hospital, and Trish knew about the entire incident, and what the doctor had told me at my six-week checkup. I was also ‘on alert’ to either take her to the hospital, to call an ambulance, or to take Elizabeth when she went into labor, but she still had some weeks to go.
Leaving Michael happily playing ‘house’ with Elizabeth, I walked home with Pele` following, and once inside my door, I sank to the floor, closing my eyes, and praying that Billy would not find out. Finally, I was able to stand and fix Margie’s supper while starting our own.
I had just taken her out of the bathtub when I heard Billy’s little sports car drive up, and listened to hear if the door closed quietly or slammed, which would be an indication of anger.
“Hey, honey, where are you?” Billy called out as he quietly closed the side door. So far, so good, I thought.
“Back here putting your daughter’s nightgown on,” I said “and Michael is playing with Elizabeth.”
“I know, I saw them when I drove up, and they look like they are having fun and behaving,” he called out, and I could hear him shuffling through the mail that had come that day.
He had written to his father for two reasons. One, he needed a loan, which we knew, and Gene knew, he would never pay back. Two, he wanted his father to send him some of the pills that he was taking for his narcolepsy since often he was having a hard time staying awake, although I assured him that anyone who worked a 60 hour week was bound to be tired. I did not think that he had narcolepsy, although I knew it could be hereditary, but it was too young. Billy was not convinced though, since he said he had never had this trouble before, but I also knew that there was something about the constant warmth of the tropics that seemed to make one feel torpid and lazy since I too had found myself almost falling asleep one day on my way home from Schofield. I fought it until I could fight no longer and finally had to pull off the road to take a quick nap. Later I bought a pair of sunglasses in the P.X., that seemed to solve that problem, and I suggested to Billy that he get some glasses too, but they did not seem to help him like they had me, but then again I was getting more sleep. Anyway, I knew that he would be disappointed that there was no letter or package from Gene in the mail today, and I honestly wondered if there ever would be one.
I went into the living room, and after putting our daughter on the floor, I went straight into Billy’s arms, kissing him deeply and invitingly, and then walked him to the couch so I could take off his boots. The heavy black wool socks that he wore with his boots were hot, and his feet were often red and itchy from a rash, so each night when he got home, I removed his boots, bathed his feet with a cool washcloth, and heavily powered them with a medicated powder. Finally, I would put some soft white cotton socks on his reddened, often blistered, feet. When he laid out his uniform for the next day’s work, I would shake some of the medicated powder into the heavy socks, but I knew that would not help much. All I could do was try to make him as comfortable as possible, under the circumstances, and I felt sure this problem would only get worse in Vietnam, and I would not be there to take care of him.
After I finished putting his last sock on, Billy pulled me into his arms telling our daughter that he was about to ravage her mother, and just as our lips met, the side door came crashing open and in came Michael with Rusty right behind.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt”, Rusty said, then continued with that mischievous grin on his face that he used when he was up to no good, “but I wanted to ask how you, of all people, are managing to raise a son who plans to join Armor?”
I could tell by the look on Billy’s face that he did not have a clue what Rusty was talking about and he innocently walked right into the trap. “All little boys like cars, trucks, and yeah, even tanks,” he replied as if Rusty did not know what it was to have a son.
Well it was as if he had just walked through a forbidden door since it had to be obvious to Rusty that Billy had no idea about Michael’s adventure. I shot Rusty a glance and a slight motion of my head to signal him to let me tell Billy in my own way, at my own time, preferably after Michael went to bed. I hoped to maintain Billy’s good mood as long as possible, although he rarely had a day when he did not walk in the door with a huge smile on his face, as if all his problems he left behind at Schofield. In spite of the lack of mail from his father, he was in a particularly good frame of mind this evening and I wanted this to last at least until I got Michael to bed. Then I would tell him about his son’s adventure.
But Rusty was not one to take a hint, and if he did, he really did not care, so as he blurted out the story, full of exaggerations and innuendos, I could see Billy’s face tighten as he lifted one eyebrow and glanced at his naughty little boy. I have never been sure what Rusty’s intentions were that evening, but certainly he did not get the reaction from Billy that he expected, as all of a sudden, Billy put his head back and only as he could, he roared with laughter!
“O.K. cowboy, he said,” he said, opening his arms to his son, “so you want to drive a tank. Well Daddy will just have to see if I can’t get one for you!”
Michael laughed and rushed to his daddy, Billy stood and threw him high into the air, which was quite possible now with our tall ceiling, and Rusty retreated with the sounds of laughter coming from both of my ‘men’.
Billy, never able to let anyone get away with what he thought Rusty had just tried to do, called after him, “We’ll see if we can get Elizabeth one too! But we know all about those women drivers!” This was a direct jab to Rusty’s abdomen since Trish was famous for her fender-benders.
Red in the face, Rusty left, closing the door behind him, and once again, life was perfect. My husband was home, he was not angry about Michael’s escapade, which I now explained in full, correct detail to him, while our daughter fed and clean played happily on the carpet in her nightgown. Pele`, anxious to join in on the laughter, had slipped onto the rug, and for once, Billy seemed not to notice, but her feet were clean and I am just as sure that he did not want to ruin the moment either. While I finished cooking supper, Billy sat down with Michael and had a very serious talk about how dangerous the highway was on the other side of the hedge, and how lucky he was that a tourist driving fast had not been the first car behind him instead of a slow-moving tank convoy.
After I assured him that the M.P.s did not know his name, and in fact had made a point of saying that they would not ask, Billy seemed more relaxed. However, I think that the thought of his small son crushed under the wheels of a speeding car was more important to him than any stigma this incident might have on his career. We all sat down to a pleasant meal, and in our established routine, when Billy was home, he bathed and dressed Michael in his pajamas while I cleaned up the dishes and nursed Margie.
Having no television, when alone at last, with the children asleep, Billy and I sometimes walked out to the beach, just as the sun’s red globe perched precariously on the crest of the horizon as if it did not want to fall into the deep blue sea.
Although it was almost dark and soon the ocean would turn black, at this moment when turquoise met the red-orange of the sun, it was as if God was displaying all the glory of his universe in this one spot, at this one moment, just for Billy and for me. We sat on the sand with our backs to the warm rocks, and again Billy asked me to make love in this sheltered space, but again, I was too frightened of being ‘found’, and I curled up in his arms and told him that I would rather go back to the house. We sat there for perhaps half an hour until the sun slipped into the sea, and as if a curtain was drawn, stars that seemed so close that I could reach out and touch them replaced it. They glowed like lanterns and turned the ocean into a navy blue and the sand into spun gold. I did not think that I could ever be as content as I was in my precious Billy’s arms while we kissed as we had when we were kids just learning about each other. His kisses were the sweetest I had ever had, and ever would have, and his touch gentle to my breasts. I softly touched his face, slightly coarse with his day’s growth of beard, and told him over, and over how much I loved him, and he whispered in my ear, “More than life itself.”
Finally unable to quell his rising libido, Billy pulled me to my feet and we walked slowly back to our little house, where we made love on the soft white carpet until our passion fulfilled, we fell asleep right there in each other’s arms only to awaken during the night and make our way to our big bed upstairs. It would not be long until the alarm would ring, and he would be gone again, and I would be facing another long day without him.
My wonder if the intensity of our lovemaking would diminish with the years certainly seemed to be superfluous since with time, it only got better. I could not imagine life without him, and would not let myself even think about Vietnam.
While Michael continued to find new ways to make mischief I learned not to tell Trish everything that he did – like the time, after Michael presented me with a beautiful flower that he had found, a neighbor had called to tell me that my son and dog were digging up his rare tropical plants. That afternoon, with the baby sleeping, I took Michael for a walk, and I showed him his boundaries and made sure the gardening neighbor was not within his play area, and I received no more complaints. Often he brought me coconuts, but those I knew he got from the trees around the Quonset hut, and even if the doctor and his wife were there, they enjoyed having Michael visit. Once they even asked our small family to join them for a luau on the beach, and as far as I know this invitation was exclusive, and not extended to their other tenants, although all four houses were now occupied. We did not see them that often and we respected their privacy, just as they did ours, when they were enjoying the beach, but they were both pleasant people and had led quite an interesting life.
He had been a doctor on the island where the lepers were isolated, she had been his assistant, and I thought that perhaps she was a nurse, but I never did ask. Both of them seemed as tanned as rawhide, although she had far more wrinkles, which I later learned is what happens to women when they spend too much time in the sun. In fact, I noticed that the lovely island girls aged rapidly and were almost craggy by their early 30’s, which in a way, made me less envious of their lovely, lithe, and tanned bodies. Soon they too would look like wrinkled old prunes, and I would still have my fair Southern glow, with freckles! There was just one drawback to our relationship with the doctor and his wife, and that was their liberal brand of politics. Both of their sons made news when caught in the act of running a Viet Cong flag up the flagpole at the University of Hawaii, and of course, the story was on the front-page. Certainly Billy would have been furious had it been his sons, but then again our conservative Southern politics were far to the right, while the doctor just laughed at his son’s mischief. I do not think, though, that Billy ever felt as friendly towards them again, mumbling under his breath something about “communists”. This was the first protest that we had ever hear about our involvement in Vietnam, and in fact, since the United States was not heavily committed at that time, this was a ‘news making’ moment. It was not until years later, after thousands upon thousands of black bags and silver coffins had been brought back to the United States holding the youth of America that the protests became commonplace, although seldom in the conservative deep south.
Most of the time, my son was just an average little boy – a bit adventuresome, but handsome, and healthy. His hair had turned a pale blond and he had actually gotten a tan from playing in the sun, although I tried to make him wear his little blue hat most of the time. He and Elizabeth were still the best of friends, and their play never interrupted into tears, but one day Trish called me and she was laughing so hard that I thought at first she was crying!
“Are you O.K.”? I asked since she had just come home from the hospital with her newborn daughter, and she simply could not compose herself.
Anxious, I picked Margie up off the carpet and ran next door, and found Trish still doubled over with laughter.
“You would not believe what Michael just did,” she said after she finally was able to speak, although there were more frantic moments before she could continue her story. When she was finally able to stop laughing enough to catch her breath, she told me how Elizabeth and Michael had been playing ‘house’, which at once rang bells in my head hoping that prying little eyes had not seen Mommy and Daddy in a compromising position.
Trish continued to say that Elizabeth had been pretending to feed her doll with a baby bottle when all of a sudden she turned to Michael, shoved both doll, and bottle at him and said, “Here, you do this while I cook dinner.”
Michael took the baby doll, but did not have a clue what to do with the bottle, and he told her, “I don’t need this!” With that, he pulled up his shirt and firmly attached the doll to his breast! After all, his Mommy did not use a bottle, and he did not need one either!
That story had Billy rolling on the floor with laughter, although he then asked how long I was going to nurse Margie. Since we were using my nursing as birth control, and since I had not had a monthly period since she had been born, I told him that as long as she thrived and as long as I had milk. He seemed satisfied with my answer although often he had told me that he was ‘jealous’ of the baby! The problem was that we had not been using any other birth control, although sometimes Billy promised to ‘withdraw’, but it never happened. I was beginning to wonder if I could possibly be pregnant again, but the thought went out of my head as quickly as it came in since I could not think about having three children when we were barely making ends meet with our two.
Gene had finally sent Billy $200 and a few of the pills, which Billy said helped, but Gene was quite firm that there would be no more of either. He told Billy that if he needed those pills, and if they helped him, that he should go to the doctor, which he would never do since that would spell the end of his Army career. I think that Gene was half hoping that would happen and Billy would have no other alternative than to go back to Griffin, although I knew that would never happen either. Billy used the pills sparingly, only when he was really, really, sleepy, but they did not last long, and soon he was complaining about how tired he was all of the time.
The training was getting more intense as the 25th Division readied to embark for Vietnam, although Billy said that he did not think that anything would happen until after Christmas. C. Company along with the entire 1/14th was getting ready for their annual Army Training Tests, and then annual training exercises on the ‘big island’ of Hawaii, so Billy’s hours at work were becoming longer and longer.
I missed him so much that I began daydreaming about him during the long hours when the children were sleeping and I was waiting for him to get home and with those daydreams, I fell more and more in love with my handsome husband. I would often finger the letters on my gold bracelet, which gave me comfort as I caressed and spelled out the letters, “More than Life Itself.”
Postmarked August 2, 1965
Dear Mama Bond,
It certainly was good to hear from home after such a long wait, but better late than never. Besides, I’m not the best correspondent in the world. Really, I should be ironing tonight, but if I want to receive letters, I must write letters. The children are asleep and Billy is in the field overnight (last night too), so I really have my thoughts to myself tonight. I’m beginning to cherish these brief moments of peace and quiet. I would like to just sit and listen to nothing. Maybe it sounds like I’m off my rocker, but my life is one big merry-go-round. It seems like I’m going around in circles and getting nowhere. My children are my salvation, but then again I think they are going to be my downfall. Maybe Mike doesn’t know he is three yet. I thought three was the magic kingdom of being better behaved, but it seems to be the opposite with Michael. He’s more determined than ever, and can think of more to get into. Now he knows better, he’s just going to do it anyway and see if he can get away with it. It’s a challenge, and he meets all challenges head on. Right now, he’s nursing a huge black eye (almost swollen shut) from meeting a chair head on. He was running in the house and tripped over the vacuum cleaner. He’s real proud of his eye though and asks everybody, “You know what happened to my eye?” Then he tells them the whole story. I don’t know what to do with him, and I don’t know what I would do without him. That Mike, he’s quite a boy!
Margie is no trouble at all unless I let her be, like bathing her after every meal. She makes such a mess (her one fault), and it’s sticky over here, so I bathe her three times a day. She enjoys her baths so much that I get the utmost pleasure just watching her. I put just a very little bit of water in the bottom of the tub, and then turn her loose. She lies on her fat little tummy and splashes and plays until we’re both soaked. She seldom ever cries unless something is wrong, but every now and then, but not too often, she loses her temper. Boy can she holler if she feels like it! I just ignore her and in no time, she forgets she is mad. It’s amazing how you can let your second child fuss a bit, when you know that nothing is wrong, and not even hear her. She is still on the breast and as fat as a little butterball. I think she’s gong to be a lady wrestler! Not really, she may be fat, but she’s tiny. I think she’s going to be smaller than I am, as her bones seem so small. I guess birth weight doesn’t mean much. I hope not! She would be a wrestler!
Billy is home so little that I don’t even feel like I have a husband just a ghost who makes a mess and leaves dirty clothes. And of course deposits a little money in the bank on occasion. I won’t talk about money since this month will be tight. Everything is terribly expensive over here. Even on post, we pay more than you do at Kroger’s, and they only give us $30 more per month. Pay raise please come through! We would be all right if we were back at Benning, but here we are in a financial bind. I don’t like to think about it, but I’ve had to take over the account since we’ve been over here as Billy has been too busy. I’m really too busy too, and it’s not my job, but somebody has to do it, and I don’t like the way he does it. One of his entries read this way: “date – none, check no. – none, amt. – about $10, to cash, for junk.” That’s not so bad! Most of the time he doesn’t even write a stub! He’s really not irresponsible, just worked to death. I sure wish he were home more, but at least I don‘t have to worry about contraceptives! (I thought that there was no point in worrying her needlessly.)
I’m terribly lonely for adult companionship. I wish one of the boys would come live with me, but they have their roots from which I have been so abruptly torn. Boy! Am I ever homesick! It could be worse though. Billy could go to Vietnam. I’m afraid he will go eventually unless something drastic happens in the near future. I think the 25th Division will be one of the last to go though because there is no other large unit so strategically located that can get there any faster than the 25th. (Little did I know that the 25th was trained in jungle tactics and were just the type of division that they needed and wanted in Vietnam!) So they are saving them for an emergency – I hope so anyway! I really would have problems if Billy were in Vietnam. I love him so very much, but I am so afraid he is going to war. I thought the last generation fought a war so our generation wouldn’t have to fight one. It all seems so hopeless. I don’t want to lose him, particularly if he’s going to fight a war so the next generation won’t have to – same song, millionth verse. If this isn’t a war to end all wars, my son will fight one too.
I haven’t meant to burden you with my problems, as I only know you’ve had more than your share. Mine aren’t really problems in the true sense of the word – just thoughts that I need to get off my chest. And since Billy is never here to talk to, I need to tell someone. You have always been so willing to listen to me when no one else would. I guess that’s why I have always felt closer to you than to Mother. She wouldn’t listen. She had too many problems of her own. Poor Mama Bond has always been a shoulder to cry on even when you needed one. But I don’t know of one person who is as dear to as many people as you are.
I love you, Diane
As in all my letters home, I played down the immediacy of Vietnam since I did not want the family to worry, and I knew that any letters I sent to my grandmother or aunt and uncle would eventually get back to my Uncle’s mother. When this happened, like a good neighbor and friend, she would call Bubba, and by then the letter would be completely out of context. Instead, I wrote my own letters to Billy’s grandparents so they would not become worried hearing 2nd, or 3rd hand news.
There was no point in having the entire family upset when I could do that for everyone. When I look back and read this letter that my grandmother chose to keep above all letters she was sent, I can tell that I downplayed my love for my handsome husband too since my grandmother did not want to ‘hear’ about it, just about the children and me. Besides, how can you put in words the emotions I was feeling, knowing that soon my white knight was off to war; with the overwhelming fear he would not come home. How can anyone put in words the love that boils over every second of every minute of every hour of every day when I never knew if he would come home at night only to tell me he was leaving for Vietnam the next morning?
I suppose like an ostrich with my head stuck in the sand – if I did not talk about it, it would not happen. Instead, what did happen was far, far worse.