Friday, February 13, 2015

A St. Valentine Challenge To My Readers

One of my current works in progress is a love story between a sailor fighting in the Vietnam war and the girl he loves back home. It is actually based on actual love letters written by my dad to my mom when he was that sailor who loved his girl half a world away. Reading the letters and writing the story has given me the opportunity to witness the love between my parents, when they young and smitten and know them both as people rather than just my parents. The book has been a work in progress for a long time as I want to tell the story in a way that captures the feelings and emotions they must have shared. Last week I was working on an entry for a writing contest and I came up with a letter that will be the new opening to my love story in progress. I like to imagine that were my father still that young man in undeniable love, he might have written one more letter like this letting my mother know that she was his girl forever. Even now, nearly five years after his passing, I am absolutely certain that she is still his girl.

The letter:

My sweetest Angie,
I drew duty tonight. Four long, lonely hours of walking the ship's deck with nothing but my ever present thoughts of you to keep me company. As I looked up at the millions of stars I couldn't help but wonder if you think of me as often as I do you. Do you see a night sky lit bright by starlight half a world away and miss me half as much as my heart aches for you? This war has taken almost every bit of humanity that I have left- all but the little corner of my heart and soul that I reserve for you my sweet Angie.
No matter what each day brings, you are always in my thoughts. Long silky hair, grey eyes and that smile that does things to my insides I can't begin to describe. Where I used to dream of fast cars and long for the thrill of the win, I now dream only of you in a white dress walking toward me with tears in your eyes… and mine. How I long for warm summer nights and to hold you in my arms once again.
My time here is nearly at an end. The jungles have sapped my strength, the VC have scarred my soul and there are days I nearly forget who I am. And then I look up at the night sky alight with promise and I feel at peace. I am at peace knowing that Vietnam does not hold my heart in its hands, you do my Angie.
I will come home to you. I swear that I will. I may be broken but it is you that will make me whole again. Our spirits are entwined, our lives will soon be one. No matter what the future may hold, always remember that I love you and only you.
Yours forever,
I look forward to the day that I am able to finish this book. It should be easy, since I already know how it ends but still I struggle, wanting to do justice to one of the greatest loves I know.

In honor of Valentine's Day I would like to challenge each of you to write a love letter to someone you care about. A spouse or significant other, a parent, a child or a best friend. Post it here in the comments if you like. Love comes in many forms and is one of the most basic of human needs.

Why not tell someone they are loved and valued on a day set aside especially for this purpose? Candy, flowers, teddy bears- they are physical expressions of commercial holiday. Words, feelings and thoughts from the heart, those are what we carry with us always.

Happy Valentine's Day to you all.


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  2. My dearest Rolf,
    I write this letter with the hope that someday I will be able to share it with you; that you might know how much you are loved beyond the many miles that separate us.
    As I sit here in the quiet solitude of the early morning hours, I miss you more than I ever imagined I could bear. I see you in my mind’s eye; your dark eyes glistening with tears as I released you from my embrace and you disappeared into the fading light of the streets of Berlin. The memory of our goodbye will haunt me until I can hold you in my arms and know that you are safe. I don’t know that I could have let you go had I known all that you would endure and yet I did the only thing I could. It was from love and with hope that I sent you on your journey.
    When you left, you were on the cusp of manhood and I imagine you now as the man you have become. Is the cruelty you survived etched on your face? Has being imprisoned taken away the softness of your eyes? Have you lost your smile, the smile that could melt my heart? I pray the kind and gentle soul that you were is still within you.
    I have never been the kind of woman who easily expresses her feelings and emotions, but I hope you have never doubted my love for you. For I have loved you from the moment I first held you in my arms and I will love you for all time. I pray for this war to be over and for you to be with your family once again.
    Until then, loving you.

    I wrote this love letter to give the reader the impression it was written by lovers, with the signature a surprise to the reader. Once reread with the knowledge that the writer is his mother, the letter takes on new meaning. There is no greater love than the love of a mother for her child and the first love any of us experiences is that of our mother.
    The letter is a figment of the writer’s imagination but the story it is based on is real. Rolf was an 18 year old Jew in 1939 when he fled Nazi Germany for the safety of England. Rolf was given a mere two hours’ notice that he was allowed to leave Germany and his family. His family was left behind with the desperate hope that their VISA number for entry into the USA would be approved prior to Hitler imprisoning them. When Germany conquered France in June 1940 the British interned all German nationals for fear that some might be spies or might side against the British and with the Germans, should Germany invade England. Rolf was sent to Australia for internment. While on the ship to Australia, he was subjected to starvation, beatings and unsanitary disease causing conditions. Once interned in Australia he found much better living conditions. In time, the British Government realized their mistake and the German Jewish prisoners in the Australian camp were released as long as they agreed to join the British or the Australian Army. Rolf spent the remainder of the war in the Australian Army.
    This is but a small part of Rolf’s life story that is being compiled into a non-fiction book. While I am not a professional writer, I believe Rolf’s life story is a story that needs to be told.
    Rolf’s family made it out of Germany and into the USA in 1940. The letter to Rolf is one of many that I envisioned his mother wrote to him but could not mail during her many sleepless nights while he was imprisoned in Australia. Only one very brief “check the boxes” type post card was allowed to be sent between the prisoners and their families. The outcome of the Hitler regime and the expanding war was unknown and Rolf’s mother had every reason to doubt that she would ever see her son again.

    Carolyn Whiting (google insists I use an old email account under the alias of Susan McMahon.

    1. Well done, Carolyn. As a mother, my first thought was it was her son. I will tell you since I'm the proverbial square peg, most won't see that until the signature.

  3. Thank you, Carolyn. Reading this post made me realize it was not only from you, but Daddy, too. I've learned to accept his passing, but I did think of him this morning wishing he would stop by for a visit. Happy Valentine day to all of those I love and cherish.