I am finished with 800 pages of letters. 400 pages, 2-sided. It has been a great journey with my dad, full of his angst and delight and worry and adventuresome spirit and longing. I have brought so very little to these little installments, so much less than what I have absorbed through his words. I just had to leave out so many wonderful details and anecdotes due to time and space. But I have loved reading his every long-hand stroke. And it has been fun to share the trip through the letters with my blog readers.
These last week of letters are filled with many housekeeping details about the trip. It takes away from the richer anecdotes about his work and life. I am sad to see this journey ending in such a mundane way, but all those travel details just means that Dad is getting closer to having his family with him again.
Dad asks Mom to send a trunk full of civilian clothes before she embarks. Why he didn’t bring them when he shipped over is beyond me. “At the moment, I am wearing red sox, grey flannels and a blue wool shirt and I feel like a million bucks. You can’t imagine how tired you get of army uniforms.”
I smile when Dad tells Mom about all the letters he gets every day…..from his parents, her parents, her aunts, his grandmother, his dad’s associates, friends from Jamestown (where they lived), and his little brother Bobby. Bobby came along 18 years after Dad. I’ve never asked Uncle Bob if he was a “bonus baby” or planned, but their middle brother was born when my dad was 10 so Grampa and Grama had some wide gaps in child rearing. Dad had already left for college at UND when his baby brother was born but they became close. Bobby, age 9 or 10, would write Dad in France these long one-full-page letters with details about life back at the home place and it delighted him.
“I had another letter from Bobby today. He sure writes good letters. He wants a letter just to himself so I’ll have to write to him.” And a week later, “Got a couple more letters from Bobby again. He sure is good about writing and writes the best letters. I really enjoy them.” Dad would be crushed if he knew that his brother would, 60-years later, be fighting cancer.
He is talking with his buddy Bob about how they would love to begin a small medical practice together when they return to North Dakota. Problem was Dad was already hired at Jamestown Clinic and they were paying a portion of his salary as an incentive for him to return there, so the idea lost steam.
The last letter is dated Saturday JANUARY 28,1952, and under the date he writes, 16 DAYS TIL CHRISTMAS. Seeing my mom and brother was a Christmas morning present that he couldn’t wait to open in February! He ends with this:
I am getting so antsy I can hardly wait for you to get here. I am in a new room at the Hotel Lion D’or and am very happy about it. Madame Salm moved me into Hans Stibold’s room. I’m alone now and have the nicest room in the hotel….new bed and all. Am very happy to be alone. Storment and I were incompatible (as roommates). Can now go to bed and get up when I like.
Gee, Darling, I’m happy tonight. You seem so close. I’m so anxious I don’t sleep well anymore. Meeting you and Mike will be as wonderful, or more so, than when we were married. Sure seems like ages since I left you weeping at the Fargo airport. Sometimes I get such an anxious feeling, I think I’ll bust before you get here. Hope our boy makes the trip OK. Hang on to him tight, honey.
Not much in this letter, darling, except that I sure love you with all my heart and it won’t be long now. Kiss for Mike.
All my love, Ed
One last post to come: The rest of the story