Friday, January 1, 2021

August 1, 1944: Something Terrible Happened

Letter from Opa to Grandmother, August 1, 1944.


St. John
August 1, 1944


It is sure now that I will have to work on Saturday, so I shall take, if possible, the bus that leaves here Saturday afternoon at 5:08. It arrives in Hutch shortly before seven, from where I take a bus leaving Hutch at 7:15. I don't know the exact time of arrival in Newton, but I assume it will be approximately the same time as you do. If, however we work so late that I can't get that bus, I shall have to take the doodle-bug which leaves St. John at 9:45pm I would hate to have to wait that long, but in all probability I shall come by bus. Let me know what time your train gets in. I have applied for my travel permit, so it will be difficult to change the date. You don't know how much I look forward to this weekend, honey.

Something pretty bad happened last night who might bear influence on my visa affair. I don't care to write about it but will tell you when we are together. I came as close to the point of desperation as I ever care to get, but I believe now that it can be straightened out.

There was no mail from you either yesterday or today, and I was sort of disappointed.

Since they are still working on our drill, we could not shoot any today. I took this opportunity and in the afternoon went out with the surveyor to get an idea of what he is doing. It was interesting and took my mind off other things.

I started reading an excellent book: The Outline of History, by H.G. Wells; you may have heard of it. There is a complete history of mankind, written in almost novel form, divided not into dates and pedigrees, but ages, nations, races, and cultures. It reads like a mystery novel; I never dreamed that history could be interesting. 

Honey, I don't think I ever felt so lonesome for you as today. When things go wrong, when people throw filth on you, love is the only harbor; love and the feeling that there is someone who believes in you and will help you fight things out. I hope we don't have to wait much longer until we can be together for always.

Well, I am awfully tired tonight; it I only 8:30, but I shall go to bed anyhow. Tomorrow we can probably work gain.

Good night, darling; I'll be seeing you soon,

Something terrible has happened, which I will show in the next blog (sorry, I cheated and looked ahead for research). When Opa says it may have an effect on his visa, it means that the something terrible involved something potentially criminal. When you apply for a visa (an hope for citizenship), you go through quite a process, including a background check of sorts. If you have any smear on your record, it may greatly hurt your chances of staying in the US. It's like how adoptive parents must prove their virtue and value, but folks who are able to carry a child to birth, get sent home with nary a glance. 

What Opa doesn't know is that this smear on his record could mean nothing, or everything. The process for the approval of a visa and even citizenship is surprisingly quite subjective. Sure, there are things that are important and necessary to have in place, but after that, the details are read and processed by a human who ultimately gets to stamp it, or not. 

This is a side note, but I think this is something that is important for anyone to know: there is no such thing as a completely monolithic and consistent system. Every system has humans, and humans have always been bending the rules (for good or for bad). This has proven to be helpful wisdom for me in my life. Always ask, always try, and also never assume that the "monolith" will always work in your favor either. This isn't a wisdom of cynicism, but actually of hope. It reminds us that humans are not machines, and though some can be exceedingly hard, there is always softness. Which means there's a chance we can find it and appeal to it. Even within the so-called monolith of the Nazi government, there were exceptions, unexpected helpers, and people looking the other way. 

Opa sounds worn completely out in this letter. He couldn't work because the damn drill was still broken, so to get his mind off things, he shadows a surveyor. 

It looks like Grandmother was never planning to get to Newton early on her train, and Opa will be arriving late after working. Now this romantic weekend is starting to look kind of sad. Not for Opa, he is so desperate to see Grandmother and be with someone who loves him and can support him. This line struck me as so profoundly beautiful: 

When things go wrong, when people throw filth on you, love is the only harbor; love and the feeling that there is someone who believes in you and will help you fight things out.

Opa is longing for a familiar and loving face. Reading and working and writing are all helps, but nothing like connection with his love. He'll get to Newton, by train, bus, or doodle-bug (which I think is a self-propelled rail-car, so like a mini train?).

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