Oh Margie, do you think there may yet be a day when we can be carefree again? A day when peace will be restored to the world and people come back to their senses? It takes a great deal for real happiness, though. Needed is not only personal happiness and contentment, but also the knowledge that people everywhere have a chance to enjoy life with us.
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
August 26, 1944: Carefree Again?
Letter from Opa to Grandmother, August 26, 1944.
August 26, 1944
By now you will have that letter I wrote last night, and I am afraid it hurt you very much. The more I think about it now, the more I realize that I should have waited with telling you about the way I feel until we see each other. I received your letter this morning; it was such a sweet one, darling, and you seemed so happy. It gave me quite an uplift and, without reason, I feel better now. Oh Margie, do you think there may yet be a day when we can be carefree again? A day when peace will be restored to the world and people come back to their senses? It takes a great deal for real happiness, though. Needed is not only personal happiness and contentment, but also the knowledge that people everywhere have a chance to enjoy life with us.
I am staying in my room as much as I can, for I feel terribly conspicuous around town. This morning, I read quite a bit in Wells and Plato and played some solitary. Time goes slow when there is no work to do, and -- what's the worst -- there is too much time for thinking. How much do I wish that you were here now, but that is a selfish wish. Maybe Eileen Carswell was right when she told you that you wouldn't be happy with me.
Today, I received a bunch of blanks from the State Department concerning my pre-examination case. What an irony of fate. (I wished someone took that lump out of my throat.) Any application for citizenship will now in all probability have to wait until the war is nothing but a memory; and who knows? by that time they may have sent me back to Germany.
Even though everything else looks black, the war news looks good. The liberation of Paris was quite an affair, was it not? It was very decent of the Allies to let French troops themselves take care of that. My sister is (or was) in one of two southern French cities: Grenoble or Lyon. Grenoble has been retaken by the Aliies already, Lyon is being sieged. I may find out before so long if and how she got through this war. I reread some of her letters today; it has been seven years now since I saw her last, but now there is at least a beam of hope that I may see her before too long.
Give Skunkie my affection. They talk so much about a dog's life, but what's wrong with living like a dog? He never has to worry about food or clothing, his relationship with other dogs is uncomplicated and straight-forward. If Skunkie likes another dog, he plays with him without worrying whether that dog was born in Lawrence or Manhattan or Berlin or Tokyo. Ever hear of a dog having to fill out an income tax receipt? No, only his masters, the superior species 'Homo sapiens' has to do that. If I were a philosopher, I would try to conform to Skunkie's principles of life.
It may be a good thing that you did not get to take advantage of that ride to Newton of McPherson, for I could never have gotten a permit to go there in such a short period of time, especially now. Both of us would have been disappointed, would we not?
It was my intention not to write anything but brief notes to you until we see each other so that you can think the situation over without any subjective influence from me, but here I am on the third page already. Somehow, I have a greater desire now than ever to talk to you or at least to write to you, and especially today I have too much time to forget about it. Do not misunderstand that though; I still want you to make your decision for yourself and shall accept whatever you may come to decide. If you see it better for us to break, I will promise to take this decision without argument, but I do have to see you and take it orally from you. To think that two days ago the thought that anything could ever sever us was just an impossibility! Maybe it is yet. Maybe, someday I'll wake up and find out that all that happened in these last few weeks was just a nightmare, and, on awakening, I find you next to me. (No law against dreaming, is there?)
I am afraid this letter is terribly mixed up, both in contents and in form, but so are my thoughts; forgive me. I can hardly await the day when the bus drives into Lawrence and I can look into your crystal-ball eyes again, even though our meeting this time will not be as beautiful and happy as a few weeks ago in Newton.
Don't worry, darling; and, please, do not be sad or hurt.
With all my love,
Opa makes a good point about a dog's life.
This letter shows the perspective after a night's sleep, but Opa is still reeling with too much alone time to think and re-think about everything.
He's worried he has said too much, he hurt Grandmother, and that he is unfairly leading her to make a choice in his favor. (I thought it was humorous that he thought a decision like this could be made without thinking of him.)
He is sticking to his offer though: she can jump ship if she wants to. He knows that the path forward is incredibly vague, if not dangerous, and he wants to give her a chance to say she's out before the real hard stuff starts. In his last letter he told her that being with him meant always being looked at, talked about, conspicuous. He was used to it and he still hated it. St. John was particularly terrible for this. I think he felt really alone there. He didn't want her to feel this way, and though he continues to dream of a day when there is peace and it doesn't matter where you are born: he's starting to realize that this hope might be too optimistic.
This quote got me:
Opa is realizing that at some point in all of history, someone somewhere is the conspicuous one. Can he be happy in that world?
This is the second mention of rereading his family's letters. This time he is re-reading his sister's letters. The news of Paris being reclaimed is good news, the kind of aching good news that you know will be followed by stories of what happened before the victory. Opa doesn't even know if he has his sister anymore. He's hoping that she is still there somewhere, and that there is a chance for them to see each other again. It's been seven years.
Opa wraps up his letter full of emotions and scattered hope and doubt with "don't worry... do not be sad or worried." Nice try, but Grandmother is likely on the other side with a pit in her stomach. I don't know what she's feeling, but this is the relationship she has fought for, against the wisdom of her parents (and apparently Eileen Carswell). She must know that this is a moment for her: either she's all in, or she takes the last exit.