Maybe I Will Be Home Before Long

A letter my dad wrote to my cousins Wray, Mary Veazey, and Lynn Worden in Dallas while he was stationed in Europe during World War II. He’d been away from home since November 1942.

 

Belgium
9 May 1945

Dear Wray, Veazey, and Lynn,

Well, I don’t believe I know any thing to write you children about today. I think of you all the time. Maybe I will be home to see you before long.

Say, Crystal sent me some pictures of you the other day. You had grown so much that I hardly knew you. Why you are nearly as big as Betty. How about sending me some more pictures sometime.

Say you take this five dollars and make your mother or Crystal buy you three children something. I guess your mother will take you, won’t she?

Well I guess that’s about all I know. It’s about time to go to bed.

Be sure you phone Crystal that you got a letter from me and that I am feeling fine. Tell her that I still love her.

Lots of love, Uncle Billie

***

The last six months or so of World War II, my father was an ambulatory patient in Paris. He’d gone deaf from bomb concussion. For as long as possible, he hid the disability from his superiors. His fellow soldiers, however, amused themselves by running for foxholes, then laughing when Daddy jumped in. One day, Major Yarborough, for whom he drove, saw them. He took Daddy out of combat and sent him from Germany to a hospital in Paris. What happened to the others for tricking him into thinking bombs were falling, I don’t know, but I understand it wasn’t pretty.

I presume he was in Belgium on the way to Paris. He was slated to leave for the States asap but didn’t get to Dallas, where Mother was living, until October 23, 1945, the day before their third wedding anniversary.

My father was supposed to be released from service in San Antonio, so my mother had gone there, where she stayed with her aunt, uncle, and grandmother, and made cake after cake. When she got word Daddy would be coming to Dallas instead, she cried. Sam, her uncle, patted her head and told her to pack her suitcase and he would take her to the bus station.

The last time my dad had been home, the family had been living in San Antonio, where my mother and grandmother worked in Army Civil Service. When the Army moved to Dallas, they moved, too. So my father knew only the address. My grandmother and her younger daughters, Barbara and Betty, lived in the main house. My mom lived in a little  house in the back yard.

On the way through my grandmother’s house, my dad handed her his hearing aids and sad, “Don’t let Crystal know about these.” My grandmother, of course, told my mother as soon as possible.

After several days of shouting, Mother mentioned the hearing aids and said she thought he ought to wear them. He was embarrassed, and remained so for several years. One ear was so far gone he didn’t bother with the aid. He finally made peace with the other one and told small children who asked that it was his telephone.¬† When he took it off at night, he was sensitive to vibration but otherwise was gone. To make him hear her, Mother had to put her mouth next to his “good” ear and shout. Twenty-plus years later, a surgery to treat his kind of hearing loss was being taught by the doctor who developed it at the VA hospital in Houston. My dad, considered a good candidate, had the surgery, and his conversational hearing was restored. He said the only negative was that for a time the chirping of birds nearly drove him crazy.

When my cousins heard Uncle Billie was home, they declared a school holiday and hit my grandmother’s doorstep. Mary Veazey was seven and Wray was six. I don’t know whether they remembered him or had heard enough to think they did. I’ll add that they wrote to him, too, even though in the early years, Wray’s letters were scribbled. Lynn, the youngest, was born after he shipped out for the East Coast.

The remark about their being nearly as big as Betty was a joke of sorts. She was my mother’s youngest sister, only eight years older than Mary Veazey, and as an adult was five feet tall. It didn’t take long for any of her nieces and nephews to grow as tall as Betty. Even I got there.

***

The photos of my cousins were taken at Christmas in 1957, twelve years after they received the letter

***

 

Packing for our recent move, I came across the cigar holder a Belgian farmer gave my father when he passed through after the Normandy Invasion. It’s a valued keepsake.

 

 

 

 

 

***

Thanks to my cousin Denise Worden Allegri for retrieving this letter from her father’s files and sharing it with her aunt Mary Veazey, who shared it with me.

Letter Home from College

December 6 of my freshman year, possibly to announce I would fail all my final exams and all my courses. I thought it best that the parents be prepared.

By the end of the second semester, my mother had stopped believing me.

Mass communication is easy when your uncle is the postmaster. See upper left corner.

Later, maybe when Uncle Joe bought new mailboxes, our box number changed from 46 to 44. At some point, our phone number changed from 2622 to 2384.

I can’t remember my current cell phone number, but I do remember how to call home in 1970. I remember some of the answers on that biology final, too.

We’re moving again, so I’m finding stuff I ought to throw away but can’t.