Snapshots of Harry’s Sentimental Side
I’m dedicating today’s post to a sentimental family occasion – the marriage of Harry’s granddaughter, Sandy. She is learning more about her “Zadie” because he saved letters and emails in computer files. The rest of us, too, are getting a closer look at Harry’s memories, beliefs, and relationships. He wrote this letter to a dear friend in 1994, when he was 73. (I changed the names of the people in the letter.)
Dear Mary: It is one of the mysterious truisms of life that the male friends of a newlywed man are never fully at ease with his new wife. There is some obscure chemistry at work that makes the friend and the wife view each other with suspicion, or, at least, not with complete acceptance. There is, no doubt, another kind of chemistry at work with a female friend of the groom and his new wife, but that’s another story.
Anyway, even though we seldom see each other or communicate these days, I have for a long time felt that Mike and I were as close as friends of two different generations can be. In fact, I really don’t feel as though we are separated by a generation gap, probably because we shared some common experiences together. Until now, I could never hope to feel a similar closeness to Mary. I could only think of her as Mike’s new wife. But now, Mary, everything has changed. The two articles you enclosed with your letter have convinced me that we share a common kinship. First, we are both criers. Second, we have learned to listen to what other people say instead of to ourselves. And third, we want to tell others about the things we’ve learned and the things we feel instead of keeping it bottled up inside. It’s taken me some 70-odd years to reach this understanding about myself. It’s taken you only thirty.
About crying, by the way, I can only say that I am easily moved to tears, and always have been. When I was a kid, I used to cry when the cowboy kissed his horse and rode off into the sunset at the end of the movie. (They never kissed the girl in those days; that would have been unmanly, and all the kids would have booed at such behavior. Times have, indeed, changed.) For years I tried to repress the tears as best I could, or to hide them, which is not always possible. Now, however, I go with the flow, so to speak, and I don’t care at all if people think I’m crazy. I’m sentimental and proud of it. Thus, I can shed a tear when my grandchildren hug and kiss me or when I think of all the joys my own parents missed because they died so young, before my children were born. So I’m a crier and your article on tears moved me – to tears – and made me feel very close to you.
You have a natural talent for writing, Mary, and from the perspective of a professional reader who has spent most of his adult years reading, writing and editing, I would urge you to forsake any other ambition you may have for a career and concentrate on writing. I can foresee a great future for you as a syndicated columnist, free to write on subjects of your choice rather than being confined to any one area of expertise. You should cultivate and nurture this talent, and just keep sending off articles to a variety of publications. I predict success for you in this field and if you have any doubts in your mind about it, banish them.
There is an old saying among pilots that the second greatest thrill known to man is flying. There are varying opinions among non-pilots about just what the greatest thrill is, but again among pilots, the greatest thrill is landing – safely, of course. But I can tell you as a man and as a human being that the greatest thrill of all is holding your own newborn baby in your arms and knowing that you created this miracle with God’s help and praying that it will grow and prosper and make this old world a better place.
They say there are no atheists in foxholes and, having survived that kind of experience, I can attest to the truth of that statement. But here is a greater truth – nobody can look at his own newborn child and not believe in God. I can’t tell you how delighted I am to hear your news. And let me say, for the record, that August is a good month. Jeanette and I celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary last August, the fifteenth, to be precise. It will be a great month to celebrate your first child’s birthday, and our 51st anniversary.
* * *
Here’s another snapshot of my dad’s sentimental side. In March 2014, a couple months before he passed away, he emailed the following reply to a relative who had thanked him for his Army service in the 1940s. The relative was prompted by someone’s emotional description of a WWII veteran who attended a model exhibit of the Vietnam War Memorial. (Again, I changed the names for this blog.)
Dear Steve: Your email touched me deeply in many ways, and I had to think long and hard for the past week or so on how to respond. First, though, let me say how much I appreciate what you said, but I’m also a little embarrassed, too. I didn’t do anything special to deserve thanks or applause or, to put it another way, I only did what millions of other guys did, and to single me out is unfair.
Tom Brokaw got it right when he said we should thank a whole generation for what they did in WWII. It was the whole country, everyone, not only those who went to war but also those who stayed home and contributed to the war effort. Everybody was involved. I cannot describe or define the feeling of togetherness that permeated the country at that time. It lasted only a few years and it never came back.
Today, sadly, we are fighting a war, and most people are not involved or remotely touched by it. Those guys who have been fighting and dying and getting maimed in the Middle East wars deserve our thanks because they are just a tiny fraction of our people.
Anyway, what I did was so long ago that it is mostly forgotten history now. I’ll tell you who my heroes are, now. You are. You and Karen, who have the courage to adopt and raise kids in this troubled world and teach them the values and morals of Americanism and Judaism. You are what made it all worthwhile.
Copyright 2016, Elaine Blackman