Voices from the past

Right after Christmas, my Papa died, four years after my Mema. He had been ill for some time. I think it was colon cancer or something to that effect. My father, being the executor of the will, has been collecting tid-bits of things from the house in the months following the funeral. When I went home for Easter, there were bills of currency from all over the world, coins, and letters strewn across their dining room table. I picked up one of the letters and realized that my Mema had written it to Papa when they were both in the Navy. (click for full size)mema-letter1.jpg

I was fortunate enough to have four living grandparents until I was 24 years old. My mom’s parents have always been easy to talk to and more… aware, than my dad’s parents.They could tell you about their past but my dad’s parents were very private with the details of their youth. So I was really interested in seeing what my Mema said in this letter.


I don’t know anything about this point system she’s talking about. I guess you can earn a certain amount – by way of, maybe, reasons – to get out of the military. I deduced this when she mentions counting her mother as a dependent. I’m also fond of the part about buying a chicken farm. Where they grew up in Alabama, my grandfather was more in the city, in a neighbourhood and near the train depot. My grandma was on the outskirts of town, living on a farm.


I always thought my grandmother was a crafty woman, quick with the tongue and a little mischievous. I think it’s awful how she badmouths her own intelligence! Also note: “gallavanting around.” Ha ha. I am most intrigued with the language used in her letter. I somehow thought it might sound more old-fashioned and outdated but it’s pretty modern.

I gained a little more insight into my grandparents from this letter and a few others she wrote to him. I understand now how difficult it was for Papa when Mema died. He said, as he stood at the podium underneath the funeral tent, that burying her was the hardest thing he had ever done. It all seems so true now.

3 thoughts on “Voices from the past

  1. Wow. That’s amazingly cool. Letter-writing is fascinating. Today, those would be replaced with emails, and so the note would have been quite brief because the communication would have been nearly instantaneous. No “why haven’t I gotten an email from you in three days?” And I like your point about the diction: it nearly matches our speech some 60 years later.

    Thank you so much for sharing that!
    PS: How old were your grandparents when they were exchanging letters in the Navy?

  2. I think the point system was in place for determining the length of one’s service. For example, if a person did more dangerous work like booby trapping bridges, performing daring rescue missions, or deactivating bombs, he earned more points. In the M*A*S*H tv series, Hawkeye found out in one episode that the army had increased the number of points it took to go home, probably because of a shortage of enlistments.

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