“Dearest Johnny,” or, My Favorite Things

September 5, 2012 — 16 Comments

January 16, 1945
40th letter

Dearest Johnny,

Happy anniversary darling. No matter where you are at this time I want you to hear me saying I love you so. This day means so much to me. To think I married the most wonderful man in the world. You are wonderful you know.

This is how the letter begins. My grandmother wrote it to my grandfather on their second anniversary. She was somewhere in New Jersey; he was somewhere overseas, probably India (he returned from the war with pictures of the Taj Mahal). This letter is one of my favorite things.

For the many years I knew them, my grandparents bickered and yelled and waged war on the volumes of their respective televisions (his in the living room, hers in the kitchen). They engaged in bumper-car battles with their walkers as they fought for the right of way in the hallway. She repeated indignities from the ancient past: “I was never good enough for his parents because I was Irish. And what was so special about Slovaks? His father didn’t even know any English. His mother, I give her credit, taught herself to read the newspaper.”

Usually when my grandmother addressed my grandfather she said, “Oh for god’s sake, John!” And so there is something delightful about seeing it in her left-handed handwriting, as distinct as her voice: “Dearest Johnny.”

Which is why this letter is one of my favorite things.*

Almost three years ago when my grandparents finally had to leave their New Jersey home on the lagoon to be cared for at my uncle’s house in Pennsylvania, my grandfather – he’s appropriately called Grumpus – told me follow him to his room. Usually this meant he wanted us to go through his old boxes of things he couldn’t get himself to throw away and to take anything we might use. Boxes labeled “Calculaters” and filled with cheap and unusable calculators from 1970 to the present. Or “Wacthes” filled with watches from Bristol Myers or Time Life. He was not the greatest speller. This time, though, I followed him as he shuffled down the hall with his walker, and I sensed he something bigger on his mind.

In his room he removed a box from the shelf and said, “I don’t know what do to with this. It’s letters from Marge and me during the war. I should probably just throw them away or burn them.” He looked at me, his eyes full of tears. “But you’re a writer. Maybe you know what to do with them.”

He got lost in thought for a moment and added, “We were just kids. We didn’t know anything.”

Granny and Grumpus died this year, five months apart. I haven’t gone through all the letters yet, but they are part of me as a person and a writer. They and their letters will show up in my stories and novels and blog entries – and my dreams.

All day I went through memories from the day we got married until now. I can picture everything so well. That day we said I do & you squeezed my hand as you said it and how funny you were trying to put my ring on me.
That day was such a happy day…

*Thanks to WordPress for the Daily Post Challenge.

16 responses to “Dearest Johnny,” or, My Favorite Things

  1. 

    Oh dear lord, Parker. You really know how to get a girl crying on a Wednesday afternoon. I can hear both TVs, way too loud. I can hear Granny’s voice bitching about Grumpus’ parents. I can hear Grumpus’ voice telling you to do something with the letters (“aw, honey!”). I can barely hear Granny’s voice of love and devotion from 1945 but I’m starting to. And that is amazing. This is now one of my favorite things. xoxoxo

  2. 

    In his room he removed a box from the shelf and said, “I don’t know what do to with this. It’s letters from Marge and me during the war. I should probably just throw them away or burn them.” He looked at me, his eyes full of tears. “But you’re a writer. Maybe you know what to do with them.”

    Wow. I can’t believe the weight this puts upon my heart… To know a time when everything was so incredibly tender and new; when they allowed themselves to be vulnerable to one another. And the time he carried those words, so neatly kept and ordered (I’m sure). Quite possibly the most important representation of their relationship.

    What an amazing gift. To peek behind the curtain and go back in time to witness what it was really like. I’m so glad he entrusted you with such a thing.

  3. 

    Reblogged this on Bir Damla Mürekkebin Düşmüş Çalışma Masama and commented:
    January 16, 1945
    40th letter

    Dearest Johnny,

    Happy anniversary darling. No matter where you are at this time I want you to hear me saying I love you so. This day means so much to me. To think I married the most wonderful man in the world. You are wonderful you know…”

  4. 

    Thanks so much, Darc & Josh. This was letter #40, and ten months later, on Nov. 16, 1945, Granny wished Grumpy a happy 2 years, 10 months anniversary. That was letter #345!

  5. 

    This is beautiful and I love that you now have these precious letters that tell the story of your grandparents. I’m in a fiction creative writing class and just today we talked about using research and resources to inspire story. Your letters are a perfect example of that, and you’ll surely find something there to inspire your work!

  6. 

    Thank you, Brooke! I teach creative writing and love to include a research component, especially in nonfiction, but my next fiction workshop will require it too. -kelcey

  7. 

    Dear old Grumpus knew exactly what he should do with those letters. He still knew the value of their love and by giving them to you he wanted you to know he loved you too.

  8. 

    What a gift, those letters! Your post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing.

  9. 

    Wonderful that the letters were not burned—-keep them always 🙂

  10. 

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. If you asked me my favorite book or band or food, I would be totally stumped. But I knew exactly what my favorite thing was.

    I wrote this in response to the WordPress Daily Post Challenge and am glad I did. http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/weekly-writing-challenge-a-few-of-my-favorite-things/

  11. 

    So I was doing okay with this post until I got here …

    In his room he removed a box from the shelf and said, “I don’t know what do to with this. It’s letters from Marge and me during the war. I should probably just throw them away or burn them.” He looked at me, his eyes full of tears. “But you’re a writer. Maybe you know what to do with them.”

    Then I just lost it! Beautifully written! Thank you so much for sharing this.

  12. 

    This is one of the best things i have ever read.

  13. 

    Thank you itlnbrt and kaycee!

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