This morning I pulled open the book of letters my Grandpa wrote my Grandma during their courtship and WWII rather then my Book of Mormon. Subconsciously, I must have known I'd need to feel a connection with them today, as my mind has been on little else since then. Those letters are sacred to me -- does that make sense? It is through those letters that I have come to know my Grandfather as I never could have known him even if he had lived long enough for us to develop an adult relationship. Through those letters, I know the young K.J. -- the nineteen year old writing letters to his girlfriend Iona, or "Butch" as he called her -- and the man in his very early twenties with a young family thousands of miles away and a mother and sister that were newly his responsibility, too.
I know of his acerbic sense of humor and his deep and profound love for his sweetheart -- the great passion he felt for her. I know of the hassles and humor of being so far away from home during that world war.
His writers voice is so strong. I always feel like actually I've been sitting down and having a conversation with him. I can almost hear his voice and see the expressions on his face. Through him I know his friends, and his daughter, and his family, and most importantly, his young wife -- the woman that would eventually become my own K.J.'s "granny-friend" and my beloved "Grandma," one of my best and dearest friends in the whole world. The woman who would help shape me and mold me and influence me with her great love -- one of the greatest friends I will ever have. I am filled with gladness every time he speaks of their love and it's enduring nature -- of the happiness they will find together. I know at the time he was speaking of their life together after the war. But now I hear him reassuring his granddaughter of the love and happiness they have found together again.
I am glad for that.
I am particularly glad to hear my Grandpa speak in these letters because he passed away when I was four years old, and I have only a few concrete memories. I remember being snuggled deep into his lap watching television. I remember watching him put my big brothers and my cousin Mike in a "bear trap," and everyone laughing as they tried to get away. And my favorite one -- it was Thanksgiving or Christmas, and our whole family was crammed into Grandma and Grandpa's house. My Grandma and Aunts guarded that kitchen like centurions -- their was no pass or entrance, no matter how hungry the child. I remember feeling like I would starve, I was so hungry! I must have wandered into the t.v. room, because my Grandpa comforted me and then put me on his feet and waltzed me into the kitchen and grabbed me a whole handful of olives. I had such a wonderful feeling! A few flashes -- my Dad carrying me at a baseball game and Grandpa walking in front of us, playing on the front lawn and he was there, a certain smell in his office, things like that. But most of all, I remember how he felt. I remember how I felt when I was around him. And it was a good feeling.
My family did a good job of keeping his memory alive for me, and I knew from the time I was a girl that my first child would be named "K.J." in his honor.
He is important to me. It is important to me to know he would be proud of me, that hopefully he is proud of the person I am becoming. That's always been motivating to me.
It's so important to me to know him this way. I am so thankful that he wrote those letters! And I am so thankful that they kept them. Because that is how I know the man.
That is one reason I write. So even when I read over something and it's just not the way other people put things, I just keep it. It's how I talk. And I like the way he talked.
I'd like to think I have my own "writer's voice."
Maybe it's something we share.