The Last Letter

When Pearl Harbor happened, it was like an itch that commanded the big scratch. The day it happened, Grandad called his kids in to hear the radio. You could hear a pin drop but for the announcer and his dramatic telling of the bombing. Grandad’s eyes glistened. That should’ve been a clue.

But what does such a thing mean to a boy whose world is defined by toys, friends, and the surety of family love?

War was far away and the part of it that existed nearby punctuated his days with thrilling going-ons. Excitement and activity coexisted with shortages as the country mobilized. Even rations were something to talk about. There was drama in the getting of sugar. Student pilots visited and stayed overnight as Grandmother continued to work for Senator Goldwater who often sought her counsel on business dealings. Even while she remained a constant in her sons’ lives, their Dad was gone for long stretches.

Finally, in 1942, he took a job in California with the federal government for the war effort.He sent letters that were full of tales and empty of answers. Grandmother read them to her boys and they laughed at Grandad’s humor.

Gearing up for the war demanded more of every citizen and Grandmother worked longer hours at the store. Dad and his older brother were left to their own devices which usually ended in scorpion bites, sore knuckles, or bloody noses.

Until the day the last letter arrived. Grandmother read it to herself. Happier than she had been in awhile, she told them they would be taking a road trip to Marysville, California. The trip was happy and the car was full of big dreams and memories of happy times past and future. Gasoline rationing in place throughout the country, there were few cars on the two-lane 800 mile trip. On the way back, they would be stopping to see Aunt Mayme and Aunt Gen. There was no love like that of the Andrews women — they were more than just sisters.

The reunion with Grandad was joyous outside a motel in Marysville until Dad and his brother were asked to go play outside. They finally ended up back in the car. Dad’s brother fiddled with the radio, but news of lost battle after lost battle filled all the airwaves. The Pacific Fleet was taking a beating. At 12, Dad was sad, but his older brother felt the stirrings of anger. Sadness and anger are two sides of grief. Little did they know those stirrings would lock them in place and seal that moment in time.

Grandmother came out, started the car, and sped away from Marysville before the boys had a chance to realize what they were doing. Dad watched his father from the rearview window. Why were they leaving? He didn’t even get to say good-bye. He didn’t get to tell him he loved him. He didn’t get to ask why or when or how. His Dad just stood there. Dad placed his hand on the window, but his father did not move.

Before they had left Phoenix, Grandmother had left out one detail – Grandad had included sufficient ration tickets for their round trip.

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