See that box at the edge of the table? It contains probably 100+ letters from my Dad to his mother & father, brother Mike, and sister Joan, written over a period of about 2 ½ years, from mid-1943 to the end of 1945, chronicling his WWII experience. When I was growing up, he never talked about the War. I knew he had fought in the Battle of the Bulge (I overheard one brief story about hiding face-down in a snow drift for hours as a Panzer group rumbled by), but beyond that, I knew almost nothing about this period of his life. I had not seen the letters before this visit. There is nothing fancy about them. They are simple and direct, but they evolve from relatively light and informative (during training in the US) to a bit vague and repetitive upon arriving in Europe (owing to the censors), and finally into darker and resentful pleadings while cooling his heels during the last half of 1945 waiting to be sent back home after the War. They are emotionally vivid, incredibly moving…written when my Dad was Miles’ age!
I don’t want to oversell the impact, and originally was going to say it was like putting on glasses with a new prescription. Now, after a few days of letting it sink in, I’ll go with this: It’s like walking the streets of a city whose familiarity you’ve taken for granted for most of your life, and suddenly stumbling into a neighborhood you had no idea existed.
UP AND OUT: On the subject of walking/stumbling, allow me to pay tribute to Ribsy, as fine an early morning canine companion as has ever trod High Street in the company of man!