I finally understand what my mom said to me over and over after my father died.
My mother died almost a year ago to this day. We're selling their house and these days, I'm going through their photos, letters and personal effects, digitizing some, saving some and discarding some. Yesterday, I came across a cache of letters she wrote to him while he was a B-26 pilot in Korea in 1951. Almost all of them were handwritten and age had made them difficult to read, but I found one she had typed.
I got two paragraphs into it and broke down, sobbing. For the first time since either of them died, I truly cried. Here's a very short snippet.
Your letter written on our anniversary was lovely, but made me more blue than ever. It takes a great love to keep two people so mad about each other even though thousands of miles of ocean keep them apart. Ours is such a love, darling, we have always known it was great, but as you say we never knew how encircling it was...I never knew what loneliness could be until you left...Without my faith in God's goodness, this would be unbearable.
I'm crying now as I type that. It goes on with the heart-rending poetry that comes from a young wife writing to her husband who is distant and very much in harm's way. So beautiful and so true!
After he died, there were times when I would sit with my mom and hold her hand as she cried over him. She would tell me that before, when he was deployed in Korea or Vietnam, she knew he would eventually come back. Death was different. He was never coming back and that hurt much more cruelly than the pain I read in that letter.
After more than 60 years of marriage, she was still his young bride, so deeply in love with him, waiting for him to come home. Up to the day of his death, he was still her adoring husband, utterly devoted to her.
Taking care of them in their old age was a grind. I went out to their house whenever they called, dropping what I was doing to give them the love and support they needed. When they would speak of things like this, I was always at least partially preoccupied and while I did my best to console them, I couldn't truly understand because I was distracted by chores at home, deadlines at work and hobbies I'd had to forgo.
Now I understand.