The Long Trip Home

As Grandma’s Valentine’s Day letter made its trip to Europe and back, a second one set out on a similar journey, neither letter finding its way to Grandpa.

returned envelopes, Gma

The envelope shown here, top, belongs to the February 14, 1919, letter. The lower one held the letter written two days later, on February 16. Notice how the second letter was the first to be returned, with a June 19 postmark from Camp Funston, Kansas.

She began her letter with an update on the mail she had received from him.

16-feb-19-gma-1rev.jpgThat January 21, 1919, letter from Grandpa was a short one. He told her he was still in the same place, a hospital where he served as a Ward Master. He also told her that he would probably soon be on his way home.

In this February letter, Grandma shared her happiness at being an aunt to her brother Charley’s first-born child, a girl named Jean Louise.

The kids think she is about the smartest, brightest baby they ever saw and the rest of us think her A1 too.

Grandma’s mother–the woman we called Grandma Dykes–had gone to Charley’s place to help with the baby, her very first grandchild.

Gma photos, detail of Gma Dykes on porch?

Grandma Dykes on front porch of family farm, undated photo.

Of her four children, Charley was her second and her only son. Mattie was the eldest, then Charley, then Grandma, followed by Mary. At the time of Jean Louise’s birth, Mattie was away at school, Charley had set up his own home, leaving my grandmother and her sister Mary on the family farm.

 

One morning, Grandma Dykes called to see if Grandma and Mary were coming out to visit. “We thought the roads would be so bad,” Grandma wrote in her letter, adding that when they decided to go, “we flew like cyclones.”

16 Feb 19, Gma, 2

In this letter, and the one she wrote two days earlier, I picture Grandma as a young woman imagining her own future, on her own with Grandpa. In the February 14 letter, she noted that she was busy in her mother’s absence, “but any way I like it, the experience I’m getting.” And in this letter, which I’ve included below in full, she opens up about her feelings for Grandpa and also about the privacy she guards when it comes to their friendship. The scope of that friendship included respect for his mother. “I called your mother tonight and had quite a visit with her,” concludes her letter.

While her letters were moving across continents and seas, returning finally to Missouri, Grandpa was doing the same, preparing for the long trip home. In the four months since the Armistice, he had received very little mail. The army had been so good delivering mail during the war, seeing it as a way to keep up the morale of the fighting forces. But the system failed after the guns quieted, especially for soldiers like my grandfather who were isolated in convalescent hospitals. What went through his mind, I wonder, as he headed home? Would his return have been made easier, if he had received the letters that never found him?

16-feb-19-gma-1rev-1.jpg16 Feb 19, Gma, 2Feb 16, Gma, 3:revFeb 16, Gma, 4:rev16 Feb 19, Gma, 5

16 Feb 19, Gma, 6

Grandma’s letter, written on February 16, 1919, and returned to her in June.

4 thoughts on “The Long Trip Home

  1. These letters continue to be intriguing. I enjoy the language “dickens, awful bad, he worked her pretty slick.” Reminds me of my grandparents. Hearing your grandmother’s voice brings further depth to the written relationship, but it is heart-breaking he did not receive those particular letters where she shows such affection. Those words would have warmed his heart while impatiently waiting to get back to Missouri. She seems to have made up her mind about him.

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    • Yes, I went with you and your parents in the big yellow car to Effingham to accompany your vocal solo at her church. Perhaps it was the spring of 1971 at Easter, but I am not sure. I met her at least one more time at your house at 1920 Maine. She was a sweet lady. I remember that I had brought you some braid trim from Germany onto which she sewed a backing and made a belt for you. She said that it was like making a headband instead of a belt because it was so small. You said that your grandfather would drive his truck over the railroad tracks to make it bounce and you kids enjoyed riding in the back.
      Now that your grandfather is coming home from the war, the letters have come to an end. Will you continue to keep up the story? or, are there more letters?

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