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.
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.
That 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.
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.”
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?