It was early in 1984 and my mind was occupied with thoughts of Germany, my next assignment. Having completed flight school, the Army was going to extract its payment…..my service was required in Germany. I was to fly attack helicopters, gunships, in support of the deterrent mission.
The airliner was at thirty thousand feet winging its way across the Atlantic headed for England….Gatwick I suppose. I was trying to relax a little; there were a lot of hours in front of me. I reclined my seat a little trying to get comfortable but it wasn’t really possible. Standing up, I turned and bumped into someone who was returning to their seat behind me. I apologized for my clumsiness and stood there enthralled. You were young, and pretty, and so very polite. Introductions complete, we settled into our seats and immediately drifted into a comfortable conversation. I discovered a lot about you. You were English, returning home from the United States. You lived in Thornaby, Stockton-on-Tees. You were busy thinking about your future, and worrying, I guess, about things that all young women contemplate at that age. You spoke quite elegantly I thought and were not afraid to talk about things that were important to you. More importantly, you were a good listener. We talked and laughed and enjoyed the company on that long flight.
Arriving back in the United States later, I was impressed to receive a letter from you. I had sent you a postcard or two from Germany but hadn’t really expected an answer. You were as busy as ever but just as willing to talk. You told me about your life and how you had settled back into a routine at home. I think you were anxious to get on with your life. I wrote back to you and told you some of my experiences. You were always polite, and interested in what I had to say.
Christmas, 1984. Another letter….and a Christmas card. You were seeing a young British serviceman. You seemed happy and life was good. Trials and tribulations though….there were always things to think about and problems to overcome. I never doubted that you would find what you were looking for……happiness, I suppose.
Letters were infrequent, but neither of us had forgotten. Things were always in the way…..some pressing matter to attend to. 1987 now….midyear I guess. Another letter from you has tracked me down. I am at Ft. Bragg when your latest missive arrives. Same cheerful attitude and another wonderful long story to read. You always seemed to be doing the things I wanted to do. This time it was a tentative trip to New Zealand. You had your reasons, and your plans. I knew only that I wanted to do those things too. I never found out how that trip turned out. Was it fun? Did you find a job there or just visit? I still want to know…..
The truth is, I have missed your letters. I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was just time. Maybe it was time for both of us to get on with our lives. Time to make a clean break with the past and forge a new future. I suppose that is what has happened. Time…..
My wish for you is fulfillment and understanding. I hope that you have a caring, loving person as a partner in this life. I hope you have experienced the joy of children. I hope that you have found joy in your life wherever you are. And I hope you are well…..There isn’t much else worth talking about.
So, why now? Why after twenty-five years? That’s an easy one. I was cleaning out a safe drawer yesterday and found this bundle of letters. I knew they were there of course, but hadn’t looked at them in many years. Why did I keep them? I am not sure. I guess because these moments, hidden in old letters and pictures are important. They are important because they help define who we were, and who we have become. In any event, I will re-read them and look at the pictures. Then back they go into the safe–just moments captured in time.