adoptee, adoption, aging, Charlottesville, Dad, Diaries, Letters, Memory, Mortality, Sunset, Virginia, Wisdom, World War II
Memory is a child walking along a seashore. You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.
~Pierce Harris, Atlanta Journal
Note to readers: Before Richard and Reva Beard adopted me, the bond between them intensified. With each year of courtship, marriage and — most of all — through their World War II separation, they imagined the family they would build. The war made that dream even stronger. Though separated by 6,000 miles and 18 months, they corresponded every day. The letters were relegated to a file case in my parents retirement home. After Dad passed away, I asked my brother to send me the entire collection. Daddy had meant to write a book about his India experiences, but life got in the way. I inherited the thousands of handwritten epistles, quit my day job to read every one, and turned the best of them them into a book: From Calcutta with Love- The World War II Letters of Richard and Reva Beard. (Texas Tech University Press, 2002) The original missives were archived at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. In 2002, the Texas publisher gave me back the rights. Last year Pajarito Press in Los Alamos, New Mexico acquired them. I’m happy to announce that, eighty years after they were first written by mom and dad, the letters are again being presented to the world.
Richard and Reva, I’d like to believe, would be proud to share their words with the world.
If I could speak to Richard today, I’d remind him of a certain conversation. When going through some of my old diaries, I found this entry:
My father and I were walking around the gentle hills of Charlottesville, Virginia. I’d left Virginia for New Mexico, embarking on my own life, but I visited at least once or twice a year. He and my mother had moved to a senior community named “Stonehenge.” I found the title amusing, thinking it conjured up the wisdom of the ages. On this particular evening, I was out walking with the wisest man I knew.
The sun was setting and mist arose from the earth. Instead of a blazing sunset like those I experienced in New Mexico, this “sky-scape” was layered in subtle pastels…pink, peach and gray.
Though I don’t recall my exact words, I told my father that when I was 70, his age at the time, I wouldn’t mind dying. I would, I told him, be ready to leave the earth.
“You’ll feel differently when you’re there,” he retorted. “You’ll want more years ahead of you. Many more years.” I wanted to disagree, but I knew that argument was futile. Daddy was strong minded.
Life happened. Marriage, children, divorce, grandchildren. Suddenly I was the agemy father was when he made his pronouncement.
He’d left years earlier, but I felt that at some mysterious psychic level, he could hear and understand me. “You were right,” I longed to tell him.
Join Elaine Pinkerton on alternate Mondays for reflections on the life through adoption colored glasses, hiking, reading books, and writing. The Hand of Ganesh, slated for mid-April publication, can be pre-ordered from Pocol Press. (Pull down the Books tab at the top of this page). Stay tuned for a publication date for From Calcutta with Love. Thanks so much for reading; Your comments and questions are invited.