The romance of my adoptive parents, Richard and Reva Beard, was contained in a cache of 1940s love letters. Richard intended to write about his war experiences. When it became clear that Daddy was too mentally frail to write, my brother sent the letter collection to me. The best of the letters ended up in From Calcutta with Love-The WWII Correspondence of Richard and Reva Beard.
The two had been teenage sweethearts in Findlay, Ohio. Married in 1937, they put off starting their family until my father-to-be earned his doctorate from Ohio State University. For six years, while Richard earned his PhD in clinical psychology, Reva taught elementary school. When it turned out that they were not able to have children, they decided to adopt. The outbreak of World War II, however, further delayed the formation of a family.
Richard served as a clinical psychologist in charge of a Neuropsychiatric ward at the 142nd General Hospital in Calcutta, part of the China-Burma-India theater of the WWII. For 18 months, our future adoptive parents were separated by 6,000 months. My mother-to-be lived at home with her parents in Findlay, Ohio. She continued to teach school and inquired into adopting a baby. The two kept in touch through daily handwritten letters. When the war ended, my adoptive parents found me and my brother.
After my father passed away, I realized that his story of the wartime separation, contained in daily letters home, conveyed the love that was strong enough to add my brother and me, ages 17 months and five, to their family. I’m particularly fond of this love letter straight from the heart.
February 14, 1945
To my Valentine—my Love.
It was the middle of the afternoon before I realized that I had an unopened gift from you awaiting me. I went to the footlocker immediately upon my return this evening, and with great delight found your snapshots and the leather snapshot container…
Thanks so much, honey, they mean a lot to me…
Someone told me that they were having a movie in the 82nd area, and so I walked over that way—sure enough, they were, but it was the same one I saw last night. Upon my return to the basha I pored over a November copy of the Reader’s Digest. “Rajah of the Soul” proved interesting, though I’m afraid none of his methods have infiltrated to this community…
As I predicted, the music of falling rain and the rumble of thunder lulled me to sleep last night. This morning we awakened to find the rice paddies partially submerged and the drying ponds given a new lease on life. Where the boys had worked so hard leveling and scraping down a tennis court, a smooth placid lake lay, disturbed only by a croaking frog.
This afternoon, Lt. Scanlon, our medical administrative officer, came in to confer on some forms which he is making out for our Medical Corps officers. He spent the whole afternoon with me.
My darling, I hope my flowers reached you—or that it was possible to get flowers.
With each petal I bless the sacred moment that brought you into my life. You are my love, my existence.
With your name on my breath,