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Wouldn't It Be Something

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Wouldn't It Be Something

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创建时间: 2014-11-16 22:28:47 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式   阅读:17885   回复:155
本帖最后由 Dennis Depcik 于 2017-10-3 23:52 编辑

11/17/14

I just wanted to summarize some of what I talked about Last Sunday (11/16/14). My book "Wouldn't It Be Something" is a true love story about how a young man (me) and someone he looked upon as just a "kid" (my wife Maggie) came to know each other and fall in love through letters written from opposite ends of an ocean We wrote to each other over a three year period. (1965 - 1968), a time during which we rarely saw or spoke to each other because I was in the Army and was in Heidelberg, Germany, and Maggie was in Chicago, Illinois.


I knew of Mary Brown (Maggie's name before we were married) when she was only 13 and I was 20. I was at Mary Brown's mother's funeral. I know I was there because my older brother, Leo, was engaged to Mary's older sister, Patsy, and they were going to be married in three weeks. So I know for sure I was at the funeral, and I'm sure Mary Brown was there also, I do not remember noticing her because she was so much younger than me and just a "kid" in my eyes.


Three weeks after the funeral, Mary and I were at the wedding of my brother and her sister. I do not remember noticing her there either, but I do have a picture of 13 year Mary and my 12 year old sister, Nancy, smiling into a camera. So, I'm certain she was there. I just do not remember noticing her.


Three years later, When Mary was in high school and I was in the Army, she began writing letters to me - and I thought - "How nice, my sister- in-laws little sister sending Letters to her brother-in-laws brother who's in the Army, That's a nice thing to do."  Little did I know that this was the beginning of something very special.


If you would like, I could tell you more about how Maggie and I came to know each other and fall in love through the letters we wrote.


11/24/14


Maggie sent several letters to me when I was in training in the Army. She began sending letters when she was only 16 years old and had recently completed her third year of high school. I was 23 years old and had graduated from college. I never paid much attention to Maggie's early letters, since I only saw her as my sister-in-law's little sister and just a kid. I don't even remember what was in those letters, as I'm sure I simply threw them away. I did enjoy getting mail from someone back home, but never thought enough of Maggie's at that point to save her's (except for one). I did answer some of her early letters, but it was just to be polite.


I can't remember why I saved the one letter I did save. Perhaps it was because I was surprised that someone as young as 16 could write a letter that seemed as if it was from someone older than that. In that letter Maggie talks about going on a diet (although she really didn't need to) and wrote:   "Did you ever have celery for breakfast? It doesn't work. Oh, well, what's a couple more pounds here and there, and here and there, and here and there. I always did want to go out for football." And then she joked about what she may want to do when she graduated from high school after he final year (in 1965 many girls in the United States never dreamed of going to college and felt they should get married soon after graduating). Maggie's jokingly wrote:  "I'm not sure if I should go into a career or get married. Should I  go out and earn a man's salary, or stay home and take it away from him?

Maggie wrote several more letters while I was still in Army training - and I answered some of them --- and then her letters stopped. Just like that - they stopped.


12/2/14


Maggie stopped writing letters to me in early September, 1965. She was beginning her last year of high school and was doing what senior high school girls often did back then - dating a lot of boys and going to school activities. I didn't care that she stopped writing because she meant nothing to me. I didn't even notice at the time that she had stopped because I had many other thoughts on my mind. I was worried about finishing my basic military training and getting accepted into officer's school. Officers school was for six months and was very difficult - more than half of the soldiers who entered did not graduate. I was also worried about Vietnam. When I went into the Army, the United States was not heavily involved in Vietnam; we were only there as advisors. But shortly after I joined and was going to Infantry Officer's School, more troops were being sent to Vietnam and more Infantry Officers were needed. I did not want to go to Vietnam, but thought for certain I would be sent. I was very lucky


When I graduated, I was transferred to Europe and was sent to France. However, I only stayed in France for a few months because the President of France, Charles DeGaulle, wanted all foreign troops out of France. I was then sent to Heidelberg, Germany.Shortly after I was in Heidelberg (around August of 1966), I received a letter from my sister-in-law, Patsy (Maggie\'s sister), casually mentioning that Maggie had graduated from high school and was now engaged to be married. Because Maggie meant nothing to me, I couldn't care less - except to think that 18 years old was too young for any girl to be engaged.


A couple weeks after I received Patsy\'s letter, I got a letter from Maggie. I hadn't heard from her in about 10 months


12/5/14


The letter I received from Maggie was very short. She was writing to be nice, because she knew that soldiers in the Army liked to get mail. She didn't have any romantic interests in me at this point, because she was engaged, although there was no wedding day planned. She simply told me that she was going into a training program at St. Vincent's Orphanage to become a nurse and that she was a little frightened. She also told me that the boy she was engaged to was now in the Army and may be going to Vietnam.


Her letter was dated September 6, 1966. Maggie had just turned 18; I was 25. It began,"Dear Dennis,Please don't feel that you have to answer this letter as it is just to let you know that the "Beauty of Bridgeport" is still alive and thinking of you. (Nothing personal of course)."Bridgeport was the neighborhood in Chicago where Maggie and I were born and raised. Our families lived only a block away from each other. Even though we lived that close, I hardly knew Maggie because she was so much younger than me.  Maggie went on to ask me some questions about Germany and told me about her training program and her boyfriend, then ended the letter,"Well, I guess I've taken up enough of your time. Please take care and try to write. As Always, Maggie" This was a short letter that Maggie wrote more than ten months after the last letter she sent, but it was the beginning  of something that would change my life forever.


At this time, I did not know that something very special was starting. I simply liked the way Maggie wrote and found her amusing and very mature for such a young girl. I began to answer her letters much more often than those I received in Army training. Little did I know that this was the beginning of 18 months of letter writing between Maggie and me; 18 months during which time Maggie and I rarely saw or spoke to each other because we were at opposite ends of an ocean; 18 months during which time Maggie went from being "just a kid" and pleasant pen pal to the most important person in my life. And it was all because of the letters we wrote to each other. It was through our letters that we came to know each other and through our letters that we fell in love.12/10/14Before I go any further in telling you about how Magie and I came to know each other and fall in love through our letters, Irealize that I have not told you something very important to my story. My wife,Maggie, died a little over four years ago. We had been married for 41 years andhad four children and six grandchildren. Maggie was 62 when she passed away peacefullyat our home. Then, about two months after she died, Maggie came back to life.






When Maggie died, a part of me died with her. I could not stop thinking of her. Not only was she on my mind every day, she was in my thoughts every waking minute of every waking hour. I could not go more than ten minutes without Maggie on my mind. Every place I went; everywhere I looked; every sound I heard, reminded me of her. I could not get her out of my head– and I did not want to. I wanted her near me, no matter how much it hurt. It’s not that I was curled up in a corner, somewhere in my home, afraid to continueliving my life. I did a lot of things – had dinner with friends, played golf, volunteered in my town – but thoughts of Maggie were always right there. Sometimes those thoughts were happy; other times they were very sad.
On my good days, every thought I had of Maggie brought a smile to my face. But on my bad days, I missed her terribly. And on those bad days, I would ask myself questions – “Did Maggie ever wish she had not married me?” “Did she know how much I loved her?” Why did she fall in love with me?” And that last question haunted me. “Why did Maggie fall in love with me?” She was a beautiful woman who had many guys chasing after her. I was an ocean away and so much older than her. Why did she fall in love with me?
Now I knew Maggie and I came to know each other and fell in love through the letters we wrote when I was in the Army from 1965 to1968. During those three years, we never spent more than 20 minutes alone with each other, and that was when I drove her home from St. Vincent\'s Orphanage, at a time I did not have many feelings for her.
All of our letters were written almost 50 years ago. I certainlhy could not remember what was in them.
During the first month after Maggie died, I made adiscovery that brought her back to life.

12/16/14
One particular day, about two months after Maggie died;I wanted to be near her. Now I believed that Maggie was near me all the time; I believed that. But this day I needed more than just that belief. This day, I needed to touch her, hear her, smell her. So, I shut off all the phones in our house, went up to our bedroom, and closed and locked the door. I didn’t want to be disturbed by anyone or anything. I stood there, in the middle of our bedroom, looking at everything that belonged to Maggie.
I sat on her side of the bed and gently brushed my left hand across her pillow. When I looked up, I saw two of Maggie’s favorite stuffed animals on the shelf above the bed – the curly white lamb and the little brown bear. I took them down, hugged them, and then put them back, in exactly the same spot. I looked across the room and saw two of Maggie’s music boxes. I opened each and played both – one played the song “Hero” and the other“There Is Love.” I listened to them briefly, thought of Maggie, and then put them back exactly where they had been. I then went into the bathroom and saw Maggie’s favorite perfume in the corner of the sink. I picked it up, sprayed it in the air, and walked through the mist the way Maggie would do. Then I went to her closet, opened the door, and pushed all her clothe from the left to the right. I then began moving each garment from the right to the left. Some had not yet been worn and still had the store tags on. I picked out one of Maggie’s favorite dresses and held it in front of me, picturing her wearing it. Then I crumpled the dress, brought it to my face and breathed deeply to see if Maggie’s scent was still there. It was. As I was placing the dress back in the closet, I noticed a stack of five or six boxes in the far right corner of the shelf above the clothes.   One box was about three inches longer than the others and that caught my attention. As I began sliding it from the shelf,there was something heavy inside and the weight shifted, almost knocking the box from my hand. I quickly steadied it and brought it to our bed, laying it there.
Opening the box, I was completely stunned. My legs became numb, my eyes began to tear, I started losing my breath – I couldn’t move.There, in that box, were all the letters Maggie and I had written to each other. Here was my answer as to how Maggie and I fell in love. There were 119 letters in that box. I never knew Maggie kept them all these years. I stood there motionless for what seemed like a long time, although I’m sure it was only a couple minutes, just looking down at the letters, knowing that I had discovered a wonderful treasure. It took a few more seconds before I got the courage to pick up one of Maggie’s letters. As soon as I took it out of the envelope and opened it, my hands began to shake and tears were rolling down mycheeks. I quickly put the letter back in its envelope and back into the box. I decided it would be easier to start with one of my letters. After all, it was my letter, my words, my thoughts, and, if I remember correctly, it would probably be boring. After reading about half of my letter, I began to again feel light headed and hurridly put my letter back in the box. I then took the entire box and quickly returned it to the closet shelf. It was only two months since Maggie died and too soon to be this close to her.
12/23/14
Every day, whenever I entered our bedroom, I felt as if I was being pulled to those letters. I wanted to read them, but I was too afraid to face all the feelings they awakened in me. Since Maggie died, I had been trying to understand the conflicting emotions that were haunting me every day - the anger, the doubts, the regrets and the fears. Maggie was on my mind all the time and almost every thought of her brought me pain. Yet, I didn\'t want to run from those memories, because in doing so, I would be running from Maggie. No, I wanted those memories to stay strong; I just didn\'t want to have to face the pain - the intense pain that came with them.
Up until this point, every time I had a memory of Maggie that brought me pain, I would shake that memory from my head or push it deep into the corners of my mind. But it would always come back, and sometimes with far more pain. I didn\'t know what to do. So, I decided to write. I thought that if I wrote about all these conflicting emotions, if I put them on a piece of paper in front of me, perhaps then I could look at them more closely, "study" them, and hopefully understand them better.
I began by writing a poem ("Missing My Maggie") which is about the daily events that I missed most whenever I thought of Maggie -  our morning breakfast, the crossword puzzle we shared, the laundrey we did together, etc. - all the little things that I took so much for granted when she was alive. And I wrote narratives about my anger and my regrets.
I wrote about the anger I felt because friends wouldn\'t let me talk about Maggie - not the way I wanted to talk about her. Oh, I understood that they were uncomfortable or were afraid of openng healing wounds, but I needed to get that anger in front of me so I could face it. So, I wrote my narrative, "Just Let Me Talk," in which I shout to the world to please let me tell them about what Maggie\'s loss means to me.
And I wrote about the regrets I had because the passion Maggie and I shared, when we were young in love, didn\'t stay as strong throughout our entire 41 years of marriage. I fully understood that time and circumstances always get in the way. I knew that raising a family, bills, medical problems etc. - take away from your attention to each other. I knew this, but I still had regrets. Until I began to write about it and realize that the "burning love" we had for each other, when we were young and by ourselves, turned into something deeper and stronger - the call home when I would be late from the office, the special meal she would make for no special reason, the gentle hug when she/I felt alone or frightened. That\'s what happened to the "burning love." It turned into everyday happenings of love that lasted longer and was stronger than the burning passion of young hearts.  
IM SORRY I HAVE TO END HERE. My daughter is expected shortly and we are going to do some last minute Christmas shopping. I\'ll write again after Christmas Day - December 25th. I\'m having Christmas dinner at my house with all my children and grandchildren.
I wish all of you Happy Holidays. I realize Christmas is not your holiday, but I want to share with you the joy I feel at this time.
12/28/14
Now that my family\'s Christmas holiday is over, I can again share my story with you.
As I continued to write some poems and narratives in the followng months, I began to experience a gradual shift in my feelings. The more directly I faced my painful emotions, the better I began to understand them and the better I was at dealing with them. I found myself able to think more often about pleasant moments with Maggie. No longer were all my thoughts focused on my negative feelings. After several months, I began to recall and write about tender moments that Maggie and I shared.
I wrote a poem recalling the hug we would give each other every morning to start our day. And although I dearly missed that hug and wished for only one more chance to hold Maggie close again, I truely enjoyed recalling that special time we shared each morning. I ended the poem with,
If I could hold you one more time
So close to me again,
To make you part of me,
I would swallow you with my arms.
Then I wrote a poem about the tender moments Maggie and I shared during lightening storms. Maggie was deathly afraid of lightening. When she was 19 years old, she was struck by indirect lightening while in her apartment, talking on the telephone. She was sitting on a steel bench near the window when a bolt of lightening hit very close. It knocked her off the bench and across the room - and all the tiles on the kitchen walls popped off wherever there was wiring. Although Maggie survived the strike, she was terribly afraid of lightening the rest of her life. After we were married, if a lightening storm was predicted to be coming overnight, Maggie would be wrestless in bed as she could hear the storm approaching. The closer the thunder and lightening came, the more frightened she would be, and the closer she would inch toward me - until the storm was overhead and she would be trembling in my arms. Then, when the storm would slowly pass, she would fall asleep, resting by my side.
I wrote my last poem a little over a year after Maggie died to tell my children, other family members and friends that I was doing just fine and that they needn\'t worry so much about me. In this poem, "I\'ll Be Okay," I tell everyone that I may not be the same person I was when Maggie was alive, but I would be okay. I ended that poem with,
I am getting better.
But the me that was - is gone.
And I\'ll never be who I was,
Because part of me was her,
And she\'s gone.
I\'ll be different - I can\'t help that.
But, I\'ll deal with it.
I\'ll never be the same,
But, I\'ll be okay.
Writing the poems and narratives helped get me through the most difficult time of my life and helped me get to a point where I could begin to realize that I sholdn\'t be sad for what I lost. I should be glad for what I had in my life.
1/5/15
I would now like to return to the weeks and months that followed the day I discovered Maggie\'s and my letters in the box in our bedroom closet.
After returning the box of letters to the closet shelf, I was unable to touch them again for several weeks. I so badly wanted to read them, yet I was too afraid to open those letters - too afraid to face the reality that Maggie was no longer here. During those several weeks, I had been writing some of my poems and narratives that helped me face some of my feelings, and now felt stronger.
I again brought the box down from the closet shelf and placed it on our bed. My hands still trembled when I opened it and again I became light headed, but I was determined to push myself to read those letters. I wanted to begin with one of Maggie\'s letters - I really did - but I was afraid. Afraid to see her handwriting, read her words, hear her thoughts, feel her love, afraid to have her this close. So I decided again to begin with my letters. Perhaps if I read some of my letters, I would have the courage to read Maggie\'s.
When I began reading my letters I found it was easier than it had been several weeks ago. I also learned that my letters were as boring as I remembered them being. They were long and often talked about daily occurrences that would be of little interest to a girl who might have been developing some interest in me. I wrote about getting my car repaired, the new audio equipment I bought, and some of the trips I was able to take. But I couldn\'t tell Maggie what she probably wanted to hear more than anything - that I was falling in love with her. I couldn\'t say that because I wasn\'t sure. I had never been alone with Maggie for longer than twenty minutes, and that was when I was home for a short time to visit my parents, long before Maggie and I had any real interest in each other. As a favor to her sister, I gave Maggie a car ride from her place of work to her sister\'s house. That twenty minute car ride was the only time we had ever been alone.
After reading about four or five of my letters, I felt that I now had the strength to read some of Maggie\'s.
1/15/15
I am so sorry it has taken me so long to write again. Time moves so quickly and I didn\'t realize it has been so long.
When I brought the box of letters down from the closet shelf a second time, I really wanted to read Maggie\'s letters before mine, but as I said before, I was afraid - afraid to see her handwriting, read her words, hear her thoughts, and feel her love - afraid to be this close to Maggie so soon after she died. However, after reading some of my letters, I did feel stronger. So, I picked up several of Maggie\'s letters and gently placed them on the bed - still hesitant to open them. I stared at them for some time, looking at her handwriting on the envelopes and recalling how I felt almost fifty years ago when I would get one of her letters. How I would rush back from the post office and quickly tear open the envelope, my heart pounding. Yet, I was now having such a hard time opening these letters. My heart was again pounding - not out of excitement, but out of fear. I picked up one of the envelopes and began removing the letter when my hands began to tremble. I quickly put the letter back on the bed , looked at it for several more seconds, then left the bedroom. I walked through several rooms of my house trying to build up my courage and telling myself that I must do this. I must read these letters. After several moments, I re-entered our bedroom, and with tears streaming down my cheeks, began reading Maggie\'s letters.
Reading Maggie\'s letters was so much harder. She wrote such beautiful letters. So honest, so down to earth, so full of life, love and humor. It was as if we were sitting next to each other having a conversation, as if we were on a date. She was by my side every time I read one. It wasn\'t words on a page; it was her voice in my ears, her face in front of mine, her laughter and her smile. Whenever Maggie sent a letter, she gave you a piece of her heart. My letters stumbled from my head. As I read Maggie\'s letters, I was with her again; with my vibrant, funny, loving Maggie.
After reading several of Maggie\'s letters, I stopped. The pain of having her so close, feeling her as if she was still alive, was too hard for me. I quickly returned her letters to the box and placed the box back on the closet shelf.
1/23/15
I tried to read some of Maggie\'s and my letters every day, but I couldn\'t read more than two or three at any one time because the pain was too strong. And sometimes I would go for several days without reading any. My memories of Maggie became so alive and made me realize what a treasure she was. It was as if Maggie and I were young again, but my feelings for her were so much stronger now that I lived much of my life and understood what was most important.
About two months after Maggie\'s funeral and about a month after I began reading the letters, I had lunch with my sister, Nancy, in downtown Chicago. During our time together, I couldn\'t stop talking about Maggie, and told Nancy about the letters and about how much pain it was causing me to read them.
"Why are you doing this now?" she asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Why are you reading these letters now, when it hurts so much? Why don\'t you wait a couple months when the pain isn\'t this strong?"
"I don\'t know. I just have to."
Nancy looked at me and said, "Okay, I was just wondering why you would do that to yourself."
She couldn\'t seem to understand why I must do this now, and I didn\'t know how to explain it. We sat silent for awhile and then started talking about the weather and other less important subjects.
But after I returned home, I thought about Nancy\'s questions - "Why are you doing this now?...Why would you do that to yourself" And I had my answer.
I want to read these letters now, when my feelings are raw and my heart is bleeding - not when everything is softened by time, not         when my emotions have lessened and reading them becomes simply an enjoyable experience. I want to read them when my eyes are       filled with tears and my heart is breaking. I want to read them when the pain is so deep, I can\'t imagine ever feeling anything other        than this again. I want to feel Maggie with me, alive and here, not just as some fading memory.
1/30/15
Reading Maggie\'s letters brought her back to me and kept her by my side while I struggled with my grief. They took me back in time almost fifty years ago and helped me answer that most difficult question I mentioned earlier, "Why did Maggie fall in love with me?" She was not only a beautiful woman, though only a child in my eyes when we first began to write, she was also intelligent, had a great sense of humor, was a gifted writer, and a talented pianist. I knew she was attracted to me because I was older than her and I\'m sure she found that intriguing; I was also a college graduate and all of the boys she dated had only completed high school; and she had a school girl crush on me when she was 13. But there had to be more to it than that. The answer was in the letters.
As I mentioned earlier, after almost a year of receiving no letters from Maggie, she began writing again. She was now in training to be a nurse and was engaged to a boy who lived in the neighborhood and was now in the Army. In 1966, it wasn\'t unusual in our neighborhood for a girl to become engaged shortly after high school. Times were different then and girls were expected to become wives, raise a family and take care of their husbands. Maggie and I began writing simply as pen pals. She was 18 and I was 25 and she sent letters to me because she thought it was a nice thing to do - sending letters to someone in the Army who was far away from his family and friends.

In the beginning, I thought that Maggie\'s letters were often amusing and I enjoyed her quick wit and sense of humor. I also loved her style of writing and it often felt as though we were in the same room together. In one of my first letters to Maggie, written in early October, 1966, I jokingly addressed the envelope to "Miss Maggathie Brown III," as though she was royalty, since she referred to herself as "the Beauty of Bridgeport" in her letter to me. I also included a poem that I had written:
                                                    Today I am
                                                    What one day I wasn\'t
                                                    And tomorrow I\'ll be
                                                    Another me.
                                                    A stream briskly flows
                                                    And takes inside
                                                    All that will enter
                                                    Then casts aside
                                                    What it can\'t contain
                                                    And carries the rest
                                                    That still remains
                                                    \'Til it crashes the rocks
                                                    With such a sound
                                                    That warns the world
                                                    It won\'t be bound.
                                                    I\'m not a pool
                                                    That stagnant and deep
                                                    Receives the new
                                                    And refuses to keep
                                                    It hidden within
                                                    But belches it up
                                                    When stirred by the wind.
I believe this letter - one of the first ones I sent - was the beginning of Maggie starting to see me as someone different. She answered my letter almost immediately.
2/6/15
Maggie did answer within the week. She was just beginning her nurses\'s training program at St. Vincent\'s Orphanage and was very nervouse about that, but she did find time to answer my letter and comment on my poem. This is some of the letter she wrote to me in early October 1966:
Dear Dennis,
Would you believe I\'m not sure that I understand your poem. I know you meant it for yourself, but I couldn\'t help applying it to myself. Now I\'m very depressed and very confused. The lines "that warns the world it won\'t be bound," are my favorite and the cause of all my confusion. Maybe I\'m not as smart as I hoped I was, or perhaps I\'m too much me (not poundage wise either), but I don\'t want to be another me. Is that wrong? Dennis!!!
Here\'s my poem. Prepare yourself for a good laugh. I write such baby poetry.
   Even when I talk of love
   my fear is open for review
   And when I talk of hate
   my eagerness to hate shows through.
   I try to hide the thoughts I think
   I try to make them go away
   but nasties prompt me with a wink
   and naked thoughts come out to play.
(SEX) Now that I have your attention once again, would you like to know my latest hobby. No? Well anyway, I\'ve started a paper-back library.
Maggie then went on to tell me that most of the books she\'s reading are novels. She says she knows she should be reading other books, like poetry and history and so forth, but she loves novels. She then wrote "I guess i should call it simply a novel library. (Novel has several meanings in English: one is the "type of book" and the other is "unusual."
I was already impressed with Maggie\'s sense of humor from her early letters and saw it again in this one. But now I began learning more about her. Not only was she amusing, (I love how she assumed I would find her poem boring and that my mind was probably wandering - then brought me back to the present by writing (SEX).) I thought that was so creative for a girl so young. But I also loved her poem. Such insight from someone only 18 years old.
I couldn\' wait to answer her letter.
2/13/15
I must have sent a letter to Maggie that is missing from the ones I found in the box in Maggie\'s closet after she died. In the next letter of mine that I did find in the box, I ask Maggie if she had answered my last letter. I begin this letter by using my "special" name for her ("Maggathie") - the one I used earlier when I addressed the envelope to her as though she was royalty. I was also being a little silly in the beginning of my letter when I was telling her that I was sad that I hadn\'t heard from her for awhile. I was beginning to look forward to Maggie\'s letters, but still only as a friend.

My next letter to Maggie was short. I had been very busy with my Army duties and didn\'t have as much time to write as I had hoped. Because I was very impressed by Maggie\'s poem and thrilled that she seemed to like the one I sent her, I shared two more of my poems with her.
The following letter was written "Around Mid-October 1966"
   My Dear Miss Maggathie:
   Did you answer my last letter? If not, my heart stands broken and bleeding. If you did, it may have already been returned to you because my   address has been changed.
  I wrote a couple more poems since my last letter. No lesson to learn here, no profound ideas, simply an honest attempt to create a certain mood:
      Silent ship, upon a silent sea
      Under a setting sun
      Pushed by a gentle breeze
      Which whispers to the sails
      And puffs their airy pride
      To cross the sea, soundlessly
      And gain the other side
and
      A leaf which could not last
      The lure of Autumns song
      Dances through the air
      And lights within a pool.
      The startled host awakened
      By this unexpected visit
      Softly taps the hand
      Of the sleeping land.
      Leaf, land and pool
      In solumn silence sit,
      Hushed audience -
      Mute in reverence.
Paiently Waiting,
Dennis
I wrote the second poem to describe a sight I had seen while standing by a pond on a very quiet Autumn day. The water was very still and I saw a leaf fall from a tree into the pond. It made some small ripples that touched the shore - then everything was quiet again.
Of the 119 letters that were in the box I discovered in Maggie\'s closet, there are none from me to Maggie for the next nine months: mid - October 1966 to mid-July 1967. I know I wrote letters to Maggie during this time, because in her letters to me (which were still in the box) she is obviously responding to letters I sent to her. I don\'t know why my letters for this nine month period were not in the box of saved letters - perhaps Maggie lost them in one of her several moves or perhaps she threw them away during some difficult period in our growing relationship.
2/20/15
I must have written at least one more letter to Maggie shortly after mid-October, because she refers to it in her letter to me dated November 21, 1966. Maggie begins her letter to me with "Dear Dennis, Please no bloodshed, but I do owe you two letters. Honestly, it wasn\'t that I hadn\'t thought about you, but I just had no time or perhaps no energy." At this time, Maggie, who was now 18 years old, had recently began her nurses training program, which required many hours of studying, and she was also doing much of the cooking and laundry at home for herself and her father (Maggie\'s mother died when when Maggie was 13).

A couple of things that Maggie did in this letter made my heart sputter a little. The first was when she wrote "You know, I miss you. Bridgeport, (which was the neighborhood in which both Maggie and I lived)especially Bonfield Street, (the street on which I lived) just isn\'t the same anymore. Everything is so ho-hum!" Also, at the end of this letter, Maggie wrote "Missing You" Then she signed it"Maggathie." I was surprised that Maggie told me that she "missed me" since we barely knew each other, and I was even more surprised that she signed her letter with the name I had given her in one of my letters, "Magathie." From this point on "Maggathie" became our special name for her - every letter that I wrote to her was addressed to "My Dear Miss Maggathie." And every letter she sent to me was signed "Maggithie." We now shared two connections that were ours alone - the name "Maggathie" and the exchanges of our poems.
As touched as I was that Maggie told me that she "missed me," I felt a little uncomfortable. I didn\'t know how to respond since I still thought of her as too young and just my sister-in-law\'s little sister. I also knew she was engaged. I convinced myself that Maggie didn\'t mean anything romantic by what she wrote.
2/23/15
I answered Maggie\'s letter in about a week and asked her about her nurse\'s training program and told her how wonderful it was that she was doing her training in an orphanage. I knew how busy she must be with her studies as well as her responsibilities at home - cooking, cleaning, laundey etc. - and made a comment that she didn\'t have to feel that she had to answer my letters right away. Maggie wrote back a few days later on October 31, 1966 and said: "Dear Dennis,
Please don\'t ever think that I feel obligated to write to you. I\'m just glad that you want my letters. It really is all my pleasure... Whose flattering who? You make me sound like Joan of Arc!  

Yes, I\'m a pretty busy character now that I\'m a Student Nurse. My hours are really confusing, but I love what I\'m doing. I\'ve never felt so complete in all my life. I know I still have a long way to go before I\'m really a person though.



Oh Den, I do love the babies at St. Vincent\'s. You don\'t know how I feel to be called "Mommy." (they associate "white" with mommy). They look at you with such empty eyes. I\'m afraid that if I look at them they\'ll see too much compassion and sometimes down right pity. I don\'t want to pity them so I try loving them. It works, Den. They are so loved-starved and yet so full of love."
This was a new insight for me. Maggie impressed me as such a caring person who really loved children. It was another quality of her\'s that I admired.
I must have asked Maggie about her comment in her last letter about "missing me" since we barely knew each other because she responded: "Yes, I do miss you. It may seem silly since I never really knew you and am just learning to know you now. Somehow I feel closer to you now... Please don\'t forget to write soon and remember to stay happy."
This is a picture of Maggie caring for a orphan baby at St. Vincent\'s Orphanage.

2/26/15
Maggie and I wrote several letters to each other over the next month and then I was unable to write for awhile because of my Army job. I was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany as an Army courier and my job was to deliver classified material throughout Western Europe which included such countires as France, England, Austria, Belgium, Spain etc. As the conflict in Vietnam became worse, the flow of classified material increased in Western Europe. My traveling also increased and I found little time to write letters to anyone.
Christmas was getting closer and I did have time to finally send some Christmas cards to family and friends - including Maggie. Well, Maggie must have been expecting a card sooner than I was able to send one . In her letter to me on December 20, 1966 she lets me know that she was unhappy with me:  "Dear Dennis, Dear? What did you do, break an arm? Thanks for sending me a Christmas card pal." This was her polite way of telling me that I disappointed her. She then ended her letter in a politely sarcastic way to tell me that she wanted me to write to her: "Well, dear heart, I won\'t ask you to write as I wouldn\'t want you to strain yourself, but if you ever get the inspiration, please do."  It was obvious to me that Maggie was upset at not hearing from me for a few weeks and that surprised me. I began wondering if there was something deeper in her feelings for me than simply seeing me as a friend.
Maggie must have received my Christmas card on the day after she sent her letter to me, because she sent me a letter to apologize.
"Dear Dennis, Please accept my apology for accusing you of forgetting me this Christmas." She then told me how busy she was at her training program at St. Vincents and how discouraged she was getting "My crazy hours at the hospital keep me going all the time. I\'m just getting rid of a depressed feeling. In fact, I seriously thought of quitting, but as much as I hate the hours and pay, something gets into your blood when you\'ve been there for awhile. I was beginning to look forward to Maggie\'s letters, but only as a friend. I still thought of her as being just a kid (seven years younger than me),- a kid who was nothing more to me than a "pen pal."

Then, on Christmas Eve (December 24) I was asked to deliver some classified material to Washington D. C., in the United States. Because I was going to have two days to myself, I decided I would go to Chicago. I had no plans to see Maggie, because she didn\'t mean that much to me. Because I only had a very limited time, I wanted to surprise my parents. Maggie was far from my mind. However, that changed quickly after I was home.  
3/2/15
I arrived in Washington D. C. late on Christmas Eve (December 24, 1966). After delivering the classified material to the proper person, I hurried to get to the airport to catch a plane to Chicago. Because it was early Christmas morning when I arrived in Chicago, it was very difficult finding a taxi cab to drive me to my parent’s home. I was very tired after arriving at 4:00 in the morning, but the tears in my mother’s eyes when she answered my knock on the door made up for all the airport arrangements, car rides and lost sleep. My coming home was a complete surprise to everyone.
The following evening (Christmas Day- December 25, 1966), my mother had planned a dinner in honor of my being home. She invited my older brother, Leo, and his wife, Patsy, (Maggie’s older sister). Maggie was in her nurse’s training program at St. Vincent’s Orphanage on Christmas Day and was supposed to go to her sister’s house after work for Christmas dinner. When my mother heard about this, she told Patsy that Maggie should come for dinner at our house. My brother, who was supposed to pick Maggie up from St. Vincent’s, asked me if I would do this for him. I told him it would be no problem.
St.Vincent’s Orphanage was a large building, several stories high. When I told the nurse at the front desk that I was here to pick up Maggie Brown, she told me to wait while she phoned upstairs to tell Maggie that her ride was here. After about ten minutes, Maggie came walking through the double doors that separated the waiting area from the rest of the orphanage. I wasn\'t sure what I was expecting, but I was completely surprised when I saw her. I thought I would see this “kid” who had been writing some letters to me – an 18 year old, high school graduate. Maggie was dressed in a white nurse’s uniform, white stockings, white shoes, white hat, looking far different than I imagined.
Maggie was also surprised. When she saw me, she stopped immediately. Her mouth opened slightly, her eyes widened, and she could barely speak, “Oh…oh my God it’s you… I didn’t know you were home…I was expecting Leo…this is really a surprise…when did you get home…I didn’t expect to see you…I mean…it’s nice to see you…Hi."
I could not help but smile and be somewhat flattered by her awkwardness in my presence, “Leo asked if I could pick you up. Hope you don’t mind. I’m only home for a couple of days.”

Maggie-.jpg



My impression of Maggie was beginning to change.
3/5/15
Maggie and I stood there for a few seconds, looking at each other and not moving. She held both of her hands tight in front of her, while mine were cupped behind my back. Neither of us seemed to know what to do and we were both feeling very uncomfortable. Finally, Maggie broke the tense silence as she began to walk from me and said, “Just let me go get my purse.”  Then, as she moved to the double doors that led to the orphanage, she turned to me and asked, “Would you like to see the orphanage? It won’t take long.”
“Sure.”I quickly answered and then followed her through the open doors.
Maggie took me on a tour of the orphanage, introducing me to the other students as well as the doctors and nurses - telling them that I was the brother of her sister’s husband and was home from the Army for only a couple days. We then went to several rooms in the orphanage where Maggie pointed out her favorite babies and gave me a brief history of each of them. Whenever she would pick up a baby, she would cradle it gently in her arms close to her chest, hug it against her cheek for a several seconds, and speak in hushed tones before carefully placing it back in its crib. Whenever she held a baby, her eyes gleamed, her smile widened, and her voice softened. There was a beautiful glow about her.
I stood back, looking at Maggie and wondering, Is this my sister-in-law’s kid sister? Is this the shy kid I just saw in the waiting room? Is this the little girl that’s been sending letters to me? I was confused and surprised and I was beginning to see Maggie more as a “woman”than a “little kid.” I was very touched by how much she loved these babies and thought to myself that she would probably be a good mother someday.
Maggie captured part of my heart that afternoon.
3/9/15
When our tour of the orphanage ended, I drove Maggie to my parent’s house for dinner. During the car ride we talked about little things - the nurse’s training program, Maggie’s boyfriend, and a few of the countries I had visited in Europe. That twenty minute car ride was the first time Maggie and I were alone with each other.  
After Christmas dinner, I showed picture slides of sights I saw in Europe – Germany, Paris, Brussels, and several other places. The entire family then sang Christmas songs while Maggie and her sister, Patsy, took turns playing the piano.
All through the evening I couldn’t stop sneaking peeks at Maggie. She didn’t seem to be the kid I always thought she was. There was something different about her and I didn’t know what. I was in a state of confusion and wonder at the same time.
When the night ended, I offered to walk Maggie home, since she lived close to my parent’s home. It was a bitter cold night, but we walked slower than the weather should have allowed. In the twenty minutes it took us to walk that one block, we talked about the weather, Barbra Streisand, what flavor ice cream we liked best, and who wrote to whom last. When we reached the front door to the building in which Maggie lived, I offered to walk her up the two flights of stairs to her apartment. Maggie politely said it wasn’t necessary and that “You have already done enough for me today.” As I opened the entrance door to her building, pushing it aside so Maggie could pass, I had this desire to kiss her. I hesitated and then let my better judgment rule over my impulse and simply said “Good night, Maggie. I had a good time.”
Maggie turned, looked up at me, paused for a couple seconds and said “So did I. Thanks for walking me home.”
I turned and left as she slowly closed the door.
There were so many questions running through my head. What was this warmth that was burning inside me? Why was I even thinking about kissing Maggie? She’s only a kid to me and she’s engaged to another person, I certainly can’t be getting interested in her. No! No! No! She’s just a kid and she means nothing to me.
The following morning I flew to Washington D. C. and returned to the courier stationin Heidelberg, Germany. For the next thirteen months, Maggie and I would neither see nor speak to each other; our only communication would be through our letters.
3/12/15
Maggie was quick to send me a letter after my time home had ended. It was dated December 27, 1966 and was written to me on the day I left Chicago for Washington D.C.  She began by saying, “I decided to write to you first, seeing as I (ahem) owe you a letter. I hope you had a pleasant trip although as I write this, you are still in flight.” Maggie was referring to our conversation when I walked her home after Christmas dinner at my family’s house. I insisted that I sent the last letter although I knew I had not.  She knew that was not true and jokingly agreed that she ("ahem") owed me a letter.
Maggie then went on to say, “You know, I miss you. Now, isn’t that silly. I have been in the same room with you about 5 times in the last year, I have driven with you twice, you came home for 48 hours out of which approximately 6 hours were spent anywhere near me, and I miss you! All I need is a question mark over my head.”
Maggie also included a couple more of her poems, one of which I will share here:
                                                                    Deep in the emotions of loneliness
                                                                    Silent tears and an empty heart
                                                                        are put away so others can’t see.
                                                                    Silver unsmiling eyes and chapped knuckles
                                                                        do not seem to care What has happened,
                                                                        but wait for something.
                                                                    I’m young and alone
                                                                    and a throughout dark days
                                                                   I am learning to live with myself.
                                                                   I have picked up again and as I look
                                                                     at the clock, I thank the
                                                                        city for trying,
                                                                     but hope for his coming.

I was very moved by Maggie’s poem and felt she wrote it to express how lonely she was about her boyfriend being away in the Army. I was surprised at how well she captured her emotions and how willing she was to share them with me. I did not expect that from 18 year old kid. I absolutely loved how she described the tears in her eyes (“Unsmiling silver eyes…”).
I began wondering even more - who is this kid? Yet I kept telling myself that she was only 18 years old and I was 25. She is simply a good pen pal - nothing more. And she is engaged to someone.
3/16/15
I did not receive Maggie’s December 27th letter until I returned to Heidelberg. However, soon after reading it, I quickly answered. I told Maggie that I was hesitant to write because I often did not have much to talk about and I was afraid to bore her with details that may be of little interest. I also told her how much I enjoyed her poems and asked if she had more to send me. I then shared one of my recent poems with her – a poem that speaks of how poorly words express what is in the soul.
      Words are mirrors, fun house fashion
      Before the naked soul,
      Stuffing and stretching it into a truth
      The author hardly knows.
      Pulling and pushing until the sounds
      That stumble from the lips,
      Drop like lead from gilded chests
      Upon a marbled floor.
I went on and on about how much I enjoyed her poem and told her that she had a “gift’ for writing. I also told her again how much fun it was seeing her when I was home for Christmas and that I thought she played the piano very well.  
Maggie answered within a couple days.
In her letter dated January 5, 1967 she wrote, “Dear Denny, Hi! I nearly flipped to find a letter from you today as I am honored that you find time to write to plain old Maggathie.” Maggie knew how much I traveled in my job and was surprised that I took the time to write to her. Just like me, she thought the age difference between us and the fact that she was my sister-in-law’s sister, pretty much meant that we were nothing more than friends.
In her letter,Maggie encouraged me to write letters even if I felt I had little to say, “Why should you not write simply because you think you have nothing exciting to say. If it were not for your letters, I would be lost for words. You always seem to either ruffle my feathers or make my heart flutter so I have something to comment on.”
Maggie did not think she wrote well because she never went to college and was very surprised that I asked her to send me more of her poems. She wrote, “You honestly want me to send you another poem? Isn’t that great! Dennis, a college graduate, wanting to read one of my scribbles of thought.”  
Maggie then shared two more of her poems. Again I will share one with you:
The clear wind comes crying…
pressing it’s time weathered lips
against mine…
playing some soul’s song to the sea,
beach grasses bowed
and sound traveled with no luggage.
You called from behind the hill.
Walking back I thought
this shall be a memory, a secret
for the sea, wind and me.

After she shared her second poem, Maggie wrote, “Now that that is over with. Den, --- WAKE UP DEN!! Yoo Hoo!!” She was being funny and telling me that she thought I probably found her poems so boring that I fell asleep reading them. When she wrote like this, I felt as if Maggie was in the same room with me.
Then later in her letter, Maggie again told me that she missed me, “I really do miss you. I thought it over and found about fifteen to twenty reasons for my feelings, but I will not tell you as you would probably only laugh.”
Near the end of her letter, Maggie shared a concern with me, “Something came up in the last few days, and it bothered me very much. Do I give you the impression that the world owes me something? Someone told me that and I wonder if it may be true.You don’t know how bad I feel. I want you to answer honestly because if I do, I will have some soul searching to do.”
I began seeing myself as Maggie’s big brother – someone she could come to when she had questions or needed to share some feelings. I was okay with that and felt more comfortable.
Maggie signed her letter, “Sincerely, Maggathie” then added “Please try to write, soon.”
Because of travel for my job, I was not able to send a letter to Maggie for a couple weeks.
3/19/15
When Maggie answered my letter on 1/28/67, she thanked me for telling her that I never thought she gave the impression that “the world owes her something.”  I told Maggie that she should not let other people have that much power over how she sees herself and from what I knew of her, they could not be more wrong. She must have heard what I said, because she wrote,
“I am no longer worried about what other people think of me. I shall fumble along and do my best from now on. Now if I only knew where I am fumbling to and if my best was better than it is, I might be able to get somewhere in this world. I may not be a rose, that’s a rose, that’s a rose, but I am a Mary Margaret, that’s a Maggie, that’s a Maggathie.”

Again, I was surprised at how grown up Maggie sounded for an 18 year old kid. She was telling me that she realized she was many people in one person and she – and only she - had to figure out how each of those make her who she is.
Maggie’s next bit of news made me feel sad for her. “I have some news for you. I had to leave my babies at St. Vincent’s. My dad is retiring from work and we don’t have enough money to continue paying for the nurse’s training program. I don’t pity myself. I owe so much to my father that I could never think of standing in the way of his happiness.”
Maggie’s father worked in the steel mills and had a job that required a lot of heavy lifting. He was getting older and the job was becoming more difficult, so when he decided he could no longer continue doing it, Maggie understood. However, because there were still many bills to pay every month, there was no way Maggie could continue in the nurses training program.
Also, it had been five years since Maggie’s mother died. Her father had met a new woman and both of them were thinking about opening a restaurant in a nearby state (Wisconsin). Since Maggie had no intentions of moving, she would have to remain in the apartment by herself. This made it even more necessary for her to begin making money.
Knowing how very much Maggie loved the babies at St. Vincent’s Orphanage and how she looked forward to becoming a nurse, I knew this had to be very disappointing. But I also knew how much she loved her father and how she had no other choice.
Maggie did find a job quickly as a secretary. However, she was not happy being something other than a nurse, and saw her new job as something that was not very challenging. Also, she was worried what others would think about her leaving the nursing program.  “I am now an office ‘beauty’ like many other girls in the neighborhood, doing a job that almost anyone can do. My biggest fear is that people may see me as a‘quitter.’ I miss the hospital routine and most of all -  the babies, but then again, I will have my own babies someday.”
There was a statement Maggie made at the end of her letter that pleased me very much. In my letter to her, I questioned how she could possibly “miss” me since she barely knew me. I then asked her “How do you know me?” She answered:
“How do I know you? I know you as:
the gentleman who is not a prude -
the intellectual who is not a snob –
the fun-loving guy who is not silly –
the advisor who is not a gossip –
the handsome hunk of a man who is not
                                             conceited…..”

I read that several times and thought what a beautiful way of telling me how she sees me. This Maggie, this eighteen year old “kid”, was someone very different from many girls I knew.
3/23/15
I answered Maggie’s letter within a week and told her how much I enjoyed her image of me and did not know if I was all that she thought I was. I then went on to tell her how very impressed I was with her writing skills, her poetry, and the fact that she was such an excellent pianist. I also told her how very much I enjoyed receiving letters from her, how I looked forward to them, and how I often reread them several times.
Maggie answered my letter shortly after receiving it and sent such a beautiful response that I have to repeat much of it here. She wrote,
“Your last letter made me the happiest I have been in a long time. You made me feel as if I were the most important person in the world to you and that alone is a feeling beyond compare. Warning: do not say things simply to lift up my spirit as they are immediately drawn to and absorbed by my heart.

"I do feel a special ‘something’ toward you. It is not just my loneliness that causes this, as I have many friends, but they are just not you. I cannot explain what it is. For example, I did not actually care what others thought about my leaving the nurses training program, but I worried about how you would feel. You are the last person I would want to disappoint. I think the world of you, Dennis, and confidently, sometimes even more than that. At this moment, I am very torn between telling you all that I feel and the fear of saying too much.”
Then at the end of her letter, Maggie quoted something I said in my letter to her: “…that I save your letters and often reread them with increased pleasure and added admiration.”  She then wrote, “This is when my heart floated away. I lost my breath, my knees buckled, and I knew I was not the same anymore.”
Then Maggie wrote, " As much as I enjoy learning about your travels, I\'m even more curious to learn of how you feel - your problems, hopes, and fears. I just want to know all about you. It\'s funny, I do feel as if I know you, but I know too that there is much more I must and want to learn."
AlthoughMaggie’s letter gave me great joy, it also confused and frightened me. Why was Maggie warning me, “…do not say things simply to uplift my spirit as they are immediately drawn to and absorbed by my heart…” and why was she saying that she is “…very torn between telling you all that I feel and the fear of saying too much.”? I was definitely flattered, but I knew she was engaged. I was not sure where this was heading and felt that I had to be careful. Was Maggie beginning to have feelings for me, other than being someone to write to and someone to share poems with?
3/26/15
I didn’t get a chance to answer Maggie’s letter because I had to travel to several countries for my Army job. But that didn’t stop Maggie from writing. A couple weeks later, on2/20/67, she sent me another letter. She was worried that I had not written to her for a while and wondered if she said too much in her last letter, “I’m beginning to worry about you. You haven’t written in two weeks. Perhaps my last letter scared you off. Please don’t feel that way. I may be very fond of you, but I’m not a ‘clinging vine’.”
Maggie’s father had already moved to Wisconsin to open a restaurant and Maggie was living alone at the apartment in Chicago. Although she was by herself, she was living above her grandmother who was in the apartment below her. Maggie and her
grandmother lived in this building.
There was a shoe repair store on the first floor, Maggie’s grandmother lived on the second floor and Maggie lived on the third floor. The building was on a very busy street in Chicago.
In her letter,Maggie went on to tell me how much she hated her new job - and then shared what was most important to her, “I’ll let you in on a secret. No matter what kind of a job I’ll ever have, I’ll never be happy. I could clean house and put up with kids for a lifetime, but that dog-eat-dog, pay-day, rush hour world just isn’t for me. The closest I ever came to happiness was at St. Vincent’s and I know I’ll never go back.”
Something clicked in my head when I read this. I thought, here is a girl who loves children and wants to be a mother and a home maker more than anything else.These were qualities that I wished more girls had and felt that Maggie’s boyfriend was lucky that she felt this way.
Maggie was also excited about fixing up her apartment, now that her father had moved out. She had many plans, “To boost my morale, I’m fixing up the apartment and making it “my”place. I’ve already started. I bought a new coffee pot and it’s so nice to wake-up to a cup of coffee without it meeting you half way. And I bought a new frying pan. The old pan was so warped, it slid off the burner.“I’m saving for a dark blue and bright green rug. Don’t worry; I won’t hang a rope from the ceiling so people will glide across the room without walking on the precious thing. I’m also getting this crazy white couch which has wild flowers all over and big fluffy pillows.”
Maggie seemed so excited to be starting a new life on her own without her father. I was happy for her, but I didn’t realize how “new” this new beginning was.
Maggie went on to tell me that she was going to be watching her brother’s four children while he and his wife went on a skiing trip. Then she wrote, “To top that off, they’re bringing a blind date home for me on Sunday. (In case you are notfamiliar with the term “blind date” this means that Maggie was going to have a date with someone she never met or saw before). "I don’t know what to expect, butI am excited though. This will be my first date since I called off my engagement.”
I was surprised by what Maggie wrote and wondered if I read it right.  – “…my first date since I called off my engagement”? How long ago did Maggie break her engagement? Why did she tell me this so casually?
Maggie ended her letter with Please write soon.”
3/29/15
Another week went by before I could answer Maggie\'s letter. Although I was surprised by her news that she ended her engagement, I felt uncomfortable asking her why this happened. I knew it was because of something her boyfriend had done, but Maggie wasn\'t specific and I didn\'t feel I had the right to ask. I did tell Maggie that I was surprised she seemed so calm about this and I hoped she was doing well. I then went on to say that it was difficult to find the right person and told her that I had a number of girlfriends in my life who I liked in the beginning, then ended up not caring about them because of some little thing they did or said.
Maggie wrote back in a few days telling me, "I knew that you have been pursued by many enchanted young ladies, who, in turn, had not enchanted you. My only advice to you is that when true love comes, you\'ll know her faults and accept them."
This comment made me laugh a little. Here was this "kid," only 18 years old, giving me advice about loving someone. I\'m an adult, seven years older than her, and she\'s giving me advice.
Maggie then went on to tell me a little more about her changing personality,  "One day I\'m declaring independence and the next day I\'m needing someone to lean on. One minute I\'m so happy-go-lucky and then the least little thing can make me feel as if the whole world is closing in on me. Sometimes I\'m filled with a fiery passion and sometimes I want to be treated like a new born baby. When I find someone to understand that and put up with it,  then I\'ll find "him." He\'ll have to be some great guy to be able to handle my personality."
I liked the way Maggie described her pesonality and I began seeing her as someone who was more that a self-centered teenager. This is what she meant when she wrote in an earlier letter, "I am a Mary Margaret, that\'s a Maggie, that\'s a Maggathie."  She was indeed many different people, just as we all are.
Near the end of her letter Maggie wrote, "Wouldn\'t it be something if some day (2 centuries from now), someone discovered our letters to each other and wrote a novel about us? Maybe even an opera. Would you believe a science fiction movie???" And almost fifty years latre that became the title of my book "Wouldn\'t It Be Something."
Maggie ended her letter with "Please write soon, as I can\'t wait to hear from you again. Even if you have to talk about the weather, write, write, write." She then drew the following cartoon:

4/2/15
In an earlier letter to Maggie, after she told me she had broken her engagement, I did not ask her why that happened, but I did wonder why she had mentioned it so calmly. So, in my answer to Maggie’s last letter I again told her that I hoped she was doing fine and again expressed my surprise at how easily she told me this news. Maggie responded a week later. She began by saying, “Before I say one thing I want you to know how proud I am that you, with the little time you have, can find the spare moments to write to me. You can’t imagine how thrilled I am when I find a letter addressed to Miss Maggathie Brown.
Maggie then went on to explain why she spoke so casually about breaking her engagement, “I informed you of my broken engagement in such a manner so as to avoid sounding as if I were advertising it – or as if to say ‘Well I’m free now, what are you going to do about it?.’ I also believe that this change will not affect our relationship. I realize I am someone special to you, but hopes of becoming more than that are too far out of reach.” Maggie ended her letter with,“Please take care and write soon, or as soon as time permits.
This news that Maggie was no longer engaged brought up two very different feelings in me.
I was happy. Who was this Maggie, this kid, this sister-in-law’s kid sister who liked to read my poems and wrote her own; this Maggie who made me smile when I read her letters – a smile that stayed with me long after I returned the letter to its envelope? Who was this Maggie who had wisdom beyond her age; this Maggie who brightened my spirits and moved me in such a way that I longed for her letters?
I was frightened. I didn’t know what my feelings were for her and I needed to be very careful. I was afraid I might simply be reacting to her flattery. I might be missing the feeling of someone caring for me – someone who saw me as special. If this was all it was, I shouldn’t lead her on – shouldn’t let her think there’s a possibility something could get started between us. I didn’t want this to go further than where I felt comfortable. I didn’t want Maggie falling for me whenI wasn\'t sure what my feeling were for her.
4/5/15
I felt I had to be very careful now. I knew Maggie was vulnerable since she had just ended her relationship with her boyfriend and I also knew she once had some feelings for me a long time ago when she was 13 and I was 20 and we were both involved in the wedding of my brother and her sister. It was a little “school girl crush,” nothing more. I thought it was cute back then, but now she was 18 and closer to being a woman.

Later in the letter, Maggie wanted to tell me about the changing weather in Chicago and told me about it so poetically, “I’m not talking about the weather now because I haven’t anything else to say, but anyway…there’s a sort of spring here, although the sky hangs thick and once in a great while a ray of sun crashes through and melts in a puddle. You’d hardly know it, but there’s a sort of spring here.” I loved the way she could paint a picture with her words.

I sent Maggie a letter telling her that I felt we had much to learn more about each other and that hopefully we could begin to do so through our letters.Maggie responded in her letter dated 3/27/67, “I am fortunate that I know a very cautious and somewhat subdued individual in you. I’m afraid that that old saying about learning about people through their letters is not always valid. It is true that I have come to know you better via air mail, but that’s only because there is no other way. If we were ever to be alone together for more than ½ an hour, you would probably find yourself bored with my pleasant personality or out of your mind trying to make sense of what I say. For example, I bubble at the sight of something as common as a Christmas tree and then again when the right time comes for words, I may freeze up! I’m just plain crazy.
I had asked Maggie in my letter if she would be kind enough to send me a picture of herself. Her response made me laugh, “Do you really want a picture of me? Haven’t they discovered another means of curing the hiccups in Germany? I’m afraid to send you one for fear that you may be so overcome by my beauty that you may go in a trance that will allow you only to gaze upon it and do no more – like no more letters.”
I was beginning to become more and more curious about this “kid” and I had to learn more about her – what she believed in and what she valued.
In my next letter to Maggie, I wanted to know how she felt about a number of topics, so I asked her the following questions:
      1.  What does love mean to you?
      2.   How important should sex be in marriage?
      3.  How should a couple balance the physical and spiritual parts of a relationship?
      4.  When should a couple who are in love begin thinking about marriage and having a child?
Her answers surprised me.
4/9/15
Although I was now 25 years old, I hadn’t had many significant relationships with women.When I was much younger, I had hoped to become a priest in the Catholic Church and went to a high school that prepared young men for the priesthood. However,while in high school, I realized that I would not follow that “calling.” Many of my views concerning sex and marriage were shaped by this early experience.
For me, love, sex and marriage were closely connected and none of them should be taken lightly.
Love was a word said so often that it lost its meaning. For me, if you truly loved someone, when you said that word to them you were making a commitment. You were telling them that you were devoting yourself to them. You weren’t saying it to flatter them or win their affection; you were saying it because you believed in the relationship.  That’s why, to that point in my life, I never told a girl I loved her.
Sex was a beautiful experience between two people who loved each other. Love and sex were inseparable. Sex simply for pleasure - without love – shouldn’t happen. Also, because sex could result in a child being conceived, it shouldn’t happen outside of marriage, even if you loved someone.
Marriage was a sacred commitment. When you married someone, it was for life and whatever problems you might have as a couple needed to be worked on by both individuals. Each person needed to respect the other and vow to be there for each other no matter how many difficulties were faced.
Finding a woman who shared my core beliefs was important to me and that’s why I asked Maggie the questions I did. I still saw her as “just a kid,” too young for me to pursue, but I was curious to know her thoughts.
I was surprised by her answers and didn’t expect such a mature response from one so young (18 years old).
Maggie answered my questions in her letter to me, dated May 4, 1967:
First of all, I want to answer your questions as best I can. I’ve given them a lot of thought, but actually my convictions were not made recently as I always felt this way. (Well, at least since I learned about the subject).

1. Love is the giving of oneself to another. In marriage love is usually shown through sex as two people give to each other all that is theirs physically and become one.

2. I don’t know what kind of part sex now plays in marriage, but I have an idea of what its importance should be. Sex should be the second most important factor in marriage. First should be the ability for two people to get along and/or understand each other mentally. I do feel that sex is the most beautiful part of marriage.

3. Wow!!! Would you believe that the relationship between spiritual love and a sexual love should be 50/50??? Actually when two people love each other they can balance this out by themselves for their own personal happiness. I would want to share in all of my husband’s hopes, problems, and happiness as I would also want to satisfy him physically whenever he desired. I hope that his feelings will be mutual---

4. I don’t think that you can really “know” a person until you’ve lived with them for some period of time. It is best that all differences be ironed out before children are involved, but I don’t feel that holding off conception is the solution to instant happiness in marriage. I would not be unhappy if a child was conceived early in my marriage, but I hope to have plenty of time to devote myself to my husband completely.

More questions followed in my next letter to Maggie.
1.       Is it wrong for a man to hope to marry a girl who is a virgin?
2.      When two people are in love, is it okay for them to have sex before they’re married?
3.      How much should two people in love know about the past love life of the other person?
4.      What would you do if you discovered your husband had an affair after marriage?
4/12/15
I was both surprised and pleased to read Maggie’s responses to my original questions because it seemed to me that she felt much the same way I did about these issues. Now I was really anxious to see how she would answer my new questions.
I received Maggie’s answers within one week after I mailed my letter. For that to happen, she would have had to have written to me the same day she received my letter. I felt good about that because in responding so quickly she was showing me that she was anxious for me to get to know her better.  And I did want to know her better; however I didn’t want her to get the impression that I wanted our relationship to be more than just friends. I was still uncomfortable about the seven year age difference, and also concerned that I’ve never spent much time with her.
Maggie again surprised me with the maturity of her answers:
1)Personally, I feel that most men don’t expect their future wife to be a virgin,especially if both are well into their twenties. I would imagine that men prefer marrying a virgin, but would say a man is unjust if he were to condemn a girl for something done in a weak moment of her past.

2) When I walk up to that altar dressed in white, I want to be a virgin. I can see that when two people really love each other it can become difficult to control passion especially if they see each other very much. I would not say it is wrong if it was a case of two people in love losing control. I do not like this business of “I have to see if we’re compatible” nor think it’s okay to use the body as a plaything for one’s self-satisfaction -  in other words, becoming a tramp because it feels good. You know, making sex dirty.

3) I want to know as much of my husband’s past as he feels free to tell me. Surely, I would not hold his past against him as I’m not marrying the man he was in the past, but the man that he is now.

4) If I were married and  I had discovered that my husband had been unfaithful, I would find out as quickly as possible what was wrong with me that he had to turn to another woman. If it were a case of just a one night affair, perhaps he had been drinking, you know, well I’d be hurt and probably would overlook it. Do you understand that? (Let me tell you, I’d be jealous)

Maggie ended her letter by asking me a question that made me think she was getting more interested in me and was looking forward to me coming home.  
I wish you were home. Do you look forward to coming back to the states? I imagine you’re thankful to have this opportunity to see so much. In fact, I’m worried that you may even prefer European life to American. TRAITOR!!!

Love,
Maggathie
P.S.Please write soon

In my next letter to Maggie, I gave my answers to the same questions I asked her and then I questioned what she meant when she asked if I was “looking forward to coming home.” I then encouraged her to send me a picture of herself, since I never received the one I requested some time ago.
This time Maggie’s response was not immediate and I didn’t hear from her for almost two weeks. Then, in a letter dated 5/22/67, Maggie wrote,
Alright, Dennis, I’ll confess. When I stated that I couldn’t stand the pain of knowing that you could never be happy in the U.S. again, I simply meant that I can’t wait until you come home and also hope that you plan to stay around awhile once you are home.
There’s your picture – I mean, my picture. I told you I’d send it, didn’t I? Now,aren’t you sorry you made such a fuss over that?


I was happy to get your answers to those questions and glad that we seem to agree. I get very frustrated when people get frustrated with me and my thinking. I don’t mind differences in opinions, but when people try to make me see things their way when I’m quite satisfied with the way I see them --- they get me! I’m not saying I can’t change my beliefs, but it bothers me when they have no respect for my ideals. In other words, I’m glad we think alike. You’re one of the few who I can see eye to eye with.
Do you feel now that you know me better? –or at least enough to care? I’m not trying to make you commit yourself. I’m just curious.

P.S. This letter really is an unforgivable mess, but remember not to judge a book by its author. No! Don’t judge an author by her writing? Forget it.

Lovingly
Maggathie

I thought it was unusual that Maggie signed her letter with “Lovingly” when she usually signed them “Love.”
I thought about what Maggie said, “Do you feel now that you know me better? –or at least enough to care?” Yes, I did feel I knew Maggie better. In fact, I knew I did, but I wasn’t exactly sure how I really felt – at least not enough to admit it to her or maybe even to myself. There was something about Maggie that made her different than any girl I had known and I wanted to tell her, but I had to be cautious.  
My next letter to Maggie was very short because I had to prepare for a courier trip to Athens, Greece and I had a lot of packing to do. So, I decided to send Maggie a brief letter telling her that I was growing “fonder” of her and that she was someone “very special” to me. I couldn’t tell her much more than that because I wanted to be careful, but I felt she would like what I said and would respond to my letter very quickly.
On my trip to Athens, there were problems with the airplane which forced us to remain in Athens several days longer than expected while the plane was being fixed. I couldn’t wait to return to Heidelberg because I knew Maggie’s letter would be waiting for me.  
I was wrong.
4/16/15
Maggie and I had been writing to each other on a pretty regular basis for almost a year now. In fact, because Maggie was sending at least one letter a week, I was certain there would be a letter for me.
Shortly after returning to Heidelberg, much later than expected, I went to my mail box to gather my mail. Waiting for me were two advertisements and a letter from my mother. Where was the letter from Maggie? Several more days went by and still no letter from Maggie.
It was now nearing two weeks since I had returned and I had heard nothing. Every time the office clerk passed out the station mail, there was nothing from her. That was unusual. She had been writing regularly and I just sent her a letter about my growing affection. I certainly didn’t shout it out, but surely she could read between the lines and see I was becoming fonder of her. This didn’t make any sense.
I began making almost daily trips to the base post office while two weeks slowly became three. Whenever I returned from another courier trip and found nothing from Maggie in my mail, I would ask the post office clerk to please check again: “Are you sure you didn’t misfile a letter somewhere? Could you look behind the mail bins to be sure nothing fell there?” He assured me he had done so today as he had at previous requests of mine—still no letter.
My mind was racing. Should I write another letter to Maggie? Maybe something’s wrong? Maybe she didn’t like something I said in my last letter? Maybe she’s losing interest in me? Maybe I was wrong about her? No,maybe she’s just been too busy to write? But that never stopped her before. How can she be so busy she can’t send a short letter or a card? Maybe I should send a short letter or card to her, something simple like “Hope everything’s okay,”to see if she answers? But I don’t. My pride tells me, you sent the last letter.
The fourth week passed and there was still no letter. The clerk at the post office was getting tired of my questions. I think he began to feel sorry for me. However, I couldn\'t help but think he was getting some pleasure out of this. I stopped challenging him, but sometimes there was a silly smile on his face. Certainly he wouldn’t be playing a joke on me?
The guys at the courier station knew what was going on and were getting a little angry with me. They seemed divided into two camps: Why don’t you send her another letter if you’re so upset about not hearing from her? And -- She’s playing you for a fool. If she doesn’t want to write, the hell with her! I let my pride win again and decided to wait for Maggie to write.
The fifth week passed. I had stopped going to the post office and kept thinking, how can this be happening? I certainly would have heard from someone if something was wrong with Maggie. Surely her sister would have mentioned something. I can’t take this not knowing. I was confused. I was hurt.  I was angry.
I wrote a letter.
                                                                                                                                                                 Mid July 1967
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
To attempt to hide my displeasure at not receiving a letter from you would be foolish. I’m really quite confused concerning your sudden silence. Oh, I’ve thought of numerous reasons. I told myself that perhaps you were on a vacation, or perhaps you sent a letter that I never received – and others,even weaker than these. But then the mind does something, rather strange and frightening. Perhaps tired of searching for new excuses, it suddenly sees the one answer it has been trying to hide from – the now seemingly obvious one -“perhaps she doesn’t care enough to write.”
I have reread several of your most recent letters and have reached a conclusion. I think that you have stopped writing for one of two reasons: 1) You have become interested in some fellow and find little time to amuse yourself by writing to me, or 2) you have magnified some of my statements in my last letter and frightened yourself into silence. Perhaps you were afraid that I would like you more than you wished.
Therefore, if you wish that I look upon you as my sister-in-law’s kid sister, you need only say so. But, after rereading some of your comments in your letters to me, you really can’t blame me for beginning to think otherwise.
The first reason – that perhaps you have become interested in some fellow and find little time to amuse yourself by writing to me – if true, can have little said about it.
What hurts me the most is the uncertainty. I don’t know exactly why you have stopped writing and until I am sure I will never hear from you again, I suppose I will walk from my mail box slightly disappointed everyday.
I do want to thank you for one thing though: the experience of not hearing from a person you’ve looked upon as someone special. I’ve often given up on girls with whom I have become bored in much the same manner. Just stop writing – the reason should be obvious. The sad reality is— it isn’t. There’s always that hope that maybe the next day---.
I ask only one favor from you now, Miss Maggathie, — that you simply tell me why you have stopped writing.
Dennis
4/19/15
I had hoped that Maggie would answer my letter, but I wasn’t sure she would. It had been over a month since I last heard from her and I didn’t know if she would ever write again. I didn’t go to the post office for about six days after I sent my letter. I knew it would take at least that long for my letter to get to Maggie and, if she answered quickly, for her letter to get to me. Why go to the post office if there would be no chance for there to be a letter from Maggie?
On the sixth day after mailing my letter, I went to the post office as soon as it opened. I was the first one there. When the postal clerk saw me enter, a big smile crossed his face and he greeted me with,. “Good morning, Lieutenant, I think your letter is here. Let me go in the back and get your mail.” I couldn’t believe my ears, yet I was doubtful. I thought to myself, He said he thinks my letter is here. How does he know for sure? I never told him whose letter I had been looking for this past month. Maybe, it’s a letter from someone else?
The postal clerk returned to the front desk with a stack of mail. When he handed the stack to me, on top of all the other mail was a letter. In the upper left hand corner was Maggathie Brown, with her address. I don’t know what else was in the stack of mail. I didn\'t care. All I could see was Miss Maggathie Brown. Every nerve in my body was on fire and I couldn’t wait to open the letter. But I didn’t want to do it here. I thanked the clerk and slowly left the post office. As soon as the door closed behind me, I began running.
I couldn’t wait to get to the privacy of my apartment and ran the entire way back. When I reached my building, I burst through the entry door,bounded up the stairs three at a time, rushed down the long hall to my room,and fumbled with my keys. My hands were shaking, but after a few clumsy attempts, I finally succeeded in unlocking the door. Entering my apartment, I took Maggie’s letter from the top of the stack, threw the remaining mail on my desk, and went to my lounge chair. I stared at the envelope a few more seconds to convince myself that this was indeed from Maggie – and then opened it.
I quickly scanned Maggie’s letter. My eyes raced through each paragraph as I hurriedly moved from page to page—anxious to hear why she hadn’t written for so long and fearing she was going to tell me that she’s met someone else.
Maggie’s answer was so honest.
                                                                                                                                                                                          July27, 1967
My Dear Dennis,

What could I possibly say to you to let you know how very sorry I am for not writing. All the reasons that you have imagined including – that perhaps I don’t care enough to write – are far from the reality of it.

How could you possibly feel that your growing fonder of me could frighten me? Affection,concern, trust, fondness, love, or whatever are not meant to frighten – and surely, as I feel that I actually care for you, are welcomed when expressed by you. No, Dennis, I far from magnify your statements or frighten myself into silence.

How could you possibly like me more than I wished? Impossible!

Everything I write is sincere. If I ever really learned that you have doubted anything I’ve written, I’d be terribly hurt. Surely you must think “enough” of me to abolish the thought that I am a phony!

If your only concern is the uncertainty of it all, then I shall explain. If I’m really someone special, I hope that you will understand and forgive.

The reason is that I care for you too much.

I have been writing to you longer than a year. And, over and over again, I’ve seen an absence of your letters only to learn that some other girl has taken up all your spare time. Shocking to learn of this through someone else -- and very painful.

About a month ago, I waited three weeks for a letter only to be shut down with a “Hi, sister-in-law’s kid sister” attitude. That’s why I figured – what the hell. (Excuse me).

I’m not saying I want to possess you or have you writing to me every night, but it’s no fun sitting in the corner waiting to be remembered.

There you have it—uncensored and perhaps quite foolish.

I’ll close now. I hope you can take the time to think about all that I’ve said and perhaps understand.

As Always,
Maggathie
Your sister-in-law’s sister

I read Maggie’s letter a second, third, and fourth time, looking closely at every sentence, every phrase, and every word.Two sentences glared at me until they were burnt on the back of my eyes and were seared into my brain: “How could you possibly like me more than I wished? Impossible!”…“The reason is that I care for you too much…
Every muscle in my body eased as I sank deep into the cushions of my chair when I realized Maggie hadn’t met someone else and hadn’t given up on me. As I sat at peace, a warmth raced through my heart and covered my face with a smile. She “cares for me too much…” Suddenly her weeks of silence didn’t matter anymore.
I had to answer her letter right now. I couldn’t tell her I loved her yet; I didn’t want to build up any hopes I may not fulfill. But I could let her know she was far more than my sister-in-law’s kid sister and she was the most important girl in my life now.
It was too late to go to the post office. I would have to mail the letter first thing Monday morning.
4/23/15
I felt very confident that Maggie was going to answer my letter quickly. After all, telling her in my last letter that she was “the most important girl in my life” was something I had never said before. I just knew she was going to very happy when she read that and would certainly answer immediately.
I knew it would be at least five days after I sent my letter before I could expect a response from Maggie.  On the fifth day, I went to the post office to see if Maggie had written. There was no letter. Okay, I thought to myself, maybe she couldn’t answer right away. But certainly there will be something tomorrow.  Well, tomorrow came and there was still no letter.
A week passed and still no letter. Then the second week passed with no response. I had no idea what was going on and I began wondering if Maggie was playing games with me. Maybe she didn’t care for me as much as she said and just wanted to see if she could get me to fall in love with her. I didn’t want to believe she would play games like that. This was not who I thought she was.
I decided that I had to stop looking for Maggie’s letter every day; I had to stop thinking about her. So, to get her off my mind, I began doing extra work at my Army job so I wouldn’t keep thinking about getting her letter. Yet, what Maggie said in her last letter kept running through my head: “…I care for you too much…”
A third week passed and still no letter from Maggie. She told me she cared “too much” then ignored my letter in which I told her she was “the most important girl in my life.” I no longer knew what to expect or what to hope for.
I only knew that I had been such a fool.
I wrote another letter.
                                                                                                                                                                                          Late August, 1967
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
I sent you a letter several weeks ago, an honest attempt at explaining the confusion which surrounds my relationship with you, a sincere expression of my present feelings and future hopes. I expected some sort of response, at least acknowledgement of receipt. Nothing.
I am deeply disappointed in you, Miss Maggathie. You know, I told a concerned friend of mine about receiving your letter. He asked if you had explained why you stopped writing and when I offered your answer, he smiled. Just stood there with this silly smirk on his face as if to say, “Yeah, sure.”  I dismissed his reaction; pushed it far into the corner of my mind with the accusation that he was merely a fool whose knowledge of a meaningful relationship was probably the sole product of cheap novels. But what did I care – how could he know if he didn’t know you.
Yet, no answer to my last letter. I tried, Maggathie, to explain how I feel; to tell you what is in me without becoming overly sentimental. I gave you the best, most complete answer I could. Yet, no answer. Courtesy, Miss Maggathie, courtesy alone should have prompted you to at least send a short reply.
I’m a very proud person, Miss Maggathie, perhaps too proud, and I don’t like to be made a fool of. “The reason is that I care for you too much…” I swallowed that, Miss Maggathie,swallowed deeply – swallowed because I wanted to believe it. I swallowed and answered as best I could, answered and received nothing in return. You won,Miss Maggathie, you’ve made a fool of me.
Dennis
I gave up on Maggie. I wasn’t going to let her make a fool of me anymore. I told myself that I didn’t care if I ever heard from her again. This way, if I could convince myself of this, then I wouldn’t be so disappointed every time I went to get my mail and discovered that Maggie still hadn’t written. And even if I did receive a letter from her now, what could she possibly say to explain why she went so long before answering me. I wasn’t ready to accept any excuses. As far as I was concerned, it was over.
***
It was Friday night of the fourth week since I sent my letter to Maggie. I was returning from a one day round trip from Heidelberg to Munich to deliver some classified equipment. It had been a long, weary seven hour drive on the Autobahn and I couldn’t wait to get back to my apartment, to just drop into my bed and get some sleep.
I pulled into the parking lot of my building at around 11:30 pm. I dragged myself from my car, staggered through the entry door of my building, tripped my way up the stairs, and stumbled down the hall to my room. All I could think about was getting to bed. As I slowly entered my room, I stepped on a piece of mail that had been slid under my door – just one piece of mail - a letter from Maggie.
Suddenly, I was wide awake.
4/26/15
I wasn’t sure I wanted to open Maggie’s letter. I had been trying hard to forget about her and I didn’t want to hear her excuses for not writing sooner. I felt she had played me for a fool and I wasn’t about to let her get away with that.
I sat in my easy chair for about five minutes just looking at the envelope, turning it around in my hands over and over again, reading her address in the upper left hand corner- then I threw it on the floor and stared into space. I decided not to open it and kept staring at it just lying there on the floor. Then, my curiosity got the best of me. I picked up the envelope, slit it open, and began reading Maggie’s letter:
                                                                                                                                                                                     September 5, 1967
Dear Dennis,
I am sorry that you think so lowly of me. I won’t try to change your mind about me by defending myself.
No, Dennis, I haven’t made a fool of you. I can’t let you go on believing that and yet I don’t have any real proof that I haven’t, unless you believe in all that I have written to you.
I believe my last letter will be delayed although it is already on its way. It seems I put the wrong zip code on it .
I must tell you that I am very depressed these days. My grandmother (more like my mother) is very sick and in the hospital. She will be operated on this Wednesday. I’ve just about broken every tie with my ex-fiancé,-- no regrets, but still painful to say the least. I really don’t know what’s wrong with me, Dennis. I really am frightened and so very lonely.
I’m sorry for pouring my troubles into your ear; I guess I just got carried away?
There isn’t much more I can say to you, but I just figured courtesy had the best of me and I must answer your last letter.  (Is that to be taken literally?)
If I never hear from you again, I won’t be shocked. I guess I really can’t blame you for feeling the way you do, however wrong you are.
Please take care and stay happy always.
Maggathie
I sat rigid as I reread Maggie’s letter several times. I didn’t know how to respond to this. Every instinct in my body told me to slow down. The last time I hurried off an answer, she shut me out. I wasn’t going to be made a fool of again. I had too much pride and I wasn’t going to play the waiting game—not anymore. No, I was going to take my time answering this letter. I wanted her to see how it felt to pour your heart out and then hear nothing.
The following day when I was at the courier station, the office clerk put a stack of mail on my desk. I didn’t pay much attention to what was there and continued working. After completing some paper work, I reached for the mail. Rubber-banded inside a folded copy of a magazine were several letters: one from my mother,one from a friend— and a letter from Maggie.
This surprised me. I just got a letter from Maggie the day before. How could there be another letter from her? It was postmarked August 29th, which meant she sent this letter before the one I received yesterday. I immediately left my office to be able to read this letter in peace and went to the restaurant on the Army base. I grabbed a cup of coffee and a doughnut and sat alone in one of the far corners of the room. I tore open the envelope and began reading.
                                                                                                                                                                                       August 28, 1967
Dear Dennis,
I have no legitimate excuse for not writing sooner, but I do have several things to tell you that may grant my pardon. First of all, I’m in night school three nights a week (Italian lessons), my grandmother was very sick and I was watching over her as much as possible, and I’ve been working every Saturday. I don’t blame you if you never write to me again, but I’m hoping that you’ll be able to understand. I really attempted to write to you several times, but I prefer much more thought to my letters to you than something scribbled in haste.
You don’t know how happy I am to know that I mean so much to you. I wish you could feel the thrill that I feel whenever I realize this. I (a nineteen-year-old nursing school dropout) a candidate for the possession of your heart!! I never dreamed that this could come true, although I always wished that it could.
I always said that I would come right out and tell you what was on my mind, so here I go again. If I should ever make you feel that I am pushing you into a commitment that you do not wish to make -- please give me agood swift kick. I know I’ll never ask you for your love, because then it wouldn’t be love at all if not given freely. As for my love----you already have it. I’m not saying that it comes with undying devotion, but it’s a more simple kind of love---just because you’re you.
My goodness, you’ll be home in almost ten months. I hope you’re still looking forward to your return because I certainly am. Please want to come home when your time is up. (I sound like you’re in prison).
Love,
Maggathie
Oh my God! This was Maggie’s response to my early August letter -  the one I thought she never answered - the one in which I told her that she was the most important girl in my life right now -the one she sent to the wrong zip code. I read the entire letter three times and two of the lines at least ten times: “You don’t know how happy I am to know that I mean so much to you. I wish you could feel the thrill that I feel whenever I realize this.”The “thrill”she felt? I was so happy and my heart was pounding.
For the next fifteen minutes I sat alone in the quiet of my corner reading and rereading Maggie’s letter and basking in the warmth of her words, far more secure in the strength of our relationship, until I suddenly turned cold with a frightening realization: Maggie must have received my “you made a fool of me” letter a couple days after sending this one. She told me how excited she was that I felt as I did about her and I slammed her with my heartless response. Now I really felt like a fool. I knew I had to clear this up – and quickly.
4/30/15
I felt terrible that I sent Maggie my “you made a fool of me letter” and I knew it must have been very difficult for her to read. She was just beginning to think that maybe my feelings for her were changing – that I was seeing her as more than my sister-in-law’s little sister – and then she receives my letter that tells her that I thought she played me for a fool. I hurried off the following letter in hopes that it wasn’t too late to apologize. However, I did feel I was right to send the letter and also wanted her to know that.
                                                                                                                                                                                    After 5 September 1967
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
Today I sit in sorrow. Sorrow not for what I said, but for how it made you feel. You have been hurt and I sit ashamed.
What I said in my last letter was said in sincerity, but perhaps not to the degree it implied. I did feel a fool, Miss Maggathie, a tremendous fool, but not such as I feel now.
You told me you cared for me too much and then went silent for a month. If this is how you show someone you care for them, then I have a great deal to learn. When I care for someone as much as you said you cared for me, nothing – neither school, work, nor other – nothing,Miss Maggathie, could silence me for so long. You can’t imagine how anxiously I awaited your reply to that letter in which I tried to explain what you meant to me. You won’t know how my heart sank when the days passed into weeks and the weeks into a month and still no reply.
Why. I asked myself – and I reread your letter – “I care for you too much” – but, nothing. And the next day I reread it again – “I care for you too much” – and yet, nothing. So, a month passed – a very long month – and I no longer reread your letter. I became bitter, Miss Maggathie, bitter with the possibility that you didn’t mean what you said. How else could you remain silent so long? I was hurt and I wanted to hurt back. Not merely to hurt, but to hurt with a reason, to hurt so you would speak – speak and tell me how you really felt.
And you spoke, Miss Maggathie –spoke before my letter reached you. Spoke and told me why you didn’t speak sooner. Spoke and told me how you felt for me. And I was happy, happy because you answered – answered as I wished you would. HAPPY – but only for a short time. Happy until I realized that you are now sad. Now I am ashamed. Your long silence no longer seems so cruel. You are sad and I made you so and now that is all that matters.
I said what I said because I was sincere: I said it as I said it because I was angry. I still believe you were wrong in not writing sooner. To justify such a delay to a letter of the sort that I wrote would be extremely difficult. I thought you wrong then, and I think you wrong now. But to strike back as I did, to say what I didn’t wholeheartedly believe because I knew how it would affect you, was a wrong far greater than yours. To speak as I did because I hoped it would make you sad,merely to prompt a reply, was the retaliation of a man in great emotional pain. I was hurt; struck blindly – and now I stand ashamed. Forgive me, Miss Maggathie, for making you sad.
Affectionately
Dennis
The next day, I wrote Maggie a short letter to answer some parts of her August 28th letter.  In it I again told her I was sorry for hurting her and then I responded to her statement: “If I should ever make you feel that I am pushing you into a commitment that you do not wish to make -- please give me a good swift kick.”  I wrote,
“If ever I feel that you are pushing me into a commitment I do not wish to make, you will know it. I said in almost my first letter to you that I would be honest with you, honest even to the point of hurting you. I will not be led into a situation which I do not wish to be led into, nor will I allow myself to lead you into a situation which I know I cannot or will not comply with. If I ever become aware that your feelings for me are far greater than mine are or will be for you, I will tell you immediately.
“I may be home this year for Christmas. Much depends on many unpredictable events, but my request is in and the right people are working for me.”
Affectionately,
Dennis
Maggie responded almost immediately and I received such a beautiful letter from her. It’s a rather long letter, so Iwill save it for my next entry.
May 3, 2015
After apologizing to Maggie for hurting her feelings with my “you made a fool of me” letter, she sent the following. This was the first time Maggie so openly expressed her feelings for me.  I loved her honesty and her willingness to say what she said.
                                                                                                                                                                   September 10, 1967
MyDear Dennis,

Raise thy head and arise from bended knee for now thou hast pleased me. In other words, stop feeling ashamed as I feel fortunate that you did not give up on me altogether. I now understand why you handled this situation as you did, and I now understand you a little more –amazing?

Dennis,I’ve always felt unworthiness on my part in regards to our relationship. You’re not just any guy who is exciting, physically attractive, intelligent and fun to be with. You’re something special and it will take more than just “any” girl who is exciting, physically attractive, intelligent etc. to make you happy.

I doubt if I am that someone special. I’m not fishing for compliments, nor am I degrading myself. Perhaps this is all for you to decide, but feeling the way I do will always affect us until (I should say if and when) I am convinced that I could be something special.

Your letters have proven to me that you love to be loved, that you need to be needed, you’re proud of your pride, and want to be wanted. I love to be loved, yet I’m eager to love, I need to be needed and yearn to need someone in return, I’m proud of my pride, yet perhaps I’m still too humble, and I want to be wanted, but I also want someone.

Perhaps I’m rushing things, but I cannot picture myself with you. I may not be your sister-in-law’s kid sister anymore, but I’m still me. I’m not sophisticated,nor am I one who knows the right thing to do at the right time, and I’m ever so changeable. I told you once before that I believed I had a split personality.

I’m unaware of the types of girls you’ve known, but I might feel better if I knew where they had disappointed you. I’m not saying I’d put on an act to please you, but I’d at least know just exactly where I stand.

You’ve only told me that you see qualities in me that you respect and admire. What qualities? I’m charming?

I realize that I’ve never really told you why you are something special –and in turn you’ve never told me the reasons for your admiration of me.

One of the greatest things I’ve realized about you that singles you out from everyone is that I can look up to you. Don’t laugh! Even my father, who I love and respect, cannot be looked up to in my eyes. Another is your understanding of me as a person. You know how to handle me, what advice to give, and,although letters can be deceiving, I feel that you can see through them and, in turn, come to know me. I don’t mean that my letters are deceiving, but people tend to think before writing and when you actually talk to them they can give an entirely different impression. Honestly, Dennis, all of my letters are sincere and per chance maybe revealing the “real”me.

Now,I’ve really confused you and myself! I guess it will be useless to try to figure me out until time answers some questions.
I must go now. It’s lunch time (I’ve taken all morning to write this -- my boss is out of town). You wouldn’t want me to go on without “food” for thought, would you? Oh brother!

Love,
Maggathie

P.S.Write soon

Before I could answer this letter from Maggie, she wrote another one shortly after this. I believe she was having a bad day and simply needed to "talk" to someone.
                                                                                        September 19, 1967

Dear Dennis,


I won’t try to hide my reason for writing to you at this moment. I am lonely, and for the first time I’m learning about the kind of loneliness you feel even when people are near. Writing to you seems as though I’m not alone.

I hope you don’t mind, Dennis. I don’t mean to push myself on you, but seek only peace of mind for a little while.
I wish I knew what is troubling me. Surely I’m used to the idea of being alone. If it’s male companionship I long for, why don’t I have fun with the guys I date?

I’m so filled with anxiety. Your coming home for Christmas is a thought that I cannot put out of my mind and yet I know, or should say -- expect that you’ll be disappointed in me. I hope not, Dennis, I really hope not.

My goodness, I’ll have you dreading the thought of seeing me if I keep discouraging you like this! Anyway, you haven’t even asked to see me during the holidays. Anyway, you don’t even know if you’re actually coming home at all for the holidays.

About discouraging you -- well -- actually I’m quite charming and have many qualities to be respected and admired. Please don’t be discouraged.

It’s so wonderful to write to you like this because I feel so close to you when doing so. Never stop writing unless you feel an actual contempt for me. Even if your feelings for me grow colder, I still would enjoy hearing from you. I’m surprised at how close I really feel to you right now. Most people couldn’t make me feel this way if we held hands!

Please forgive me if I’ve caused you to worry in any way -- especially if you worry that I care for you far more than you could possibly care for me. I’m fully aware of how I can be hurt and yet I’m unafraid.

Love,
Maggathie


5/7/15
I sent the following letter to Maggie after receiving her second letter. I felt that she had been very honest regarding her feelings toward me and I wanted to let her know some of my thoughts about her. I was afraid that she had this ideal image of me and wanted her to know that I was not who she thought I was. I also knew she would have liked to have me tell her that I loved her, but I couldn’t and I wanted her to know how I felt about those three little words and what they meant to me.
This is one ofthe longest letters I wrote to Maggie, but I had a lot to say.
                                                                                                                                                Around 23 September 1967

My Dear Miss Maggathie:
After reading your recent letters, I was very flattered – more flattered I haven’t been in many a year – but now I share your fear of disappointment. I will admit that I may be somewhat different from any fellow you’ve dated, but I find it impossible to be the me you spoke of in your letters.
In the course of attempting to build a case against yourself, you stated: “I’m not sophisticated, nor am I one who knows the right thing to do at the right time, and I’m ever so changeable.” Are you saying that I am sophisticated, perfect and unchangeable? If so, oh, Miss Maggathie, are you going to be disappointed. I went out with a sophisticated girl once in my life – and I mean that literally – once. I was never so bored in my life. Sophisticated girls don’t like getting in snowball fights or skipping down a busy street at night. What’s a winter date without a snowball fight and a skip down a busy street?
About your comment that I might always do the right thing at the right time, remind me to tell you some day about the date I had when this girl and I waited in the wrong line for a movie for which I had reserved seats – stood there for twenty minutes until I handed my tickets to the usher and he laughingly told me that the show I wanted was next door. Or the time I took this girl to a restaurant at which I had reservations and ended up going to the wrong restaurant – and insisting that I had reservations until I discovered my error. How about the time I drank a toast over what I thought was a fake candle. It wasn’t. Rum and coke was soon dripping down my face.
So, you’re ever changeable. Well, my dear Miss Maggathie, if you talked to your or my sister you might be mildly surprised to hear of my changing character. A person who is continuously in one mood makes me too self-conscious. I begin to wonder if there is indeed something wrong with me.
Apparently, you’re somewhat confused at my recent change of relationship toward you. It isn’t really that difficult to understand. I never thought of you as anyone other than my sister-in-law’s kid sister – your letters revealed qualities which made me reconsider my impression of you. You are no longer funny little Maggie who I would sometimes run into when visiting my brother. You’re not the high school kid whose crush I found flattering, but never considered beyond that. Since Christmas, you’ve become a woman to me.
I think I began to realize a change when I was home last Christmas. I never told you how much I enjoyed walking through the orphanage with you. I never confessed how I looked at you throughout the remainder of that night. I’m surprised you didn’t catch me staring several times. Not a lustful stare – more of a confused wonderment. I felt my attitude toward you changing that night and I couldn’t keep from staring. I never revealed how sorry I was when you decided it was time for you to go home. I really didn’t want you to go. Let me finally confess that I was very tempted to kiss you. I believe I finally stuttered something about opening your door, then quickly left. Once again, reason ruled over emotion and I’m yet not certain if it should be thought of as a victory or a defeat.
Miss Maggathie, I’m not saying I love you – not yet. There’s still too much to learn. Too much which can’t be discovered in letters. Too much which can only be revealed in personal contact. Your letters have told me you’re a woman, an intelligent, talented woman. A woman who knows what life is; a woman who knows what love is. I need to be loved, Miss Maggathie, a truth which perhaps could not be more obvious. But I have been loved, Miss Maggathie, by several girls –and that wasn’t enough. What I need more, and what may not be so obvious, is to love. I need and want to love, Miss Maggathie. I want to give myself – my entire self – all my hopes, all my accomplishments – I want to give all that I am and all that I hope to be. I want to give love, Miss Maggathie, but the person to whom I give it must understand what love is. She must understand that it isn’t only kissing and cuddling; it’s sitting silent at opposite ends of the room, seemingly unaware of each other, yet knowing that he is there, that she is there, and that love is the binding force which makes them one. She must realize that love need not merely be said verbally and constantly demand the saying of those three little words. She must be aware of the simpler ways of communicating a love: a telephone call to say you’ll be home late and not to worry; staying at home when the boys are playing cards because the wife isn’t feeling too well; or bringing home the simplest of gifts on unexpected occasions to show that you have been on his mind. She must know that true love is constant, that problems will most definitely occur, and that there may be times when it is difficult to believe that you are loved. She must be aware of these occasions, understand them for what they are (merely a passing phase) and react accordingly. The girl I give my love to, Miss Maggathie, must know these things, know them and appreciate them.
You stated that you would like to know where other girls have disappointed me and then commented that you would not put on an act to please me. Be who you are, Miss Maggathie, don’t change for me. Hold onto that which is distinctly you.
Thank you, Miss Maggathie, for one of the greatest compliments you could have possibly given me: “I don’t mean to push myself on you, but seek only peace of mind for a little while.  To know that when you are troubled, you find peace of mind in writing to me is a revelation which I treasure.
“Please forgive me if I’ve caused you to worry in any way…” Miss Maggathie, I’d never forgive you if when you were worried you didn’t also cause me to worry. “I wish I knew what is troubling me. Surely I’m used to the idea of being alone.” The longer I’m alone, the less bearable I find it. When I become accustomed to being alone, I had better begin making arrangements for medical treatments.
You weren’t really looking for an answer to the question, “If it’s male companionship I long for, why don’t I have fun with the guys I date?” If so,then you haven’t related it to an earlier statement you made, “…for the first time I’m learning about the kind of loneliness you feel even when people are near.” It’s not merely companionship you’re seeking, Miss Maggathie, it’s a meaningful relationship. Fortunately, they don’t come with every knock at the door or evening on the town.
God– I talk too much. I’m afraid you’re going to find that out when we finally get to see each other. You know something – I’m against television sets in the home. If there must be one, it will be for the wife’s afternoon entertainment and special programs – otherwise off it stays. So much fun is lost with the TV on. None of my friends here have television sets and every time I go to see one of them, the evening is spent in relaxing conversation or simple games in which all participate.
You can’t imagine how much I’m looking forward to spending an evening of conversation with you. Do you realize that we’ve hardly ever talked to each other – and never alone for more than twenty minutes.
At last you can rest your weary eyes. I’d probably go on for several more pages because I’m really enjoying myself, but this is my last sheet of paper.
Thank you, Miss Maggathie, for a most enjoyable evening. The music was superb and the conversation delightful. I was wondering – well – I mean – you know – I mean –if you don’t mind – well – I was kind of wondering if I could sort of – well, you know – stop by again sometime. I promise I won’t talk so much.
Affectionately,
Dennis
5/10/15
Maggie responded quickly and told me how happy she was with my last letter and also told me more about herself. I love the way she ended her letter with a response to how I ended mine. It was little comments like this that set her apart from any other girl I knew. Just a simple statement, but it made me feel as if I was sitting next to her, having a conversation, rather than writing letters across an ocean.
                                                                                                                                                                       September27, 1967
My Dearest Dennis,
For the past week, the days have been sunny and yet, I was rather depressed and somewhat confused because I received no word from you. Today, it was cold and rainy, and all the way home from work I was glowing as if I could feel the warmth of your letter sitting there on my stairway. I just knew you’d come through for me! Thank you, Dennis. I’ve missed that love of cold, rainy days when the chill is warmed by the presence of someone I care for. How much I missed depending on someone who I can trust. Only you could have made me feel this way today.
Dennis, how can I explain how happy your last letter has made me? Skipping downtown!! Dennis? You mean you aren’t starched through and through? Wait a minute! Tell me you sing in the bathtub! Tell me that and I’ll be forced to kiss you!!! How wrong I was about you.
No, Dennis, I can never put on an act for you. I can sing a little, and play the piano and organ, I can dance, but act? – Never, not even for you. I couldn’t keep a straight face and besides that, I really wouldn’t know which role to play with you. It is certain that when you talk with me for the first time, you’ll be talking to me --- Mary Margaret Anne Brown the 1st.
I, a woman? I, a woman. Yes, I’m a woman, but I’m slightly unpolished and still rather weak at the knees. I’m grateful that “you can see that there’s more to me than I may always show” -- Barbra Streisand (I’m listening to her now) (My favorite).
Yes, I remember that night that you walked me to my door. I remember that I felt that you wanted to kiss me, and I you. I remember the disappointed look on my face when you didn’t and how my heart sank as you walked away. I remember how I longed to go to the airport and take that last long look at you. I’m so glad to learn that you felt “something” too that night.
I’m tired of hearing those three little words, Dennis. I’ll admit that they are the greatest words to hear when they’re said with all the feeling they imply, but how those words are toyed with to mean just about anything!
I’m proud to tell you that I don’t have dollar signs in my eyes. My favorite birthday present this past summer was a single, long stemmed rose given to me by our cafeteria maid at work. She is an immigrant from Poland, unable to speak English and making half of what I, a punk, do. She gave it to me with a smile and tears in her eyes. I love that woman more than anyone at that place. She’s like my mother was.
Dennis, please don’t think I’m acting when I tell you this --- I very seldom watch TV. I must confess that I’m fairly faithful to the 10 pm news and I will watch a motion picture on the late show if it’s worthwhile. My favorite evening past times are(in order):
          1. playing the piano
          2. reading a good book
          3. having friends over
          4. relaxing and listening to records
          5. driving or walking just to see scenery
          6. doing housework (if I’m in the right mood)
          7. window shopping
          8. writing (mood influences again)
          9. sewing (I’m terrible at it)
          10.going out on the town
I could go on and on, but then that would really be too much! I guess my piano will always be my first love, but the other things can really shift around to go with my mood. It’s hard explaining, but I think you’ll understand.
Wouldn’t it be great if things really worked out for us? Right now I’m filled with hope and anxiety, and yet both feet seem to be on the ground, and I’m willing to wait, and be ready for anything.
Oops – another confession. I like the cartoon shows on Saturday mornings. Sorry about that! I guess I’m all washed up!
I think I should end this now. I have to wash my hair before 9:00 pm (it won’t dry by morning if I don’t) and it’s nearly that by now! Guess what? It’s 9:45!
Write very soon and don’t be afraid of talking too much. I’m not afraid of listening too much.
With Love,
Maggathie
5/14/15
Maggie and I are beginning to learn more about each other. She had always thought of me as a serious person who did not like to do silly things. I’m sure this was because I had graduated from college and I don’t think she knew anyone who had done that. Back in the early 60’s, in the neighborhood in which Maggie and I lived, most guys got a job after graduating from high school and very few went on to college.
I wrote the following letter to Maggie on a note card, not on the usual writing paper that I had been using. In it, I respond to some of Maggie’s comments in her last letter.
                                                                                                                                                           Around October 1, 1967

My Dear Miss Maggathie:
I still have no writing paper. When I go to the store, it’s usually for something other than writing paper, so when I’m there, I forget to get what is most important. Next time, perhaps if I tape an empty tablet to my forehead.
Tell you that I sing in the bathtub? My Dear Miss Maggathie, why do you think I bought a tape recorder - and a microphone that is able to record under the spray of a shower? Andy Williams has nothing on me. Why, with the shower running full blast, and the toilet flushing, I would say that he and I sound somewhat similar.
“Starched through and through” Whatever made you think that? It’s rather difficult to skip down a busy street when I’m starched stiff as a board. Of course, I must admit that some people have said the same thing about my skipping. Then again, I never said I was a professional skipper.
"I’m proud to tell you that I don’t have dollar signs in my eyes.” I was almost certain of this, Miss Maggathie, but it’s comforting to be absolutely certain. I haven’t been cursed with that sickness either. I want to make a decent living for my wife and my family. I want them to enjoy life and be comfortable, but I want mostly to enjoy my wife and family and if the goal of making a lot of money stops that from happening, then I’d much rather change my goal. I trust my wife and children will love me enough that they would rather have me home than be sitting alone in an expensive house surrounded by expensive pleasures while I’m out till late hours trying to meet that goal. I want to give my love, my entire self, to my wife and family – not merely my paycheck. Oh, but here is where the woman plays such an important part. Here is one of the areas where the success or failure of my marriage will be determined. My wife must want me more than she wants that which I can give her. If I ever discover otherwise – no matter how late in marriage – from that point on our relationship will be in trouble. What I mean is – I don’t ever want to see that time when my wife begins to complain that someone, like my brother, makes more money than me, or how much more I could be making doing something else
All I meant to say in all this is that money is not a primary goal in life and I couldn’t marry a woman who thought otherwise.
I’m sorry, but I’m completely out of writing space (on this note card).
Thank you, Miss Maggathie, for writing as often as you are.
Affectionately,
Dennis


Maggie answers my letter quickly. I love her sense of humor in the first sentence, where she tells me that I better not forget to buy more writing paper the next time I’m at the store. She really did include a piece of string in the envelope with her letter. (It was a common practice to tie a string around your finger so you wouldn’t forget to do something – so long as you remembered what the string was reminding you to do).
When Maggie mentions “Andy Baby” and “Barbra,” she’s talking about Andy Williams (a very popular singer in the United States in the 60’s) and Barbra Streisand – (another very popular singer who you may be more familiar with). Barbra Streisand was Maggie’s favorite singer.
When Maggie mentions my being “starched through and through,” she’s saying that she thought I was a rigid person, who didn’t let loose very often.
                                                                                                                                                           October 8, 1967
Dear Dennis,
Enclosed please find one string to be tied around your index finger (right hand). This is to aid you to remember that writing paper for you is vital to me.
Hey, Andy Baby, you can just call me Barbra.
Dennis, I’m sorry if I’ve offended you by thinking you were starched through and through. I know you’re a fun-loving guy, but I’ve always felt that the side of your personality which dominates was an intellectual, book-worm type of thing. Dennis “the thinking man.” Now I stand in astonishment. Now I stand at ease.
When I marry, home will be where my husband is. I’ll give the humblest place a permanent look and be satisfied with anything that he can give me. I don’t need sparkling diamonds, or a closet full of clothes from an expensive store. I need someone to love. I need to be a wife and that’s not possible when a husband works 16 hours a day. I want to grow with my husband and, in turn, we two with our children. A house is not necessarily a home. Two people who are togethr by marriage are not automatically “husband and wife.” All the money in the world couldn’t replace a man around to carry a heavy load of diapers. I would not like it if my husband had to know the price of every gift I bought him or exchanged it for a better buy. I’d hate eating every meal alone or the coldness of an empty bed at night. Nope, I don’t care much for money. Happiness is living and loving without it.
Guess what! I’ve got to get downtown now –shopping to do. Tomorrow I leave for New York and unless I buy an overnight case, I’ll be carrying by belongings in a brown paper bag.
Please don’t forget to write soon. I hate to stop, but I really must.
You’re welcome. Only you could stop me from writing to you now.
Affectionately,
With Love even,
Maggathie
I love the way Maggie ends this letter, by answering what I said at the end of my letter “Thank you, Miss Maggathie, for writing as often as you are."
5/17/15
I received another letter from Maggie within a couple of days. The following letter was not a response to anything I wrote. Maggie was worried that I might think that her interest in me was because of her broken engagement with her boyfriend.
Again,I was impressed with her honesty and maturity. Maggie was now 19 years old. You will see that Maggie has not settled on me as the “man in her life,” and she talks about how difficult it will be to find the “right man.”
                                                                                                                                                        Early October, 1967
My Dearest Dennis,
A terrible thought has occurred to me and I must explain something without waiting until I answer you next letter. I pray that you never feel that I have suddenly turned to you because of my broken engagement. How wrong your feelings would be.
I’ll confess that when the ties between Bob and I were first broken, I panicked. I was washed up at 19!
About three weeks ago, I sat down and really looked life and all that it has to offer, and realized that I had nothing to give to life in return. While doing this I also discovered that I have also so much to learn about love.
How foolish was I to consider marriage when I have so little to give to it. Not too long ago, love meant attention and security. Imagine that as a foundation for marriage!
So many doors have opened up for me now and my eyes are wide open. I know now what I must do.
I find it difficult to avoid being a home-body. The love and warmth that marriage can bring would be heaven to me, but I had completely forgotten about the person I’d be sharing this heaven with. Surely a man wants warmth and love, but now I know that it takes a little more than that to make a marriage work and more important to make a man happy.
You see, I know now that I’m in for a lot more giving than I expected. It’s not that I mind, but – well – what do I have to give!!
To find the right man for me is going to be difficult and will take some time. So, please don’t feel that I’ve zeroed-in on you as a new target for marriage.
Whew! I hope you can understand the point of this letter.
I feel that the only way to learn about love is to love. I have so much to learn, but then again, so much love to give and so much time to give it!
Perhaps this whole thought has never entered your mind, but if it has, or ever will, this letter will help to dissolve it.
My feelings of love for you have been for a long time. The one difference now is that they can “live” and perhaps grow.
Love,
Maggathie
I answer Maggie’s letter quickly, letting her know that I never thought her interest in me had anything to do with her breaking her engagement. I also go on to tell her that she has made some comments about herself that I do not agree with and that she has far more to offer a man than she thinks.
Around 9/26/67
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
I would begin by saying that your prayers have been answered, but that would be incorrect. Better to say your prayers were unnecessary. I never once felt that you had suddenly turned to me because of your broken engagement. Reason: I was informed that you were the one who made the break and perhaps wrongfully thought that was what you desired.
I don’t believe you: “Not too long ago, love meant attention and security.”If this was all you felt when you thought of love, you certainly didn’t show this in your letters. I don’t doubt that when you thought of love you also thought of attention and security, but to believe that your entire definition was based on these two words would be wrong. Of course attention and security must be showered upon someone who loves (how long could a flower last or how full could it blossom without the rain).
“…I know now that I’m in for a lot more giving than I expected. It’s not that I mind, but what do I have to give!!!”  It may sound somewhat silly, but you have yourself to give – and what more can a person give. If you give all that you are and are still not accepted, than you are giving yourself to the wrong person. So the only problem is not what you have to give, but whether or not what you are giving is accepted. And you can tell, Miss Maggathie. Anybody who looks honestly at a relationship can see if their love is being accepted. But not only accepted – returned also. Again, as a flower needs rain to grow, so a love needs love. Even a slight drizzle, a hint of love, can keep a flower growing and a love alive until that time when it will be fully nourished.
“So please don’t feel that I’ve zeroed-in on you as a new target for marriage.”  I have two answers to this statement – no, only one: If I felt this and objected, I would tell you.
“I have…so much love to give and so much time to give it.” Does that mean that you are trying to emphasize those last seven words? Answer me honestly, Miss Maggathie, is that for my benefit or yours? Does that mean that you have a great deal of love and much time to give it – to one person? Or, does that mean that you have a great deal of love and, being young, have  agreat deal of time to give it and , consequently, do not wish to give it on any one person yet?
I have a question for you, Miss Maggathie: what sort of State competition did you once win for playing the piano? I’m going around work telling everyone that you won first place in State competition for concert pianist and I just want to be sure that I am not giving bad information.
Another question: can you ice skate? If so, if and when I come home for Christmas, we’ll have to go ice skating someplace. If not, well – I’m certain we can think of something else to do.
Affectionately,
Dennis
I wondered if Maggie would realize that my comment “Even a slight drizzle, a hint of love, can keep a flower growing…” was my way of telling her that I was hoping that her feelings for me would continue to grow even though I was being very careful in how I expressed them.
5/21/15
In her next letter, Maggie answers with such honesty and openness. She thanks me for the advice I gave her in my last letter then tells me how she feels for me at this moment. She also tells me what awards she won playing her piano. Maggie’s awards were for classical piano.
                                                                                                                                                                                               10/8/67
Dear Dennis,
I only have four pieces of writing paper left, so you may have to strain your eyes to read my writing, excuse all mistakes and, pardon my frankness, and bear with me if I must stop suddenly in the middle of an interesting topic.
Is it possible that you know me so well as to actually see my capacity to love? Sometimes I really believe that you understand me better than I. Of course I never believed that love was merely attention and security. The truth is I haven’t been giving myself to the right person. I haven’t met the guy who will accept me as I am. To my amazement I’ve also found what an important part trust has to do with love. No man has ever really put faith in me. When I speak of faith, I’m speaking of the fidelity type of faith. For some reason, I’ve been thought of as a flirtatious butterfly and I’ll never really know why. I don’t look at the guy in the next car when we all are waiting for a light to change. I don’t return winks or rub somebody else’s knee under a table. I don’t have a list of the guys I’ve dated since1961. I really don’t understand why people might think I’m a flirt! Putting two and two together, I’ve just discovered that once again the reason is that I’ve been giving myself to the wrong people! Thank you for telling me that. It’s solved so many mysteries for me.
I have a great deal of love to give and so much time to give it. This means that one of these days I’ll find someone who will accept my love and I, being young, have so much time to give it. As of now, you are the only one receiving my love. I don’t really know if you have fully accepted it. If in time you should refuse it completely, my love for you will probably turn into a friendship. I doubt if I could ever dislike you. If you should accept it, I’m positive that I will always love you, that is, if I receive love in return.
I definitely am eager to give my love to one person. No one else will have it until you refuse it. This may all sound so ridiculous to you, but it is what I feel and therefore very sincere.
Answer time about the award I won for my piano playing:
I was entered in piano competition for district members in 1963 and was the winner of that district. In 1964, I qualifiedf for Illinois State Competition. This meant more pieces and more competition. I was awarded first place in this competition. In 1965, I entered State competition again and won again. In 1966, I gave up all contests and enjoyed my senior year of high school. I think it stupid to compete at the piano. My piano is my emotional outlet, not my medal winner or my means of earning a living. My piano is now my friend and only becomes an enemy when I must use it as a tool for success.
I have so much more to say, but rather than stop in the middle of an interesting topic, I shall stop now and wait until I can find some writing paper (Besides I’ve got spaghetti boiling on the stove and my dad, home for Sunday dinner, is very hungry.
Love,
Maggathie
P.S. have I ever told you how very much you and your letters mean to me?
I write a short letter to Maggie just to feel near her. In it, I tell her about an oil painting I bought and begin making some plans in hopes of my coming home for Christmas. It\'s a pretty boring letter.
                                                                                                                                                                             Around 10/15/67
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
It is a somewhat lazy Sunday afternoon. The sun is shining through an overcast sky. I’m not doing much of anything today, simply sitting in my apartment recording some jazz albums. Had plans of spending the weekend in Luxemburg, but a little problem at work spoiled that. We thought we lost  a piece of classified material. A mild panic went through the station. After two days of checking and rechecking, it was discovered that a clerical error was the cause of the problem and the material was never lost.. We were all relieved, but I guess we better get ready for a lecture from the Major.
I went over to Walt and Betty’s house yesterday to play some cards (Walt’s a friend of mine from work and Bettyis his wife). Two Dutch painters stopped by to show some of their works. I’ve been looking for an oil painting since I’ve been inEurope, so I bought one. I guess I could try to explain it. It’s a scene of a lonely beach at sunset. The tide has just gone out as can be seen by the wet sand. In the center of the picture stands a man, ankle deep in water, slightly bent at the waste, patiently fishing for clams with his pole net. To his left patiently waits his horse with an old wagon tied at his rear. The sun is setting and is completely hidden behind the clouds on the horizon. A glow can be seen over the clouds and knifes its way across the water. It shines in the puddles of water still on the sand and makes a mirror of them which shows the images of the horse and wagon and the fisherman. Three seagulls are  flying overhead and are surrounded by the soft glow of the fading sun upon their wings.
Miss Maggathie, do you ice skate? I don’t remember whether or not you do. If so, and if we have time, and if it’s cold enough for there to be ice when and if I come home for Christmas – how would you like to go ice skating? God, with all those “ifs,” I guess that was a loaded question. If just one “if” goes the wrong way, the whole question will have been useless.
I’m very sorry, Miss Maggathie, there’s so much more I wanted to say. It is now 11:45 PM and I haven’t been able to write a word since 7:30. A half-drunk fellow officer stopped by my apartment and took up all my time until now. I’ll write again as soon as time allows.
Affectionately,
Dennis
5/24/15
Maggie sent me the following letter about the trip she took to New York because of her job. She ended up staying there for several days and really liked New York. She also wrote about a couple of interesting people she met on the airplane both there and back. I was so impressed by how easy it was for Maggie to talk to new people in such a comfortable way. Whenever I traveled, I was too shy to speak to the person next to me and would read my book instead.
                                                                                                                                                                                        10/11/67
Dear Dennis,
You don’t have to apologize when time doesn’t permit you to write all that you have to say. Although I prefer a lengthy letter, just seeing the words “My Dear Miss Maggathie” and “Affectionately, Dennis” is enough to fill me with contentment until your next letter.
I was relieved to find that the mystery of the missing classified material was solved. I would feel bad if that caused your trip home for Christmas to be cancelled.
I’m very glad you came right out and asked me to go skating. I was beginning to wonder if your coming home to see me was limited to a “hello” and “good-bye” type of thing. For the time being, I’ll forget about all the “ifs” if you will too.
I don’t expect you to spend much time with me while you’re home. I realize that you’re quite popular and you will havel ittle time to do all that you wish to. I’m hoping that you will want to see me as often as possible. My plans for the holidays are limited to quiet evenings at home and some parties with friends --- events that can easily be broken at your request --- events which I look forward to breaking at your request.
I must tell you about New York. I’ll begin with my flight there. My friends were sitting throughout the plane and I ended up in a window seat next to a scientist. He read such books as “the Chemical Analysis of a Candle” and“Einstein’s Theory on something or other.” He had a very quick tongue and I had so much trouble keeping up with him with only a high school understanding of physics and chemistry.
In New York I saw the usual tourist spots –U.N., Times Square, the Bowery, Broadway, Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and, of course, “The Village.” I volunteered for a hypnosis act along with 2 other girls and 3 guys. I don’t recall a thing, but my friends tried to fill me in on some of what happened between their bursts of laughter. It would be too difficult to explain on paper so perhaps, if you’re really interested, you’ll remember to ask me about it when you see me.
I fell in love with New York and was almost tempted to move up there in the Spring. Now that I’ve thought it over, I’ll first try it for one week to see if it is really all that I thought it was. I’m a silly person. I always dreamed of settling in some small community or even the country where it is quiet and clean and friendly. Now that I have no strings to hold me down, the excitement of New York has me in a spell. Maybe it’s simply a phase I’m going through.
The whole time I was there (3 nights and 2 days to be exact), I stayed at a friend of mine’s house (is that good English?). I should say with his parents. It seems he was sent to Virginia at the last minute --- you know the Army. I really felt strange although I’m quite familiar with the family. Getting on to the point --- it is in the typical New York neighborhoods that you find what life there is all about. It’s amazing to see how everyone seems to accept each other. No one really has a face in New York. Although there are many different people there, the enormous size of the city drew them all close together.
Flying home --- another window seat (luck) and the delightful company of a Hungarian immigrant. His philosophy was “grab and you shall receive.” It was strange how out of the corner of my eye I watched him steal away with my helping of sugar, my salad dressing, my butter, and role and my strawberry cake served with the United Airlines dinner. On the other hand, he was full of laughs and even sang a few old-country songs. I gave him a 59 cent box of candy to remember me by. He, in turn, handed me a silly looking red-stuffed dog with New York printed on the side of it. I didn’t want to accept it, as it probably was for someone special, but he made quite a scene, so I did.
As always, it was good to be home, but I feel I must go back again as soon as I can, even if only for a day.
Well, I better get to work now. My father is home “visiting” and I must do his ironing before he ruins every shirt he has.
I’m awaiting the arrival of that “more to come” letter, but I won’t hold you responsible if chances are that it may not come.
Until I hear from you or you hear from me again, please take care.
Love,
Maggathie
P.S. I don’t mean that when I hear from you or when you hear from me you should stop taking care of yourself. What a goofy way to end a letter. I hope you understand that.
I was worried about one sentence in Maggie’s letter –“ I fell in love with New York and was almost tempted to move up there in the Spring.” I was confused because I thought she was beginning to understand that my feelings for her were growing stronger. Why would she think about moving to New York? She once told me she couldn’t wait until I came home to Chicago. Now she’s thinking about moving to New York?
5/28/15
Maggie sent me a postcard when she was in New York. In it she told me how much she was enjoying the city and then said that she knew that her trip probably didn’t mean much to me – since I’ve been visiting places like Paris, Rome, London, Berlin and other European cities. I was hurt by what she wrote, because I didn’t want her seeing me as someone who thought he was better than her. I never felt that way and wanted her to know that.
I was also worried about Maggie telling me in her last letter that she was thinking about moving to New York for a while – because she enjoyed it so much. I wanted to be careful about how I told her this and drew a little cartoon to express my feelings. I remind her of what she wrote in her letter, then add my cartoon. (The cartoon is difficult to read)
  • The first frame is copied from one of Maggie\'s early letters and is dated \'February 1967\' the sign reads "Yankee Come Home."
  • The second frame is dated \'April 1968,\' the month I should be home, and is a drawing of me coming home with my arms spread open to hug Maggie - the sign reads "Yankee is Home."
  • The third frame is dated \'Spring 1968,\' when Maggie said she might be moving to New York. The sign reads "Yankee Good-Bye."
  • The fourth frame is a drawing of the New York skyline.

Around 10/14/67
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
I received a postcard from you which began, “I know this is nothing new to you, but at least you might share in my excitement.”  Suddenly I became a bit angry. You seem to be saying that because I have traveled to several countries in Europe that I might look upon your trip with little interest.  My Dear Miss Maggathie (and if it sounds as if I’m upset, it’s because I am) I look upon anything you do with interest. If a trip to a small town in Illinois was something you looked forward to, it would be  a trip I would want to hear about.
A few quotes from your last letter:
           “I was beginning to wonder if your coming home to see me was limited to a ‘hello’ and ‘good-bye’ sort of thing.”
           “I don’t expect you to spend much time with me while you’re home.”
           “I’m hoping that you will want to see me as often as possible.”
Did I not say in one of my letters that I was coming home this Christmas to see you? Now perhaps I didn’t say this exactly, but I meant specifically you. If it wasn’t for my desire to see you, I wouldn’t be coming home. This may sound almost cruel, but I have some very dear friends here with whom I would rather spend Christmas than with my family. I am coming home to see you and intend to be with you as often as courtesy to my family allows.
A Matter of Extreme Concern:
“I fell in love with New York and was almost tempted to move up there in the spring.”

I’m glad you enjoyed your trip to New York. I have never been there, but I hope some day to visit it. But there are so many other places I wish to see when back in the States. California is perhaps number one on my list. One of my fellow officers and his wife have a home in California and have asked me, upon their return to the States, to come and spend a week or two at their home. They swear that once I see California, I will never want to leave.
It’s getting late, Maggathie, and if I don’t address this envelope tonight this letter might not be mailed until tomorrow evening. I’ll write again as soon as I am able.
Very Affectionately,
Dennis
Maggie must have answered my letter as soon as she received it because I received a letter from her in just a few days. Again she is so honest. She apologizes for possibly hurting my feelings then opens up her heart.
                                                                                                                                                                10/18/67
Dear Dennis,
I am very sad for I have made you angry with me. I honestly thought that you had already seen New York. I didn’t mean to sound as if you are a snob.
I turned that knife a little more because I doubted you. I really doubted myself too. I was worried that perhaps you would come home and be disappointed with me. My heart flipped when you said you were coming home to see me, but what if it became unbearable for you! That could happen you know. I honestly don’t have any plans for the holidays, but I wanted you to be at ease to say “well, the guys in the gang are getting together and…” It was wrong for me to doubt you, because I’ve not only lacked trust in you, I’ve hurt you.
Dennis, if you knew how I look forward to you being home, you’d have ignored those statements which have offended you. I dream and even worry about it all the time. My imagination is so very active that any slight or hurt will bother me more than it should. That’s why I seem to be looking down about your homecoming. If I didn’t and things didn’t workout, the mental suffering of it all would be crushing.
About moving to New York --- It all boils down to my need of security and something stable on which to build my hopes. If I knew that you did not want me to go, I would be foolish to even think about going. On the other hand, if I have no one to hold me here in Chicago, New York offers many new horizons.
Finally, Dennis, you have all the standards that I have ever hoped for in a man and letting you drift by or even to lose you as a friend would be a great loss. Whether you realize it or not, I need you Dennis and want you very much.
As of now, I’ve almost given you the impression that I am restless, changeable and even fickle, but actually when the right guy comes along, I’ll be easy for him to keep. I will be careful in finding my love, but once I do, my affection will never fail.
As for my home life, it is growing worse. I always seem to be hurting those I love most. I sat in my hallway tonight and cried silently for almost an hour because I couldn’t stand being in the house with my own father.
I’m afraid and lonely. I almost believe now that I do need psychiatric help. One minute I’m saying “Be strong, Mag, adjust, adjust, adjust.” and the next I’m bursting into tears because if I don’t, my nerves will break in two.
Please forgive me for hurting you. You must believe that I never meant to.
I must go now. It is late and I still have 100 things to do. I will write again soon.
Love,
Maggathie
I liked much of what Maggie wrote to me, but I was worried when she said, “If I knew that you did not want me to go, I would be foolish to even think about going. On the other hand, if I have no one to hold me here in Chicago, New York offers many new horizons.”  What “new horizons” was she talking about? Did she want me to ask her not to go to New York, but to stay in Chicago and wait for me? I couldn’t.  I didn’t really know her yet. We had barely spent any time with each other; how could I possibly ask her to wait for me? No, I couldn’t.
5/31/15
I was very careful not to respond to Maggie’s comment about possibly leaving Chicago for New York “if she had no one to hold her here.” I knew what she wanted me to say and since I felt I couldn’t  ask her to wait for me, I simply didn’t mention her comment. I was hoping this thought of moving to New York would pass. However, although I didn’t have much to write about, I did want to apologize for making her feel bad in my last letter and I also wanted her to know that I was going on trip to Italy.
Around 10/19/67
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
Looks as though I may be spending a week in Italy next month. A friend of mine from work and I are planning to drive down there for seven or eight days. Hope to pass through Austria, then on to Rome and Florence.
I apologize for my last letter. I was hurt by what you wrote in your postcard, but I wasn’t as mad as you seem to think. I was angry, yes, but not for long. Whatever anger I felt, it was gone as soon as my letter was written. What I tried to say was not that I was angry at what you said, but that I’m interested in everything you do. I wasn’t saying that I was angry because you might be thinking I was a snob, but rather that you seemed to think that I must not be interested in your every action.
Miss Maggathie, I’m afraid this is a terrible letter. It’s past 11:30, Sunday evening and this is the first chance I’ve had to write all week. I’m rushing this and trying to think of something to say. But it isn’t fair to you. I just can’t throw anything down on paper when writing to you. I know this, but yet I must write something. I must let you know that I care for you and am thinking of you. Please try to understand that I can sometimes be so busy that I find it very difficult to write. This has been such a week. I hope to write to you again tomorrow. I’m very much ashamed of this letter and the fact that I must quit without saying much of anything. I promise to write as soon as time allows.
Affectionately,
Dennis
Maggie sent me two greeting cards that I received on the same day. In one, she simply wrote:
Dear Dennis,
Yes, I think of you constantly.
With Love
Maggathie
And in the other she wrote:
Dear Dennis,
Really, I can’t wait until you are home. I want to make you the center of my attention once you’re here, although I may even seem like the clinging type of woman! I don’t wish to make any demands on you, so if what I have just written appears as such, you aren’t understanding what I have really said.
I have never met anyone who loves life as much as you do, nor have I ever met anyone who responds to my affection in the way that you do.
Love Again,
Maggathie
The very next day after receiving the two greeting cards, there was another letter from Maggie in my mail box. Maggie had been living by herself for a number of months because her father moved to another state with his girlfriend to open a restaurant. It was very difficult for Maggie to live alone in the beginning, but she was able to do so and was now enjoying the independence. Well, her father decided to leave the restaurant and come back to Chicago – back to the apartment that he had lived in with Maggie – the apartment that she had made her own.
                                                                                                                                                Around 10/19/67
Dear Dennis,
Tonight I cannot sleep so I will “talk” to you in hopes that you are not sleepy. I don’t have anything of great importance to say so I may just babble on and on!
I must tell you that I am not only depressed, but very much in anger with myself. My father has come to live with me again and I’m not happy with this new situation. I’m not being bitter, nor am I still suffering from wound she inflicted upon me when he left me to start a new life. I know exactly why I’m upset about the whole affair, but everyone else seems to think that I’m a selfish, 19 year old punk who doesn’t know what she wants. I first want to explain my feelings to you for obvious reasons --- 1) I trust you, 2) I feel that I can talk to you with a certain “closeness” and still you will remain objective, and 3) I know that any comment you may make will not only help me understand things a little better, but will probably be the best advice I will receive on this matter. My one desire is to not bore you.
Nine months ago, my dad left this house to go on to a new future. It was then that I gave up my hopes of continuing in nursing school and really started fighting for survival. Nine months ago, I began to grow up. With time, I finally rose to my feet. My bank account was growing. I began adding new pieces of furniture to my humble apartment. I handled my bills (although a few were usually late when finally paid). My time was my time. If I wanted to bang the piano, I’d bang the piano, or listen to music , or paint my kitchen polka dots, or clean house at 11:00 pm.
Last week the roof fell in on me. His love didn’t kick him out --- he merely has grown tired of his “restaurant life,” so good old Mag saves the day for daddy! I love him, Den, I really do, but he’s taken over completely! Not financially, mind you, but all of a sudden it’s his house and I’m his daughter.
It all sounds as if I’m bitter, but honestly I’m not. I just want my“own” little place.
Oh, I won’t kick him out or hint that I’m upset, but I have tried to talk things out with him and he, like all the others, makes a silly joke about the whole thing. Believe me, I’m not laughing.
During the time I was really independent, I got myself into some pretty sticky situations. I didn’t cry for help because I was always taught that once you’ve made your own bed, you must lie in it. Well, why doesn’t that apply here!
I can’t. I can’t. I can’t! I can’t move away from this house and leave my grandmother all alone with strangers in the building! I can’t move out on my dad now, it would hurt him so.
Oh, Dennis, I know I sound like such a selfish person, but I just can’t help sounding off this way.
You must be thinking I would make a terrible wife.
Believe me; I realize that marriage is full of compromises and I can accept that. Marriage is one life being shared by two. What I’m waiting for is the day I can find that one to share that life with. As I am now, I’m like a puppet and everybody and his uncle has a string to pull.
I’m rather ashamed of this letter but I must mail it. I don’t wish to hide anything from you.
I hope you can understand this and not think lowly of me. I will write again soon.
Love,
Maggathie
P.S. I feel better now.
6/5/15
I knew Maggie was having a hard time with her father returning to the apartment that they once shared. It was very difficult for her when he decided to begin a new life in another state, but Maggie dealt with it, gave up on some of her dreams, faced her fears, and began a new life of her own. Although her grandmother lived in the apartment below her, which was a comfort to her, Maggie had to struggle to begin her own life and face the challenges of becoming independent. Then, just when she was becoming her own person, her father decided to move back and wanted things to be just as they were before he left. It’s not easy to give up independence once you have discovered it.
I didn’t answer Maggie’s letter for several days after receiving it. I wanted to think carefully about my answer because I didn’t want it to be an emotional response. The letter I sent was a very long one and I tried to avoid giving her a direct answer. This was going to be her decision and I didn’t want to convince her one way or the other.
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
Please excuse my delay in answering your last letter. After reading it, I hesitated to hurry off an answer. I wanted to consider your problem for a couple of days and make the most constructive comments I could. I hope that what I have to say is of some help.
Your father has returned and this has upset you. From what you have written in your letter, you are “not happy with this new situation” for one main reason: you have lost your independence and along with this your recognition as an adult.
Regarding your loss of independence, let me begin with a quote from your letter, “My time was my time. If I wanted to bang the piano, I’d bang the piano, or listen to music, or paint my kitchen polka dots, or clean house at 11pm.” You were alone to do as you pleased when you pleased. You were free to be yourself. It’s a pity more people don’t have an opportunity to be completely independent. There’s so much to be learned in such a situation – not only about life, but more importantly about yourself. It is only when you are completely independent that you are most yourself, and it is only when you are most yourself that you can hope to learn who you are. Some people say that too much independence is dangerous. They feel that an individual who is on their own for a length of time soon decides that they need no one else. After living alone for over a year, I believe the opposite: it is only after living alone for a length of time that you truly realize how badly you do need someone – the right one.
Unless my experience at independence was totally different from most, I don’t doubt that your first few months were very uncomfortable. The security of the nearness of people and of the closeness of their love was now gone. You were in a totally strange environment. Oh, the walls of your apartment were the same and Archer Ave. didn’t disappear, but it wasn’t the same apartment, it wasn’t the same world. I hope I’m not sounding melodramatic, but when you are forced to live on your own, whether it be voluntary or not, you’re forced to make“adjustments,” make adjustments or forever be stuck in your memories. At first you feel sorry for yourself. You sit in an empty room and recall happy moments.You try to maintain some link with the existence that once was. You may even magnify your affection for someone, someone who cares for you. You do it unconsciously. All you know is – here is someone who cares for me. And you need to be cared for; you need to be someone special; you need to be loved. So, you hang onto this, you hang on to the person who cares for you and you hang onto your memories – hang on because it’s all you have. Then gradually, when month after long lonely month goes by, you begin to realize that memories are a poor substitute and that that growing affection is perhaps questionable. For th efirst time since you have been on your own, you no longer hang on to fading memories and false admissions of love. It is here the adjustment is made; it is here that you finally become independent. It wasn’t an easy adjustment and it was gotten only after several lonely and uncertain months. But now you are independent and now for the first time you can begin to enjoy the many pleasures that complete independence brings. So you enjoy them and begin to fully appreciate them. Now – suddenly – your independence is gone. Is it little wonder that you’re “not happy with this new situation”?
You have lost your independence and with that you have lost your recognition as an adult. This, I believe, hurts more than not being able to bang your piano, or listen to your own music, or clean house at 11pm. Let me once again recall your own words to prove my point. In your letter you state: “…but all of a sudden, it’s his house and I’m his daughter… I have tried to talk things out with him and he, like all the others, makes a silly fairy tale or ridiculous joke about the whole thing …I just want my ‘own’ little place…” Maggie, once again, is the sweet little kid who perhaps shouldn’t have been left alone in the first place. Perhaps not, but the fact remains that you were, and you were left alone long enough to make the adjustment, long enough to become an adult. But parents find this very difficult to admit. You’ll remain his child until you marry or until you reach the age at which he feels somewhat foolish to refer to you as such. Since you’re still his child how can your apartment be anything else but his home.
Perhaps you realized before your father’s return that he never looked upon you as anything but his little girl. The admission that “all others” make “a silly fairy tale or ridiculous joke out of the whole thing,” says that you were aware that few individuals admitted that you had become an adult. But now the isolation of complete independence became a protection. Now the isolation was cherished because it was in this isolation that the truth was realized. You knew you were an adult and if you found yourself in a situation where those about you failed to realize this, you needed only to avoid such situations as often as courtesy allowed. You could return to your own apartment. You could limit the number of times you would subject yourself to such treatment. You could – that was until your father returned. And now “little Maggie” is “little Maggie” far more often than you care to be.
So what do you do? Find yourself another apartment? “I can’t move away from the house and leave my grandmother all alone with strangers in the building. I can’t move out on my dad now, it would hurt him so.” In response let me tell you that I am expecting the same experience when I return home. I plan to go on further in my schooling and may have to live with my parents for a while until I can earn some money. I doubt seriously, even though I am twenty-six years old, that my mother and father look upon me as anything other than “their little boy.” So what’s going to happen? I certainly know I won’t be able to take it for long. I can see everything coming to a head. I can see a heated argument happening and either I am accepted for what I am or I readjust my future plans to allow me to move into an apartment. This I can see for me – for you – well, your situation is entirely different and the final answer can only be given by yourself. You know your obligations; you know how far you can bend. You are going to have to live with your choice so only you can make it.
May I voice my opinion on something else you said in your letter? You said “…but everyone else seems to think I’m a selfish, 19 year old punk who  doesn’t know what she wants.” Perhaps I’m wrong, but I’m assuming that the accusation “who doesn’t know what she wants” relates to comments you made about your father living with you once again. You probably told others that you had enjoyed living alone and they immediately remembered times when you said how lonely you sometimes were when in the apartment all by yourself. They therefore think that you’re a person who doesn’t know what she wants. If so, I would think that the person or persons who made such statements have never lived alone. If they had, they would know the different feelings of solitude. Some of the emptiest moments of my life have been spent in the silence of my room, but also many of the fullest.
It’s getting pretty late, Miss Maggathie, and I still have to prepare my uniform for work tomorrow. I hope what I’ve said has made at least some sense.
VeryAffectionately,
Dennis
I was hoping my letter to Maggie would help her with her decision. What Maggie does before she receives my letter surprised me.
6/7/15
Maggie responded to my letter within a few days after receiving it. She was a little disappointed with the tone of my letter, but had some exciting news to tell me.
                                                                                                                                                October 25, 1967
My Dear Dennis,
I want to write to you now, and at the same time, I hesitate. I’m afraid that you are still slightly angry with me as the letter  I received from you today seemed as though you were so distant. It was not your choice of wording which caused me to feel this way, in fact, I guess it was like a sixth sense that detected this. Perhaps I’m still not myself.
I want you to know that I have my own apartment now, and although I’m still living on Archer, I’ll be moving in about two weeks. I’m afraid it’s still in the neighborhood, but far enough away to seek safe refuge. I’m rather proud of it, although to some it may appear as a hole in the wall. It’s really a lovely two flat with a front yard (complete with a statue of Our Lady). I live on the 2nd floor which consists of four rooms plus a bathroom (thank goodness) and a pantry. This is how it looks:




I drew that on a false scale, but at least you can see how it looks on the inside. I’m having one heck of a time fixing the place up, but there’s so much work to be done and money to be spent. I know it will all be worth it though.
My father and I had a good heart to heart talk and although the rest of “my family” thinks this whole thing is disgraceful, my dad understands --- and that’s all that I’m really worried about.
How I wish you could be here to watch and perhaps help my apartment take shape. No one has seen it yet (with the exception of one close friend) and I plan on and have (so far) been doing the repair work, cleaning, decorating and furnishing of it all alone. Whether you’re handy or not, only you would be worthy enough of sharing this excitement and happiness with me. Rereading that makes it sound as if I’m some conceited prima donna, but I think you’ll understand what I mean.
My heart will go out to you (as if it hasn’t already?) when you must face this issue at your home. You do have age going for you, but also you have two parents to hold you down instead of one.
I don’t like the thought of you stopping in the middle of everything to work for an apartment, but if your happiness is at stake then that time will not be wasted. If worse comes to worst then, you know, I have a spare room. (I’m only kidding) You must think I’m some kind of a nut!!!
Den, I must go now.
Love,
Maggathie
P.S. Please excuse this terrible handwriting.
P.S.S. I will let you know when to change my address
Love Again,
Maggathie
Wait! I must explain something. It may seem as if I asked you for advice and then went ahead and acted before hearing what you had to say, but actually I acted on two impulses. Anyway - #1 was that I was almost certain of what your advice would be and #2 my breaking point came too soon.
Please don’t feel that your last letter was worthless. Just knowing that you understand has set my heart at ease and it’s such a wonderful feeling.
I don’t wish to sound as if I know everything you’re thinking, but I must admit that I feel that I know you well enough to know that you are very understanding. I confess that I had several doubts about what you might advise, but “something” told me that you would actually feel as I felt and act as I acted.
I tried to live with this new situation, Den. I really did. But it only took less than two weeks to really shatter my nerves.
I wish I knew if you’re making sense out of all that I’m writing.
Something is bothering me. I’ve just reread your letter and I’m not sure if you are distant or not. This is about the fifth time I’ve read it and it seemed to have much more warmth than when I first read it. I still detect a “brotherly” attitude and it troubles me of all people—me who runs to Dennis for comfort every time I reach a crisis. I’m sorry, Dennis, that letter could not be more complete. I’m a silly girl.
Love Again & Again
Maggathie
I was happy for Maggie. I knew how difficult it was for her to make the decision she did and I believed she made the right one. I was very impressed that she would now be living by herself, but it did bother me that she saw my letter as “distant.” I knew I was very careful in how I wrote it because I didn’t want to influence her decision. This had to be a choice she made completely on her own.


Maggie moved to this building. Her apartment was on the second floor, up the wooden stairs on the right. The building was set off the street and between two other buildings. When Maggie came home at night in the dark after work, it was a little scary walking to and up the stairs.

6/11/15
It didn’t bother me that Maggie found an apartment and made the decision to move before she read my letter. What did upset me a little was that she read my letter the wrong way and may have seen me as “distant.”
Late October 67
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
I have been in a rather terrible mood these past few days and I really have no idea why. It’s been a very long time since I last felt this way. I thought I had gotten over my senseless moods, but obviously I haven’t. Tonight, things are a bit better. In fact, a great deal better. Today I received a letter from you.
A quote from your last letter : “….the letter I received from you today seemed as though you were so distant…I guess it was like a sixth sense that detected this.”
I say this without anger, but with sincerity: may I suggest you not listen to your sixth sense? Perhaps I shouldn’t have said that. I’m so afraid you may take that the wrong way or perhaps think that I am angry with you. I’m merely saying that you should ignore your sixth sense. I could not have possibly felt closer to you than I did when writing that letter. You must recall that you wanted my opinion because you believed I could be objective. Now, one can hardly be objective without creating what might seem like a “brotherly” attitude. I tried to explain what I believed your problem was; I tried as best I could to be objective. I was sincere in all that I said and I said it with far more than a“brotherly” attitude. I am sincerely sorry if you saw it any other way.
I must be so careful with you. Everything I say seems to be so closely analyzed – but I’m glad. If you didn’t scrutinize every statement I make, I would think your interest would be far below what I hope for.
But you’re not the only person who digs every meaning out of a sentence that might possibly be there. When I receive a letter from you, I try to postpone opening it until my work day is completed and I am in my own room. However, unless your letter arrives with the 4:00 pm mail, I seldom succeed in doing so. I read your letter at least twice upon opening it; two or three more times before going to sleep, and at least twice more before I plan a reply. Everything you say is analyzed and reanalyzed; every meaning that every statement could possibly have is considered against the entire context. And why? For what should be an obvious reason – because what you say means a great deal to me, and it means a great deal to me because you mean a great deal to me.
I can’t say I love you, because I’m not certain, and until I’m certain, I’ll never say those words. Because until I am certain, that’s all they would be –words. When I say “I love you,” I don’t want to speak with my lips. All I can say for now is that you mean far more to me than any other girl and that you play a major role in my future plans. I’m certain you would be surprised if you discovered how much my friends know about you. They have heard me speak of you so often that no sooner I receive a letter from you, they want me to tell them what you had to say. They know how much you mean to me and they are so interested in our relationship.
I want to say more about your last letter, but it’s getting rather late again. I’ll try to write again tomorrow if time permits. I’ve been kept so busy lately.
I must go now.
Affectionately,
Dennis
I know Maggie would have liked me to say those three words, but I knew I couldn’t. However, I did want her to know how very much she meant to me and I was hoping that by explaining myself, she would understand.  
Her response was more than I expected.
11/6/67
My Dearest Dennis,
Why do you feel that I may tire of waiting for your complete love? If I’m crazy enough to believe that there may be some chance for us, then I’m crazy enough to wait. It does seem odd that I may play a role in your future plans. It all sounds too fantastic to believe.
By the way, I have looked at my sixth sense and I’ll let it rest for awhile. I did feel that that last letter of yours was all but distant.
Yes, I do love you. It nearly knocked me off my feet hearing you say that I love you. I never thought you took my love very seriously. I’ve never loved like this before. My past romances started with a flashy courtship, soft music, moonlight kisses etc. You’ve given me none of these and yet, I feel that I love you. How? Why? Maybe that’s part of growing up too.
Please don’t think that I’m here tapping my foot nervously waiting for you to make a decisive move. Don’t push yourself or question yourself so much that you don’t know what you feel. I am here and I guess I always will be.
I always picture our first meeting at Christmas. There are two versions to this dream. In one we are on opposite sides of my sister’s living room. Nieces and relatives are opening packages and our eyes speak. That’s it! Then in the other version, I’m sitting alone in my apartment, perhaps reading, and suddenly a knock at my door. I walk casually to answer it and it’s you – a strong embrace and then laughter. I’m a goof!!
I really must go now, but I vow to write more tonight.
Love,
Maggathie
6/14/15
Maggie did write another letter - if not that same night, then the following morning. It was a short letter, but she was so honest in letting me know that she was afraid my affection for her was lessening. She also said some things that warmed my heart.
11/6/67
Dear Dennis,
It is sad that time did not allow you to shower me with attention in today’s letter as you do in your past letters. Your letter is like manna from heaven to me.
Last night I nearly starved for your affection, so I re-read every last one of your letters. It helped me a little, but the thought that your feelings may have cooled some by now kept haunting every word. Even as I read today’s letter my heart sank because you signed off “Affectionately” instead of “Very Affectionately.” Am I crazy…?
My apartment is taking shape slowly but surely. I was almost ready to give up, but knew that if I did, I’d regret it. It will be another two weeks at least before I move in. Now I’m really afraid of the step I’m taking. The place is still strange to me, but then I don’t have my furniture in it yet. I’ll miss the security of my building on Archer with its hallway and familiar neighbors. I’ll miss meeting the same people at the bus stop every morning, and all the memories that linger on even though the appearance of this old place has changed since my dad moved in. My piano is not coming with me until the spring when I’ll be able to afford professional movers!! (Need I say that I’ll miss that?)
I must ease your mind and let you know that things are beginning to run smoothly again. Everyone has faced the fact that I am going, the apartment is taking shape, my grandmother is in the hospital under professional care, my sister has given up trying to run my affairs, my father has found a job that he enjoys, and I can start breathing freely again. I still have a rough road ahead, but with all of that off my mind, I should be able to keep myself on course.
I’m wondering if you’ve received Benjamen Leonardo yet. He’s quite a character, really. You think he’s bad, you better never see his mother Gazelda Louise. (If you haven’t received Benjie yet, then disregard this until you do). That makes sense, doesn’t it?
You know every bit of sense I have tells me that I am making a mistake by letting you know exactly how I feel about you. I suppose I’m supposed to keep you guessing or something like that, but somehow I can’t do that to you. Do you realize that you’re the first guy I’ve ever been completely honest with? It will be interesting to see how things work out. You do know how I feel about you, don’t you? Need I explain?
I guess I should get to bed as I have a terrible day lined up for me at work tomorrow, not to mention that I must go shopping afterwards.
Please be careful and please write very soon.
Love,
Maggathie
P.S. Dennis you’re a dream.
      (and don’t come back with --- Maggathie you’re a nightmare!)
P.S.S. Oh! and I do understand when you don’t have time to write!!!
I loved Maggie\'s comment about “…every bit of sense I have tells me that I am making a mistake by letting you know exactly how I feel about you."  It brought me joy, but it also frightened me. I loved her honesty, but I was still so concerned about her falling in love with me before I knew with certainty how I felt about her.
6/18/15
Maggie wrote another letter to me the same night and it arrived the following day.
Maggie was getting so excited about the possibility of me coming home for Christmas and was making all kinds of plans. The last time I actually saw or spoke to her was when I was home last Christmas, and at that time I had no interest in her and she was engaged to someone else
Maggie again questioned if she was doing the right thing by letting me know how she felt about me and then expressed doubt that our relationship would “work out.”
11/6/67
My Dearest Dennis,
I vowed that I would write again tonight, but I don’t wish to imply that I’m simply keeping a vow. I couldn’t wait until my chores were finished and I could be close to you.
I thought of another thing we might do if and when you come home for Christmas. You must be my very first dinner guest --- Italian style. You’ll be the first to taste my version of my mother’s version of my grandmother’s version of Italian spaghetti with meatballs.
I was surprised to find that your friends know so well of me. My friends know of you, but I still can’t really let them know how I feel about you. They’ve all watched me get hurt in my affairs with Bob and they’re still too afraid for me yet. My best friend, Cathy and probably my sister have guessed how I feel about you, but when I see that worried look in their eyes whenever I speak of you, I must put on an act and seem as though I have no interest. I don’t want them thinking that I think I have a chance with you. I guess you’re the only one who can accept my love for you right now.
This must all seem so awful to you and in a way it frightens me. Something keeps telling me I’m playing my cards all wrong, but then love isn’t a card game. Yet, isn’t it strange that I (the female) should be certain of her love and you (the opposite) so uncertain? Somehow I just can’t picture things working out to a point of happily ever after. It just doesn’t figure out right.
Let’s see--- what do we have lined up for the “if” and “when” Christmas:
         Ice skating --- if possible
        Civic Center---perhaps
        Spaghetti dinner---if you can survive
        Snowball fight---not if I can help it. I’m going to get you by surprise and run like –
I want so much to know that you’ll truly be home for Christmas, but if not, I’ll wait and wait for March to come around. I’ll wait and wait and wait and I’ll be the sincerest waiting girl you ever knew.
Oh, by the way. I’m moving into my apartment this coming Sunday. Oh, I hope you won’t be disappointed with my castle.
I must go now. I believe it is now Nov. 7th. Yes, I was right! Please write as soon as you can.
Loving you,
Maggathie
I really loved the way Maggie would express herself,  “I’ll wait and wait and wait and I’ll be the sincerest waiting girl you ever knew.” That’s why I found her so enchanting and so different from any girl I had ever dated.
The following day, I received a small package from Maggie. Inside was a tiny octopus made from blue yarn. In the box was a short note. “I want you to meet Benjamen Leonardo Auggie. I’ve sent him to look after you.”

The following day, I received a small package from Maggie.Inside was a tiny octopus made from blue yarn. In the box was a short note. “I want you to meet Benjamen Leonardo Auggy. I’ve sent him to look after you.”
6/22/15
I sent a letter to Maggie shortly after receiving her package that contained Benjamen Leonardo Auggie. I wasn’t sure if this little blue octopus was something Maggie made or something she bought. I only knew that she wanted me to have it and it must have had a special meaning for her.
I was so excited about the possibility of coming home for Christmas. It was a year since I was last home and I couldn’t wait to see Maggie and speak to her. I hadn’t heard her voice since that time and had forgotten how it sounded.
Before 11/8/67
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
Benjamen Leonardo Auggie? A blue octopus named Benjamen Leonardo Auggie? An octopus that is blue is difficult enough to swallow, but a blue octopus named Benjamen Leonardo Auggie is an impossibility. Why Benjamen Leonardo Auggie?
I believe I told you that I’m going to Italy November 11th. My plans are to go down via Switzerland, visit Pisa, Rome, Florence and Venice, and return by way of Austria, stopping perhaps for a day in Salzburg. I think I also told you that I was taking my car.
I hope I didn’t make you sad with any of the letters I wrote last week. I wasn’t exactly in the best of moods and I’m certain this was clearly reflected in my tone of writing. I’m sorry if I caused you any sadness or confusion. Perhaps I shouldn’t write when I feel like that, and I considered not doing so, but I decided against it for one reason: I do get in those moods and I wanted you to know me as I am when I am in them.
I’m rather certain that I will either be home for Christmas or shortly afterwards. Maggathie, I cannot begin to tell you how much I look forward to seeing you. I look forward to a walk in the frigid Chicago air to see the Christmas tree at the Civic Center and The Thing. I look forward to visiting your apartment and hanging up my calendar (I mean your calendar). But I look forward most to spending a quiet evening with you; a quiet evening of listening to you play your piano; a quiet evening of just sitting and talking. Christmas is only about six more weeks away. Six more weeks certainly doesn’t sound like a long time, but when I think about it, it seems longer.
I have quite a bit to do yet tonight: shoes to shine, brass to polish etc, so I really can’t spend much more time with you. I want to thank you though for making this another pleasant evening. You know something, Maggathie, I’m getting to like you more and more every day. I’m beginning to feel somewhat guilty only signing my letters “Very Affectionately.” I speak of you very often and think of you far more.
I must go now.
More Than Very Affectionately
Dennis
P.S. Benjamen sends his best.
Maggie answered my letter quickly. I was amused by her answer to my question about why she named the blue yarn octopus “Benjamen Leonardo Auggie.”
11/8/67
Hi, My Dennis,
I am very happy today and I feel as if I could explode with this happiness. Nothing is wrong for me – and why? – your letter.
Benjie’s name is Benjamen Leonardo Auggie because he looks like a Benjamen Leonardo Auggie, don’t you think?
You never told me you had a car? Boy, oh boy, just when I’m really beginning to think that I know all about you – you go and spring something like this on me! Well, I’m not going to tell you that I’m going to New York again on the 17th, so there! ---Well, I guess I better. Den, I’m going to New York on the 17th.
I hope you don’t mind this snazzy paper, but my budget is at its breaking point so I have no other choice but to use it.
I am glad that you write to me when you get in one of your moods. Although I may have sounded confused in my replies to these letters, now that I’ve realized why they may have confused me, I feel even closer to you than before. I want now to learn to recognize your moods, accept them (that’s the easy part) and most of all to do all that I can to make you feel better even if that means just leaving you alone.
There ares so many things I must tell you when you come home. They wouldn’t mean as much to you if I wrote these things. I hope you will be here for Christmas. I will feel very lost if you aren’t, but perhaps just knowing that you will finally be home shortly will comfort that emptiness. Last Christmas was dreadful for me not only because Bob was away, but because I think I realized then that someone could have taken his place. This year I may feel lonely because you may not be here, but I doubt if anyone could take that feeling out of my heart unless it was you. If I were to tell you how very much you mean to me, you’d think I am crazy. In all honesty I have never felt this way about anyone before. I could list the things that make me feel this way, but I don’t have enough pages of this notebook left. Even more, there is a special something about you that thrills me.  A guy can be a wonderful guy, but it’s that certain something that makes you fall in love with him.
Oh, I have something to say. You may spend an evening alone with me in my apartment as often as you like, you can hang my calendar wherever you decide that it looks best, but if you wish to listen to my piano playing, we cannot be alone. (Didn’t I tell you that my piano isn’t moving until the Spring?) Well anyway, we’ll have to go to my dad’s house so that I can play for you. By the way, I play three of my most favorites that remind me of you. Really!
Well, my Dennis, I suppose I may not be hearing from you while you’re away, you may not even get this until you return! Whatever the case may be, I’ll understand if I receive no word from you, but you must promise me a letter, a long beautiful letter, as soon as time permits you to write.
Love Always,
Maggathie
6/26/15
My friend, John, and I left on a trip to Italy and expected to be gone for a little over a week. We were driving down in my Volkswagen and would be going to Rome as well as Pisa and Florence. We also hoped to visit the Island of Capri. I told Maggie about the trip because I knew I wouldn’t be writing for some time and I didn’t want her thinking I was losing interest in her. I also wanted her to know she shouldn’t worry about writing to me for a week.
Well, Maggie sent the following letter even though she knew I was gone. She wasn’t in a very good mood, thinking that so many people disapproved of some of the decisions she recently made.
As she wrote this letter, she was sleeping in her new apartment, although she was not able to move in yet until the gas and electricity were connected. So, she slept alone in and empty apartment and thought about many things that bothered her.
Maggie was very upset about something her older sister said to her (her sister was married to my brother) that frightened her and raised so many questions and doubts.
I loved the way Maggie described what she needs to be happy in this life and especially loved the way she ended this letter.
            11/14/67
My Dearest Dennis,
I must write to you tonight just knowing that I may not hear from you for a while causes me to miss you so very much.
I am in my own little home tonight --- sleeping here for the first time. I am afraid that I am rather uneasy, but believe that I shall be able to relax with time. I canonly fully appreciate my new home as only I know what it once looked like.
I’m afraid I’m still in that disturbing period of my life. I seem to be at bitter ends with everyone. I am a terrible person. I feel now as if the only way I can truly be happy is to be sheltered and protected and given my own way, petted and never opposed. I am overly touchy about my softness and seem unable to make a positive effort in any direction. To boot, I am overly anxious in regards to my future.
My sister has noticed how frequently you write. She keeps drilling it into my mind that you and I could never be. “Wait till he gets home, he’ll be sorry.” How can I win, Den? At first it seemed a joke, but now I’m not so sure.
I know what is wrong, but there is nothing I can do. Life would’ve been so easy if I had married as planned. I’d be safe and put out of everyone’s worries! Life just isn’t that way, is it? I could move to Hong Kong, but as long as I’m single, I’m still considered a scatter brain. Maturity comes with a marriage license? Poor little me; I haven’t anyone to care for me. Poor baby.
I’m afraid this letter is awful and tends to ring with self-pity. I’m not aiming for pity, honestly. Let’s just say I’m sounding off. Actually, at this moment I’m sitting back, waiting for “everyone’s” next move, hoping I know how to deal with it ---not on the defensive --- just so “everyone” won’t knock me down completely.
“Everyone” is right though. I do need someone to love and protect me as I am very insecure at this stage of my life. But where and when is the agony of it all. No --- who is the agony of it all?
I must go now before you call for men with a straight jacket. I’m not crazy, Dennis, just madly in love with you.
Maggathie
I hope you do not get frustrated with getting no more than one of two letters at a time as I am doing this for two reasons:
1. I want you to experience how it was over fifty years ago to fall in love through letters. It was slow and difficult to wait for the next letter.
2. I have many problems with this web site. Because of difficulties with letter and paragraph spacing, I often have to re-edit my entries many times before I can send it. Also, the entries often "freeze" before I can make the next one. It frequently takes me over one hour to send one entry.
***
6/29/15
I had returned home from a long trip to Italy and was happy to be in my own apartment. Although my friend, John, and I enjoyed seeing the many sights of Italy - the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the great art works in Florence, the Isle of Capri, and the majesty of Rome – driving in a Volkswagen for all that time was not the most comfortable means of transportation. Italy was great, but I couldn’t wait to see if Maggie had written any letters to me.
On the first morning back, I quickly went to the post office and found what I was hoping for.
What follows is a shorter version of the letter I wrote to Maggie. My original letter contained many details of my trip. To save the reader some of my boring observations, I’ve included only a small account of my trip.
Also, my letter responded to several letters that Maggie sent while I was gone.
11/19/67
My Dear Miss Maggithie
I have just returned from a long, tiring drive from Italy to the most heartwarming “welcome home” gift I could have ever hoped to receive: three letters from you. I had expected one and hoped for two, but never three. Thank you for brightening what had become a very long, dreary day.
(THIS IS WHERE I ELIMINATED MOST OF THE EXPERIENCES I HAD ON MY TRIP. BELIEVE ME, IT WAS BORING. I DID INCLUDE SOME OF MY IMPRESSIONS OF ROME)
Rome was the first really large Italian city that I have driven in. May I be so bold as to make a few comments about your countrymen? If cars were built without horns, Italians wouldn’t buy them. I don’t believe an Italian can drive thirty yards without announcing his presence by a loud and long “honk.” Another thing, they have absolutely no concept of what the white lines on the street mean. One side of the road will be clearly divided into two lanes, but they insist on making three or four out of them. Oh, and don’t assume that merely because a car is in the far left hand lane that he wouldn’t think of turning right. He not only thinks about it, but does it. I honestly think they really believe that as soon as they turn their directional signal on, a steel barrier separates them from the rest of the traffic letting them cross three lanes of traffic with no worries. No sooner we found a hotel (which took an hour – how a major tourist attraction like Rome could successfully hide its hotels is a mystery I’ll never understand) we parked the car and didn’t move it again until we were prepared to depart.
(AFTER WRITING ABOUT MY TRIP, I ANSWERED SOME ITEMS IN MAGGIE’S LETTERS)
How stupid of me. Now that I look a little closer, especially at his eyes, I can fully understand why you could have named him nothing else but Benjamen Leonardo Auggie.
“Didn’t I tell you that my piano isn’t moving until the Spring?” Yes, you did, but I, unfortunately, didn’t receive this letter until I had already mailed mine. What do professional movers charge to transport a piano several blocks. The price must be high if it forces you to be without it until Spring.
I’m very sorry that you were in the mood that your last letter indicated. I’m sorry, but I’m glad you didn’t keep it to yourself. I only wish I was there to comfort you instead of making futile attempts via airmail. You can say just so much in a letter, but words, no matter how comforting, cannot replace a gentle hand on the cheek, a soft caress, and even a good cry on someone’s shoulder. These moods will continue to come and while they do, all you can do is weather them as best you can. You’ll continue to think such things as “Life would’ve been so uncomplicated if I had married as planned.” but an honest look at the reasons for your decision will reveal, in most cases, that you acted correctly.
“I feel now as if the only way I can truly be happy is to be sheltered and protected and given my own way, petted and never opposed.” And by this, Miss Maggathie, you indicate that you are an average person. Who wouldn’t want to be petted and never opposed? Who wouldn’t, but who really expects it? Do you realize that the statement above contains one of the ideal characteristics of a perfect wife: “I feel now as if the only way I can truly be happy is to be sheltered and protected.”  What man doesn’t want a woman who makes him feel that she is lost without him? Keep feeling this way, Maggathie, too many women today have lost this.
I’m sorry, Maggathie, but I’m going to have to stop now. If I hope to get this letter in the mail for Monday’s pick up, I’m going to have to address it now. I’ll write again as soon as time allows.
Very Affectionately,
Dennis
P.S. Perhaps you should begin cooking the spaghetti now. Upon my return from Italy, I was informed by one of my friends that the Major had my trip back home arranged. Now I’m not certain if it’ll be for Christmas or shortly afterwards. I’ll find out at work tomorrow.
Again, Very Affectionately + More
Dennis
I ended my letter with a P.S. telling Maggie that I’m expecting to hear from my superior that my trip home to the United States has been approved. I’m so excited to be seeing Maggie for Christmas. It has been a year since I last saw her or heard her voice. I made the comment about “cooking the spaghetti” because in one of her earlier letters to me, Maggie said she couldn’t wait to serve me “her version of her mother’s version of her grandmother’s version of spaghetti.”
Also, I signed my letter the way I did because I wanted Maggie to know that my feelings for her were growing, but I still couldn\'t say "I love you."
I knew I would have a hard time waiting for Maggie to write back. I was sure she would like the news that I was expecting to be home for Christmas.

***

7/3/15 (Today is Maggie\'s birthday)
Maggie answered my letter almost immediately. She began by telling me about some of the difficulties she was facing now that she was living totally on her own. She didn’t have much money to pay her many new bills, but was determined to make it work.
Maggie is also very excited about me coming home for Christmas. Both she and I have gotten to know each other well through our letters, but my coming home for Christmas will give us a chance to actually see, hear and touch each other. We will no longer be only words on a page. Christmas was a little more than a month away and Maggie and I couldn’t wait until it came.
                                                                                                                        11/22/67
My Dearest Dennis,
I must say I’m a nervous wreck. I owe so much money that I think I sail for Canadai n the morning. I guess I bit off more than I could chew. Actually, it isn’t all that bad except that I’m broke and won’t get paid until December 3rd and have just been greeted with a $20 bill for a deposit from the electric company and dread to see what kind of a deposit I need for gas Friday. I get my stove and refrigerator (at least they’re paid in full and make my household complete). So never fear, by the time you’re home I’ll be in the pink again and with my luck will develop some new problem to moan about.
Please don’t think I’m hinting for money as I know I’ll solve this somehow and it would only embarrass me if you did. Besides, you probably couldn’t help if you wanted to. Now don’t take that as an insult. I’m simply letting you know that I’m not really in trouble, but need at least one person to confide in. I believe you’re the only one who really knows how weak I am. I can’t imagine why I’m worried. I’m sure millions have my problem.
AnswerTime:
In my situation $4.99 would be too steep to move a piano a few blocks. Besides, I’m not sure if this house could undergo the weight of the thing. If you’ll allow me to brag a little, it’s a $2,400 piano with the components of a baby grand (if that’s spelled right). Although it is quite compact, it weighs nearly as much. In other words, 2000 lbs. of feathers weighs as much as 2000 lbs. of cement.
I received your postcard and was happy to know that you were thinking of me even in the midst of paradise. (MAGGIE IS ITALLIAN) Ooops, I guess I’m exaggerating a little when I say paradise, but you can get the general idea of what I mean, can’t you?
Do I seem silly in this letter? I don’t know if I’m hysterically happy because I’ve heard from you or just plain going out of my mind.
I really am happy at this moment: a warm, cozy apartment, a good cup of coffee, soft whispers of Barbra Streisand and a letter from you. What more could a girl ask for except that the “you” could be person spoken to instead of person written to.
I’m rather confused by your P.S. informing me that I should maybe start cooking the spaghetti, but I won’t go into it. It’ll probably be straightened out as soon as your next letter arrives. I believe it has to do with a mix up of words ---before and after. Forget it!
All I’m asking is that I see you. I don’t care if it is just for one hour (yes I do), but I most definitely am anxious to see you whether it be before, after or good, old Christmas itself.
I must run now. I’m still not unpacked, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I must marinate theTurkey (which is at my dad’s house) and if I don’t wash my hair, I’ll be able to serve it as a substitute for string beans.
LovingYou,
Maggathie
The following letter from me to Maggie was being sent by me the day before Maggie sent her letter in which she stated her excitement to see me at Christmas.  Our letters crossed in the mail.
   11/21/67
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
This is going to be a somewhat short, but very unpleasant letter. You had better put the spaghetti back in the box; I won’t be home for Christmas – or for New Years. The attempt the Major made to arrange my trip back home was not successful. The circumstances are too complicated to explain so I will not even try. Let’s just say that I will not be spending my holiday at home.
I can’t begin to tell you what a disappointment this was to me. I had so looked forward to the several events we had planned. I was so certain that everything would work out alright that I had no intention of wrapping my Christmas gifts. I had intended to carry them home with me. But this isn’t important. What bothers me most is that we will not spend Christmas together.
But all is not black. The Major is still attempting to arrange a trip home for me sometime in January. I hesitate to be overly optimistic again, but I feel very certain that he will be successful. So, don’t throw the spaghetti away – just sort of store it in the cabinet for awhile.
I want to write more, Miss Maggathie, but I am very pressed for time. I regret that I must be nothing but a bearer of sad tidings in this letter. As soon as the opportunity presents itself, I will write again.
Very Affectionately +,
Dennis
***
7/6/15
I was so looking forward to coming home for Christmas and felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach when my superioor told me that it couldn\'t be arranged at this time. We were short of staff for the holidays and weren\'t able to let anyone go home. I knew this would upset Maggie and couldn\'t wait to receive her letter telling me how bad she felt. She responded immediately.
11/24/67
My Dearest Dennis,
If you knew how disappointed I am at this moment, you’d go AWOL (ABSENT WITHOUT OFFICIAL LEAVE). Just when I was beginning to think that tings couldn’t get worse --- Dennis can’t come home for Christmas! I feel hurt for your family alone, let alone worrying about the loneliness I’ll feel during the holidays.
We do have a brighter side to look at. For one thing, we’ll appreciate each other’s company a little more. And there’s a better chance for the ice skating, and what the heck – spaghetti’s good any time of the year. Cheer up, Dennis, things really can’t get worse. I told you that calendar could wait until March and I suppose I can too.
I won’t be able to hide my feelings of sadness though. So very much depended on your homecoming that I find it very difficult forcing a smile.
I nearly had a heart attack before reading on after you stated that your letter would be unpleasant. I though for a moment that you were going to tell me it was all over. I guess that bit of bad news will save itself for another month when I feel things couldn’t get worse.
I honestly think sometimes that somebody’s put the hex on me. Nothing is going my way at all. Next thing you’ll know, I’ll be in a mental hospital. Oh, I guess I should stop feeling sorry for myself. I know I’m lucky when I compare myself to some people. I vow not to make everyone’s Christmas miserable by sulking. I’ll feel the hurt, but won’t show it. Now I’m making a real martyr out of myself. Forgive me please. I don’t want to sound selfish, but at least you’ve got some idea of how I feel about you.
I have so many hopes about us. I feel that I shouldn’t dream about what may never be, but it’s my nature to daydream and be anxious about the future.
What really frightens me now is that I’ll be a different person in your eyes when you see me than in my letters. It’s one thing to have a guy interested in you and it’s another to let him really get to know you. I’m almost certain that you’ll be disappointed just as you were with the beauties I’ve watched you pass by.
I don’t know why I’m so worried. Others have passed me by and I was rather glad of it, but you, you’re something really special.
What respect could you possibly have for me? I write letters and all I do is feel sorry for myself, or degrade myself! You probably think I’m a real reject.
Good news! My stove and refrigerator have arrived. There’s nothing to stop that dinner for two now. Now I have a real house. Just one more person – you – could make it a home. Don’t run, Dennis, I don’t have wedding bells in my ears --- yet --- just the thought that with someone I really care for here, it could be a full-fledged “home.” (Will you please calm down, I’m not pushing anything!)
I don’t really feel like making Christmas plans, but I think I’ll really go crazy if I sulked. I promised my girlfriend, Carole, we’d spend New Year’s Eve together if you didn’t come in. We’ll probably join in on a party or hit the loop area. As for Christmas, I’ll stick with the family (depression!). I was asked to fly to New York and spend Christmas there, but I don’t really feel up to it and my family is more important on that holiday.
I pray that you’ll be in during January, but March is close enough to dissolve any disappointment if you can’t make it.
I feel that I should be ashamed for being disgusted with Uncle Sam. After all, we really owe it to him. I’m glad I was born a girl. All he can do is tax me!
Chin up, old boy, I’ll do everything I can to make it Christmas when you finally do come in. I’ll even, I’ll even go caroling as long as there’s snow on the ground. When you come home it will be Christmas --- for me anyway.
I haven’t thought about presents yet (financially I’m embarrassed), but I’ll do my best at giving you a present that money can’t buy. The trouble is --- what! I’ll think of something. I’ve got it--- and you’re getting it. (Poor guy)
Well, I better get to my duties for this evening. Sears does a wonderful job of dirtying every floor, ashtray, wall etc.in the house when they deliver. I’m not complaining, I’m simply stating a fact.
Please pardon my disgust that I show in this letter. It’s just that you’re by far my biggest happiness and Christmas won’t be gay without you.
Love,
Maggathie
One sentence makes me uneasy – “I was asked to fly to New York and spend Christmas there.” Who’s asking Maggie to fly to New York for Christmas? How do I ask without sounding as if I’m suspicious? And still, I have no right to question her. I’ve made no commitments. She can do whatever she wants and go wherever she wants.
***
July 10, 2015
The continued conflict on the island of Cyprus between Turkish and Greek Cypriots flared up again. This significantly increased tension between Greece and Turkey. Diplomatic involvement of the United States and other countries escalated the flow of classified material and I was very busy making courier trips to allied countries. I had little time to write to Maggie or respond to her letter. All I could do was send a short letter.
                                                                                                                                    After11 / 24/67
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
Forgive me. Again I must write a short letter. I have received two letters from you in as many days and I do not have the time to properly answer one of them. The turmoil between Turkey and Greece has placed a burden upon our station which greatly limits my free time.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, I must go to Munich on business and will not return to Heidelberg until Friday evening. I’m afraid I won’t be able to write to you until this week-end.
I want so badly to write. There are so many things I want to say to you. You have sounded so sad in parts of your last two letters and time allows me to do nothing else but accept your moods and idly stand by. How helpless I feel.
I don’t feel very well tonight; my legs are weak and I seem to have a fever. Wouldn’t you know it? Today I get the first flu shot I’ve had in three years and I’m probably catching the flu.
God – these last two letters I’ve written must really be cheering you up. I’m sorry, Miss Maggathie, honestly I am. I’ll make it up to you this weekend.
Most Affectionately,
Dennis
P.S. You didn’t tell me about your trip to New York. Please do.
P.P.S. Please don’t stop dreaming or being anxious about the future
P.P.P.S. I’m sorry, Miss Maggathie, I must go.
P.P.P.P.S. Write soon. I need your letters.
***
The next letter I received from Maggie frightened me and was like a slap in the face.
Around 11/27/67
My Dearest Dennis,
My grandmother is dead. Forgive me for writing this so bluntly, but I sat there and watched and lived through her “death rattle” and now she is dead.
I’m frightened and dazed, not so much because of death itself, but because I have lost her, the one who loved me most of all. I was her favorite, for me she would’ve died and I gave her ---nothing and now she is gone. Every creak in the woodwork, every chill in the air I feel, causes me to be frightened and heightens a desire to run, but where?
And things couldn’t have gotten any worse just two days ago! How I need you now! As much as I try not to force you into commitment, I sincerely need you now whether you would wish to help me or not. I believe you would. If you were here, I would feel at least half-human and half-myself. Would you? Could you? I am not worthy of you. I must stop this dreaming.
So much lies ahead. Arguments over “who” gets “what,” “who” did this much and “who” did that much and already they (her children) have grabbed the unclaimed. I’ve been cast aside. I should say that I have seeped into the scenery. I am nothing. Why and how can they look at the “what do we get”side of it?
There’s a will. My name is mentioned and yet I won’t hear it. I can’t. It won’t be “real” to me.
I’ll always remember the stories she told me of life. Her own little parables that were funny in broken English and yet so face slapping full of truth.
No one will ever cook like she did. My spaghetti will never even come close to the banquet she made out of noodles and a little tomato paste. I haven’t got the magic she had in her cooking.
I’m glad I am away from the building on Archer. Certainly it will go to the dogs. No one will make the hallway smell bleachy clean, and no one will be there to sew up a loose hem at a moment’s notice, or give me a hard fight about how stiff my hair is.
At the very end my uncle gave a speech and mentioned that it was I, above all, even her own children, that she loved and worried about most. She told me that living or dead, she would take care of me.
Perhaps she will take care of me now. I hope so. I need to be taken care of by someone.I don’t want to go on alone anymore. I am afraid and tired of fighting alone. I’m going to find someone to love me. I’ll know it when it comes because when  I look into a pair of eyes that are one with mine in love, I won’t be able to see them because they’ll almost be my eyes. I must leave you. No more dreams.
Maggathie
I felt so bad for Maggie. Her grandmother was dead. She lost a second ‘mother’ and I could do nothing. She was in such pain and here I sat, an ocean apart, unable to do anything but put some words on paper to try to comfort her.
I was also very concerned about her last two sentences: I must leave you. No more dreams. Was she giving up on me?
I sent Maggie two letters – one regarding the death of her grandmother – the other was about those last two sentences.
***
7/13/15
The first letter I sent to Maggie after she wrote about her grandmother’s death was to let Maggie know how sorry I was for her and how helpless I felt that I could do nothing more than write some words.
Early December 67
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
It is at times like this that one fully realizes how limited words can be. Any phrase I might use to attempt to express my condolences seems so empty. What am I to say?
In all honesty, I cannot feel what you feel. I have never experienced the loss of someone so dear to me. I can only hope to understand, and in my understanding, hope to share in your loss.
You have lost a second mother and, grief stricken, turn for a shoulder to lean on. And all I can offer is a few simple sentences; a frail attempt to ease your pain. One can’t lean too heavily on a sheet of paper.
I feel so utterly useless. You are so sad and so desperately in need of someone and I can do nothing. I can only sit, an ocean apart, and attempt to convince you that you are not alone; that the void you feel is shared by someone who cares very much for you. I can only say that I want so badly to be by your side so that you may rest your head upon my shoulder and cry until the tears refuse to come; so that I may hold you near, hold you so near and so tight that you would gain a degree of comfort from knowing that there is someone upon whom you can depend. I can only say this and do no more. And because I can only say this, I feel as though I have failed you. The time has come when you need me most, need me, not simply words, and I can do nothing.
Dennis
***
I was shaken to my core—not only because Maggie’s grandmother died; not only because of the grief Maggie was suffering; and not because I couldn’t do much to comfort her. No, I was shaken more by the way she ended her letter “I’m going to find someone to love me… I must leave you. No more dreams.”
I was afraid Maggie had given up on me. I knew these past few weeks had been very difficult for her: living on her own, feeling frightened and lonely, her mounting bills, her sister telling her she had no chance with me and Maggie believing it, my guardedly expressing my feelings for her, my not coming home for Christmas, my sending two very short letters at a time she’s feeling so low—and now her grandmother’s death.
I couldn’t let her give up on me!
The following day, I wrote another letter to Maggie. I was frightened and afraid of losing her and I wanted her to know what she meant to me.
I was a longer letter and I don\'t have time to write it now. (A FAMILY MEDICAL EMERGENCY IS TAKING UP MUCH OF MY TIME NOW. I WILL SEND THE LONGER LETTER AT A LATER DATE.)
***
July 19, 2015
I sent the second letter to Maggie the day after my last one. I was so shaken by the end of her last letter that I had to tell her how it made me feel. I didn’t want her to give up on me, yet I still couldn’t make more of a commitment. I felt I again had to tell her what saying “I love you” meant to me and how I couldn’t say it until I was absolutely certain.
Also, I was frightened that Maggie imagined me to be far more than who I was. I felt she had this idealized image of me and I feared she would be disappointed when we finally were together. She had built me up so much in her mind that I couldn’t possibly meet her expectations.
***
Early December 1967
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
I am terribly depressed. The last sentence of your most recent letter has greatly saddened me. Three little words and their meaning has cast a sad shadow upon any future plans I had imagined. “No more dreams,” and by this you imply that you have lost hope in me. “No more dreams” is like you’re saying “We don’t stand a chance. I cannot continue for four months without being certain of how it will end. I will not wait.”
What am I to do, Miss Maggathie? You have stated in previous letters that you do not wish to force me into a commitment, yet what am I to do when I’m faced with  the possibility of losing you? What am I to do when the only girl who means anything to me says, “I must have an answer – now. I cannot wait.”  What am I to do when it is impossible to give this answer?
You don’t know, Miss Maggathie, the tremendous fear I have of saying “ I love you.”The word “love” is so full of meaning, so full of responsibilities that I dare not utter it until I am certain. When I say “I love you,” it won’t simply mean that I find you physically and mentally attractive or that I place you above any other girl – it will mean far more than this. When I say “I love you,” it will mean I want you for my wife; I want you to be the mother of my children; I want you to stand by my side as long as life permits. It will mean that you are the one who complements me, who makes me whole. When I say “I love you,” it will mean that my life is yours. Everything I do, everything I hope to do, all my wildest dreams, all my fondest desires are for you. When I say “I love you,”it will mean that there is no other and far more important, that there will be no other. This is why I must be certain. This is why I cannot speak; why I must hide my feelings in hidden phrases. Please try to understand, Miss Maggathie – you must.
“I must leave you. No more dreams.” Every time I read that, Miss Maggathie, every time I grasp the full implications of those last three words, I feel a numbness which frightens me. I don’t want you to stop dreaming, Miss Maggathie, for from your dreams arise my hopes.
I have reread several of your most recent letters and I am so worried about how you see our relationship:
      “I’m almost certain that you’ll be disappointed just as you were with the beauties I’ve watched you pass by.” (Nov. 24th)
      Speaking of your sister – “She keeps drilling it into my mind that you and I could never be …At first it seemed a joke, but now I’m not so sure.” (Nov 14th)
      “…but the thought that your feelings may have cooled some by now kept haunting every word. Even as I read today’s letter, my heart sank because you signed off ‘Affectionately’ instead of ‘Very Affectionately’ Am I crazy?” (Nov 1) Yes, Miss Maggathie, you are.)
      “I thought … you were going to tell me it was all over. I guess that bit of bad news will save itself for another month when I feel things couldn’t get worse.” (Nov 24th)
      “I am not worthy of you.” (Nov 27th)
Such comments have been far too common. At first I thought you were simply in a bad mood that caused you to make such comments, but the frequency of them has made me think otherwise. If you honestly believe that we could never be one because I am too good for you, then you do us both a grave injustice. As flattered as I have been with your many compliments, Miss Maggathie, I am not the man you think I am. Why you have fallen so in love with me is something I cannot understand, and why you see me as you do is more than reason enough for me to accept the truth of the saying “Love is blind.”  It is not you who should fear my disappointment, but rather I who should fear yours. And I do, Miss Mggathie, more than you can imagine. You have placed me upon a pedestal, a pedestal upon which I may find it impossible to maintain my balance. I’m frightened of such heights, Miss Maggathie, frightened of falling and shattering the image you have of me.
“I don’t want to go on alone anymore. I am afraid and tired of fighting alone.” I am saddened to think that you feel this way. If you feel that you have faced your problems by yourself; if you truly believe that you have stood with no one by your side, then I have suffered in vain. I have failed you again. You turned to me when you were troubled and I failed to convince you that I was concerned; that I was happy when you were happy, sad when you were sad; that what you felt, I felt – that you were not alone. If I have failed you in this, then I could not have failed you more seriously. If I have failed you in this, I do not deserve your love.
Maggathie, you signed your last letter simply “Maggathie.” Promise me you’ll never sign without “Love” again. Please.
Very Affectionately,
Dennis
***
I didn’t know how Maggie was going to respond to my letter. I was fearful that she had tired of my not telling her what she wanted to hear and I guess I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had decided to give up on me. I prayed that she would respond quickly and tell me she still cared. I didn’t know how long I would have to wait for her answer and I feared what that answer might be.   
***
7/26/15
SORRY FOR THE DELAY. THE MEDICAL EMERGENCY IN MY FAMILY THAT HAS TAKEN UP MUCH OF MY TIME IS OVER AND ALL IS WELL.
I received two letters from Maggie during the next two days. Both if them were in response to my letter in which I expressed my sorrow about the death of her grandmother. She had not yet received my letter in which I told her why I couldn\'t tell her "I love you."
***
                                                                                                                                                12/4/67
My Dearest Dennis,
I had intended on forgetting about you. But just as the doubt of the future tells me to find someone else, so does my love for you tell me that I must wait until I am sure there is nothing to hope for. I know you’ve said many things to me which mean so very much. That you care for me far more than any other girl, that I may play a major role in your future plans, that your Christmas will be ruined mainly because we will not be spending it together… There is so much that I should be grateful for. So many things you’ve said and meant without even spending as much as one evening with me, and still I feel that I need more, much more than that.
It probably all comes down to all the problems I’ve had recently. I don’t think I can take much more. With everything going badly and no one there who really cares, it all isn’t easy to accept. I admit that my family and friends have cared and helped me in many ways, but I guess financial aid and good advice are still far less that what I’m searching for.
You’ve thrown me off by telling me not to stop being anxious about the future. Perhaps you didn’t realize how much you’re involved in that future. If you did realize I was referring to you, than for heaven’s sake please don’t build my hopes up only to send me crashing toward a heart break.
I can’t help myself, Dennis. I am really in love with you. My romantic life is thrilling, flashy, and even warmed with true loves, but I can give nothing in return as you and only you have my all. I don’t know what to do anymore.
It’s not that you don’t write often enough, and it’s not that you’re far away. My doubts are your doubts. What more can I say? I realize that I am or seem to be pushing you and how I despise myself for acting this way.
I have just reread all that I have written so far. It seems as if I’ve asked you to make a choice, but I’m not sure if that’s what I want. Perhaps if you did make a choice, I’d lose you. I keep telling myself not to mail this letter. I know it’s a terrible letter, but it’s the way I feel, almost naked because you’ve learned my innermost thoughts.
I mustn’t write anymore I have already said too much.
Because I love you,
Maggathie
***
I received the following letter the next day. Maggie had still not received my second letter.
                                                                                                                                                                                                     12/5/67
My Dearest Dennis,
Have you given up trying to care for me? As I read your last letter, I saw some kind of love showing me that you really care. You have not failed me. But as I read on, I felt that you were falling away from me as if you walked out on me.
Why is it that in times of misfortune we seem to drift apart rather than becoming closer to one another? Perhaps it is my fault. Have I ever given you happiness? No, only a love that might not mean much to you via air mail, only problems and heartaches that you can share and worry about without the satisfaction of feeling that you’ve helped me, and perhaps a silly blue octopus named Benjie.
I can only hope to explain how I intended my humble offerings to bring you happiness.
First of all I want you to know that Benjamen Leonardo Auggie is a very good friend of mine. He’s sort of been that substitute for a shoulder to cry on. When I gave him to you, I hoped that the two of you together might do a better job of picking me up to my feet again.
You have helped me so much, Dennis. You have listened to me. You have advised and consented. You have hoped for me. This alone is far more than I ever expected. You haven’t been here physically, but you, wonderful you, gave me the warmth of an embrace from away across an ocean.
My love for you is genuine. It has lasted through doubts and fears, unbearable heartaches, exciting romances and all via air mail.
I have crushed my feelings of impatience. I’m back to the way of giving you all that I can and freely accepting all that you can give without frustration, or anxiety. I am myself again.
Our last few letters have been strained, almost as if we bled the words. My only hope now is that there is still something left for you to give; still something left so that you can continue accepting my love.
As Always,
Maggathie
After this second letter from Maggie, it was obvious to me that she had not yet received my letter in which I explain why I cannot tell her "I love you."
Two days later I received Maggie\'s response to my letter. She must have received it the day afterwards. I had been so eager to get it and now I hesitated opening it for fear she might not understand.  
***
7/31/15
Maggie finally received my “Early December“ letter in which I tried to explain why I couldn’t tell her “I love you.” I had been waiting for her response, but I was afraid what it might be.
I was worried she would tell me that my reasons weren’t good enough and that she would insist that I make a strong commitment or she would find someone else. I knew she said that her love for me was “genuine” and that she had “crushed her feelings of impatience,” but how would she react when she actually read my reasons for not saying those three words she wanted to hear so badly. My hands trembled as I opened her letter.
***
                                                                                                                                                                        12/6/67
My Dearest Dennis,
I received another letter from you tonight. I am hanging between happiness and sadness. I am sad because you are depressed. I can only hope that my last two letters will lift away that feeling. You feel that you have failed me and you have not. I am happy because I have had an enlightenment. How foolish I was to have pushed you; to have asked you to commit yourself when you have already committed yourself without my asking.
I can wait until you can tell me face to face that you love me only if you really will mean all that it implies. I never want you to say those three words until they say all of what you said they would.
I can say them to you and I mean it. I haven’t placed you on a throne, Dennis. I’ve only told you of what I have learned about you. My only disappointment in you could be that you cannot love me. If that happens, it will be difficult for me at first, but life will go on.
I am in a new social whirl right now. Everything is beginning to work out. My bills have stabilized to go along with my earnings; I have met many new acquaintances; my job is going along smoothly and you’ll be home in four months.
I’m taking flying lessons. My first will be this Saturday and I must admit, I’m pretty shaky about a prop plane.
My dreams are still alive, Dennis. I hope you realize that. I don’t think anything can stop them, unless you do.
I hope you don’t regret that our relationship has gone this far. Even if it doesn’t turn out, I pray that you won’t regret whatever closeness we have now.
Please go on hoping, my Dennis, or else my dream must die.
Love,
Maggathie
***
I answered Maggie’s letter that very evening. Although it was a long difficult day and a very busy week, I couldn’t wait to tell Maggie how happy I was about her letter.
                                                                                                                                                                           After12 / 7/67
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
I am very sleepy now. It’s 10:00 p.m., Thursday night, and it has not been a good week at all. We’ve been working about eleven hours a day since this week began and I think it’s beginning to take its toll. Not difficult work, nothing back breaking or mind rending, just long hours, long, weary hours.
But I must write to you Miss Maggathie, write and thank you. I had not been happy this week. I’ve been moping about the office, forcing smiles and pretending good cheer. Couldn’t even help myself. Didn’t know why I felt this way –just one of my moods, I guess. But then Thursday afternoon – a letter from you; a warm, beautiful letter.
You really do love me, don’t you Miss Maggathie? Why? Why? Why? I shouldn’t question. To question why you love me would be like a poor man questioning a gift of one million dollars. This is not the time for poor men to ask questions.
How I’m going to miss you this Christmas. A girl I’ve never dated; a girl I haven’t been alone with for more than twenty minutes; and because of you, this Christmas will be my least joyous. Strange? Perhaps not so strange.
I mailed your Christmas gift yesterday. Wrapped it at work. It’s only a small gift, but about three of my friends helped me with the wrapping. They know what I feel for you and just had to share my joy. You may find the wrapping a bit strange and perhaps a bit childish, but it had to be something special.
Miss Maggathie, why are you taking flying lessons? I don’t mean to be questioning your decision, but I’d be a liar to pretend that I’m not. In all honesty, it doesn’t seem to be a wise investment. Then again, I’ve always been a bit too practical minded. A friend of mine once told me that I should do something, anything, just for the hell of it. “Get out of your rut’” he used to say. “Forget the expense and people’s opinion and follow a whim for once without calculating the advantages and disadvantages. Do it now while you can. Get it out of your system before it’s too late.” Perhaps he’s right.
Now I’m not very certain I’ll be home in January. The Major’s answers to recent questions have not been as promising as I had hoped they would be. The nearest thing to a“yes” I can get is “I’ll do my best.” What frightens me is that his best may not be good enough. Too much depends on the unpredictable.
I am so tired. Please excuse me for not writing more.
Most Affectionately,
Dennis
***
8/3/15
Maggie sent the following letter before she received mine and was not responding to anything I said; she simply wanted to write a letter to me.
Early in this letter she mentioned being caught in a lightning and rain storm which frightened her very much. Maggie had been struck by lightning earlier in her life while at home, sitting on a radiator, talking on the telephone. The bolt hit so close that it knocked her across the room and all the tiles on the wall in the kitchen, wherever there was wiring, popped off. She survived that strike, but had a deep respect for lightning all her life.
Maggie also gave me the lyrics to a Barbra Streisand song that expressed the fear she had that I would see her differently than I might in her letters when we finally did get together. She wanted so badly for me to come home, but she feared that if it would only be for a few days, I might not see who she really was.
I loved the way she signed off on this letter.
                                                                                                                                                               12/10/67
My Dearest Dennis,
It’s one of those days again when I find it difficult to keep myself from writing to you. Today was not my day, just not my day. Nothing drastic, just plain full of calamities.
At 9:30 A.M. I was awakened by an obscene phone call. At 2:30 P.M. I had my landlord and family up here for a spaghetti dinner. As I put the spaghetti into the bubbling water up to the top tiny little worms came a floating (no extra spaghetti --- no stores open). At 5:30P.M. I decided to visit my sister Patsy, it started to lightning and down came the rain as I stood petrified at the corner. It’s only 8:00 pm --- what next,my love?
(This letter sags).
I didn’t fly yesterday. We spent half a day at Campbell Airport waiting for a clearance and that old rain just wouldn’t give up. Oh well, there’s plenty of Saturdays in a year.
My sister gave me a picture of you and now I have three. One (with the bird on your head) is taped to my desk at work so I may gaze at it throughout the day. One is in my wallet to be carried wherever I go. This one shall be placed with mine on the stereo. Togetherness! (sigh). How handsome art thou!
I’m really trying to get that old Christmas spirit. Tomorrow I’ll hang decorations and perhaps send out my cards. Most of what I have is home-made. I like them though. Next Monday I’ll put up my genuine aluminum tree and probably will do my Christmas shopping (I’m not going all out this year). Songs like “Home for the Holidays,” or “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” sort of crush everything, but the way I look at it is that Christmas will be late this year. December 25th will be everyone’s Christmas, but mine won’t come until January or March or April or May, is it? Are you coming home in January? (Silly question, if you knew you’d tell me) Right?
I’m listening to Barbra Streisand. A song just reminded me of you. It’s called “Will He Like Me?” It goes,
                                Will he like me?
                                Will the shy and quiet girl he’s going to see
                                Be the one that he’s imagined me to be.
                                Will he like me?
                                Will he like the girl he sees?
                                If he doesn’t, will he know enough to know
                                That there’s more to me than I may always show?
                                Will he like me?
                                Will he know that there’s a world of love
                                Waiting to warm him.
                                How I’m hoping that his eyes and ears
                                Won’t misinform him.
                                Will he like me?
                                When I’ll see him seems a million years away
                                It’s insanity to worry so all day.
                                Will he like me?
                                He’s just got to.
                                Will he like me?
                                He’s just got to.
Uh, wake up, Dennis! Dennis?
I must go now. (All out of writing paper). I wish you were here. I want you near me always. How I pray that my dreams will come true. I hope for your hopes and live for my dreams. Some life! Maybe someday…maybe someday you’ll love me
As I love you,
Maggathie
I\'m attaching the picture Maggie mentioned - the one of me with the bird on my head. The picture was taken when I was in Trafalgar Square in London. I apologize if the picture is too large. I\'m not sure how to size it.

***
Maggie followed this letter with a very short one that she quickly wrote while at work. Although she was no longer living with her father, Maggie helped him with decorating his apartment for Christmas, buying/addressing and mailing his Christmas cards, and buying Christmas gifts for him to give to his family.
12/11/67
My Dearest Dennis,
I am very pressed for time. With this holiday season coming up, I now have two houses to prepare for Christmas, two sets of Christmas cards to write out, and two shopping lists to fill (my helpless father).
I’m very depressed because I have only a few minutes now (at work) to write and there is so much that I have to say to you. I promise I will make it all up to you.
Don’t buy me a thing for Christmas. My present will be your homecoming and I’m prepared to accept that belated gift. (You won’t receive your present until I can hand it to you). Christmas is the day Dennis F. Depcik gets back to Chicago, not December 25th.
There is so much I wish to tell you, but my boss will murder me if he finds me writing when I’m supposed to be working.
I miss you.
Loving you,
Maggathie
***
8/8/15
Before I had a chance to answer either of Maggie’s last two letters, I received two more from her. I had been very busy with courier trips within Germany and was also spending a lot of time at the courier station developing a new security system for the classified material we received. The following two letters from Maggie were written just a few days apart.
The following letter was Maggie’s response to my letter where I told her “You really do love me, don’t you Miss Maggathie? Why? Why? Why? I shouldn’t question.”
Once again I loved the way Maggie ended one of her letters. Christmas falls on December 25th, but since I wouldn’t be home then, Maggie refused to wish me a “Merry Christmas,” because it wouldn’t be Christmas for us.
***
                                                                                       December 16 Around, 1967 (by Maggie's letter was not dated)
My Dearest Dennis,
I’ve finally found a chance to write to you. I haven’t heard from you in a while and I’m guessing that with all of Europe’s troubles you must be very busy.
Tis the season to be jolly --- fa la la la la-la la la la!
                        Don’t be discouraged
                           or full of the mopes!
                        Think of tomorrow –
                           and all of its hopes
                        Don’t force a smile
                           don’t feign good cheer.
                        Tomorrow, my love,
                           will soon be here
                        You must be strong
                           in all that you do
                        because if you’re sad
                           I’ll feel that way too!
                        Let us be happy
                           although you’re away
                        and make your homecoming
                           our Christmas day
                                                      The End
Ain’t I silly!-------------??
Yes, I really do love you, Dennis ----- and don’t ask questions.
You’re going to miss me this Christmas ---not nearly as much as I’ll miss you. Oh, I have the weekend filled with things to do (office parties, family reunions, friendly get togethers, etc.), but I’ll be empty inside because half of me will be missing --- you. (It’s sounding as if we’re married), but really, if you have ever studied Astrology (ahem) I am Cancer (the moon) and you are Leo (the sun) and the moon reflects the light of the sun. So, if you’re not around, it will be a cold, dark Christmas. And you know, Christmas can’t be cold and dark, so (whew) Dec. 25th can’t be Christmas. (I’m babbling again). I love you!
Stop! My landlady just brought my mail to me (a package from you). I refuse to open it until Christmas!! Thank you for the present but let me save my “real” thank you for when I open it. (It rattles!) (It’s lightweight) (It’s small). I bet it’s a tape!! No, maybe, maybe it’s --- no---perfume? a picture? a knick-knack? I’ll go crazy!!!!!! No, I refuse to open it until Christmas.
Oh, Dennis, I feel so badly I didn’t send your present. I wanted to give it to you in person. I doubt if you’ll like it---- you may think it too personal --- oh well. Can you wait until you’ll be home? Oh, I feel awful. I’ll send it as soon as I can. Oh, please forgive me! Probably everyone sent you a present, and I – the one who claims to love you most – like a dope, I wanna wait! Oh boy!
Flying lessons?---- an investment? I should have explained this to you before but my lessons are a “pay” you might say. I’m doing extra secretarial work for a young man at work and he repays me by giving me lessons in flying. I know it sounds very fishy, but really it’s all very businesslike. He’s a young accountant and knows flying. He started a small charter service (on the side) and needed someone to take the secretarial obligations (me). I could’ve gotten a regular salary, but thought that free lessons would be the chance of a life time. I’m really taking this seriously. I’ll never buy a plane I know, or may not ever set foot in one after my final lesson, but it’s fun to be up there and  it’s exciting to know that you’re up there controlling everything.
You must be home in January. If you’re not, I’ll be tempted to come to see you!
Oh, Dennis, I must run and do some last minute shopping.
I must go. Merry December 25th.
With deep love,
Maggathie
***
I received Maggie’s second letter the following day.
                                                                                                                                               December 18, 1967
My Dearest Dennis,
I have some surprising news to tell you. First of all, I must have told you that I received a letter of commendation. Now I’ve received a $20 raise and a new part-time position. I am now a model for the lingerie company I work for, Gossard-Artemus. It all came about as they searched for a girl who’s a size medium. I still have my regular job, but everyThursday I’ll model and my salary will be $10 an hour. What I’ll be doing is modeling originals that our designers have made. I’ll be modeling for 5 different types of people: our engineers to see the construction of the garment, our quality control directors to see if the quality is up to par, our production executives to decide if the garment will sell, salesmen to see if the public will be satisfied and of course, the designers themselves. I can’t hide my excitement. Clunky Maggie the model.
I do have my problems still. I have a new acquaintance known as the “Heckler.” He calls constantly, usually to say things that aren’t very nice and last night he waited for me to get to the top of my stairway and then yelled something very ugly. I pretended not to hear, but I’m very frightened. I know who it is --- a boy that I met, made a date with and then broke the date. I know of no way to put a stop to this without causing a scene. I’m prepared to kill if necessary, but I hope it never comes to a struggle. My father, my landlord and my friends have been alerted that I may need their help and so far I’ve managed to have full protection at all times. (I’m very glad I broke that date as I think the boy is actually sick).
In spite of all the merry making going on it still doesn’t seem like Christmas. Perhaps your being away has something to do with that. I wish so very much that you will be home soon. Without ever having you, I miss you.
I may go to New York for New Year’s Eve. I don’t have the money actually, but believe that I can scrap it up somehow. I love that place.
I must give you something very special for Christmas, but I still haven’t thought of anything. It’s easy to go out and pick up a tie or a sweater, but that’s not my idea of a present. When I marry, my husband will have it fairly easy shopping of me. For one thing, I like very personal gifts so he won’t have to worry about sizes and then I don’t expect expensive things. An engraved bracelet for $9.98 would mean more to me than a whole new wardrobe. A dozen roses for ground hog day, or hot dog day, or any day would mean more than a $50 gift certificate. I think I’m harder to please than most women. Most would think valuable things will satisfy them. I’m not so dumb. I want things that no one can ever take away from me - things given from the heart not the pocket - things that nobody else will ever get - because nobody else will have someone feeling exactly the same about them. Can you understand that?
Well, I must get to work now. Please write soon and be very careful. I’m worried about you.
Love,
Maggathie
***
8/14/15
I was feeling so sad about not being able to be home for Christmas. I love Christma sand wanted so badly to be home – and not just to be with my family this time. I wanted so much to be with Maggie. Christmas is a holiday to share with the person you love – a time to give each other gifts and share in the beauty of the season. Christmas in Chicago, with the bitter cold, the snow gently falling, everyone seeming happier, is such a joyous time. For an American, it may be the worst time to be away from those you love.
My Army friends in Heidelberg had it easier; their wives with them - and that made it easier to be away from other family members and home. If you ever heard the song“I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” you will have some idea of what this holiday meant to me and Maggie. I was grateful to my Army friends, though, as they tried their best to make my holiday a little happier by letting me spend more time with them.
I sent the following letter to Maggie after receiving her letter with the poem she wrote about my not being able to be home for Christmas.  I also told her that although I wouldn’t be there for Christmas, there was a good chance I would be home for a short visit in January.
(I would not be able to come home in January unless an Army Courier in the Washington D.C. Courier Station was willing to fill in for me in Heidelberg during my absence. I prayed that this would happen. But if it didn\'t, I may not have been able to get home until my discharge in April. What if Maggie wouldn\'t wait that long?)
***
                                                                                                                                               After18 December, 1967
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
What a beautiful letter I’ve just received from you. I hadn’t been in the best of moods of late – not being home for Christmas and working ten to eleven hours a day hasn’t exactly made me shout for joy. But your letter, your beautiful letter has really cheered me up.
Thank you so much for your poem. “Ain’t I silly.”  No, not in the least. I’m wild about your poem, Miss Maggathie:
                              “Let us be happy
                               Although you’re away
                               And make your homecoming
                               Our Christmas day.”
Thank you for that last stanza. Thank you for ending your letter by wishing me a "Merry December 25th" instead of "Merry Christmas."  Christmas doesn’t come in December this year –not for us.
I’m glad you received your gift on time. I had mailed it the day after the dead line for guaranteed delivery of air mail packages.
“Oh, Dennis, I feel so badly. I didn’t send your present. I wanted to give it to you in person…Oh, I feel awful…Oh, please forgive me.” Forgive you for what; for not giving me a Christmas gift on December 25th when Christmas doesn’t fall on that day this year? Forgive you for caring so much that you wanted to wait to give your gift in person? There is nothing to forgive. If you haven’t already sent the gift, you needn’t. I’m a very patient man and can wait for our Christmas.
I spoke with the Major again the other day about my chances for a trip home in January. He informed me that he had called Washington and learned that several couriers expressed an interest in spending a week in Europe next month. I won’t know for certain what the chances are for at least two weeks, but if I do get an opportunity to come home, it won’t be until after January 10th. All we can do is hope – seems as though there’s been a hell of a lot of that lately.
It snowed again last week - a heavy snow this time – about two inches. That’s very unusual for this part of Germany. It looked as though Heidelberg was going to have a white Christmas, the first one they’ve had in several years. No such luck though. The temperature rose and everything began to melt. It’s been raining off and on all day today. Nothing left of the snow, just several islands of caked ice that are slowly disappearing.
The Christmas weekend here was a mad rush of parties and dinners. The parties were entertaining and the dinners praiseworthy.
We had a Christmas party Friday night at the courier station. The only real highlight for me was playing Santa Claus – no costume, just passed out Christmas gifts. Each gift was a gag gift and it revealed something about the recipient’s outstanding characteristic. Instead of writing the names on the gifts, each individual was to write a verse which would identify the recipient. The goal was to identify the person by reading the verse that described them. It was silly, but a lot of fun.
Christmas Eve dinner at Henry and Cheryl’s was a commendable attempt to make my Christmas from home a happy one, but it proved to be somewhat of a failure. The food was excellent, as usual, the atmosphere cheery and the company enjoyable, but my heart just wasn’t there. Oh, I laughed and kidded and pretended to be of good cheer, but I really don’t believe I fooled anyone.
Christmas day was tiresome. We had a “progressive dinner” which means we ate different parts of a meal at different homes. We had appetizers at one home, dinner at another, and desert at still another. I had already been a bit run down from the previous three days and found going from house to house a bit of a chore. I ended the evening by playing a game of cards with several friends.
I’m going to have to end soon. It’s already 11:00 pm and I have to get up at 6:00 am tomorrow.
Before leaving, though, I would like to say that I’m happy for you that you received a letter of commendation and the raise. I don’t doubt that you worked hard forthem.
I must go now.
Most Affectionately
Dennis
P.S.This is a terrible letter, but you must forgive me. I have been very tired of late and have not been able to devote the time I would like to write to you.
P.P.S. Out of curiosity. You should have received my tape by now. Do I sound warmer on tape than in letters?
***
I was missing Maggie so much and she was on my mind throughout the Christmas holidays. I sent the following very brief letter.
                                                                                                                                                   Shortly After Christmas 1967
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
I’ve been thinking about you today (like any other day), but suddenly I became a bit disturbed. You love me – and I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am for this. You love me, and I sit here somewhat content – content until I began to think of something. You tell me that you love me and all I say to you is – I care a great deal for you. Suddenly I began to realize an alarming possibility: suppose my caring a great deal for you isn’t enough. Suppose you tire of my cautious admissions and in course tire of me. Have patience with me, Miss Maggathie, I’m slow in giving myself completely.
Very Affectionately
Dennis
***
On Christmas Day, Maggie wroite me a beautiful letter thanking me for the gifts I sent her as well as my tape recorded Christmas message. (The tape was the first time Maggie had heard my voice for over a year).
Because the letter is somewhat long and I am running late for babysitting my granddaughter, I will send it the next time.
***
8/18/15
I did send Maggie a Christmas gift . I had also sent an audio tape on which I recorded some soft jazz in the background while I spoke to her.
Neither Maggie nor I had heard each other’s voices for over a year and I was hoping that after she received my tape, Maggie would send me one of her own voice. It had been so long that I had forgotten exactly how she sounded.
My tape recorder was a more modern version and I was able to record on more than one track. When Maggie tried to play it on her tape recorder – which only played a single track – she could barely hear my voice over the jazz music.
***
                                                                                                              December25, 1967 (Christmas Day)
My Dearest Dennis,
I have just returned from a family get-together (it’s Dec. 25th) and I must write to the man who has been in my dreams and on my mind throughout the holiday festivities. I have never missed you more.
I must thank you for your beautiful gift. Not only is it an elegant piece of jewelry, but the sentimental value of it will increase each day as my love for you increases each day. It is truly the most precious of all my gifts because it came from you. I will always treasure it. I can tell that you did not simply “pick it up” in a hurry just to “buy me off” so to speak. You must have given this gift very much thought as I could not think of anything that would have pleased me more --- just the right personal touch.
One thing worries me. My grandmother always told me that pearls received from someone you love bring tears. Maybe now she will prevent those tears.
I played your tape ----- with difficulty. It seems your voice was muffled by loud music. My brother was able to muffle out the music with a piece of cellophane and all went well.
I am very thrilled with all that you said to me. Some things you had already written to me, but hearing these things have made me realize how much I am missing you while you are away. What a difference, Den.
Now I must comment on some of the things you have told me. It will be difficult to remember everything as I have nothing to refer to. Some things I want you to know will wait until I can say them to you. I will be sending you a tape within the next two weeks. I only hope that your recorder will pick up everything.
You mentioned how little you have given me.You have underestimated yourself again. Dennis, without you I have no hopes, no dreams, no future. I want you very much. You have given me a purpose more real than anything I have ever experienced. If you knew how you’ve affected my life, you would understand how serious I am when I say all this. I will save further explanation for the tape.
One thing you must realize is that it is not only true that I do love you, but also that I can love you. This will be difficult to get across to you. Perhaps this too must wait until it can be“heard.”
My tape not only will explain or try to pinpoint the “why” of my feelings; it will also be a type of confession. There are so many details to my story that it would be a loss to write them all. At least if I can talk to you, you could hear the expressions in my voice. Reading my thoughts may only bring you doubts. I know it will be difficult for you to understand what I must tell you. I pray that you will.
I want you to realize too that I have not shut out the world for you. I have tried to forget you, tried loving others, but I cannot. It’s not as if I’m depending on your love; it’s not as if my world will end if you cannot love me. All I can say is that right here and now, I must love you. I cannot do anything else.
I am a woman now. Even I must admit that. I do have many childish ways, but I do realize what is expected of me as a woman and all that the word “woman” implies. All the grief, hardships and sacrifice that come with womanhood are not new to me. I’ve lived through some of them and can accept even more.
As for your coming home in January, I can only say that I am praying and hoping along with you.
You must believe that I’ll never stop waiting for you. God knows that I won’t. I have dated so many fine, eligible young men since my engagement was broken. That first date may set me wondering, but after knowing these men I find that my love is still directed toward only you. I have many wonderful times, but no relationship can proceed beyond that point. These men are here now to dry my tears, to move heavy furniture, to hold me near and yet although you are an ocean away, you have done so much more for me. Believe that, Dennis.
I must close now. I have work tomorrow and it’s nearly midnight. Besides, if I keep on, I’ll never be able to stop.
Loving you,
Maggathie
P.S. You will get a tape by the 6th of January ----  I hope.
P.S.S. I missed you so much this past weekend.

***

I was thrilled to receive Maggie’s letter and was very moved by all the wonderful comments she made regarding her feelings for me. I was curious, though, and a little worried about what she meant when she said, "My tape…will also be a type of confession. There are so many details to my story that it would be a loss to write them all. At least if I can talk to you, you could hear the expressions in my voice. Reading my thoughts may only bring you doubts. I know it will be difficult for you to understand what I must tell you. I pray that you will."
I responded to Maggie’s letter shortly after receiving it. It was New Year’s Eve before I had a chance to write back and I wanted Maggie to know how I spent my New Year’s Eve, because it was very boring. I also wanted to update her on the news I heard that might be bringing me home in January.
I signed this letter “Very Affectionately +.” This was my way of letting Maggie know that my feelings for her were growing. I still couldn’t tell her I loved her – but I wanted her to know I was moving in that direction – and she knew that I would never say those three words until I was certain.
***
                                                                                                                  December 31, 1967
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
I am anxious to receive your tape. Your letter has placed an aura of mystery about it: “…it is not only true that I do love you, but also that I can love you. This…too must wait until it can be heard…My tape…will explain…the ‘why’ of my feelings, it will also be a type of confession…I know it will be difficult for you to understand what I must tell you. I pray that you will.”
I had hoped that you had planned to send a tape back, but I didn’t want to commit you to doing so. It’s been over a year since I’ve last heard your voice and I’ve almost forgotten what it sounds like.
I’m very glad you liked your gift. I didn’t quite know what to get you. At first I had thought of buying you something for your apartment, but then decided that somehow that wouldn’t say anything – and the gift had to say something. I’m happy that you enjoyed it.
Today is New Year’s Eve. I don’t have too much planned for this evening. There’s a party at the Officers’ Club, but somehow I’m not in a party mood. Last year at this time I was in Munich with a friend of mine and had an excellent time. I was thinking of going down there again, but I’m Duty Officer this weekend and am not permitted to leave Heidelberg. A fellow officer and his wife have invited me to their home for supper and drinks tonight. Perhaps I’ll go. Then again, maybe I’ll just stay home and have a couple of friends over.
I talked to one of the couriers from Washington this week. He informed me that their Major has been asking if there are any couriers who wish spend some time in Europe during January. Several couriers were supposed to have expressed an interest, but nothing definite yet. I’m going to have Major Swift call Washington tomorrow to see what progress is being made.
I’m going to have to stop now, Maggathie. I have to check the office to see if there have been any telephone calls for the Duty Officer. I’ll write to you again as soon as I am able.
Very Affectionately +
Dennis
P.S. I think it should be P.P.S. instead of P.S.S.
***
8/23/15
Maggie sent the following letter shortly after New Year’s Day. I enjoyed Maggie’s letter so much, especially her statements, “I’m waiting for you; waiting because if you should decide to take me, I shall never want to leave --- not ever” – and – “I can say that I find that I cannot hide nor halt my love for you. I have tried in vain.”
***
                                                                                                                January 3, 1968
My Dearest Dennis,
I have just returned from a hectic weekend in New York. Very disappointing for a holiday weekend. This truly has been the worst of all New Year’s Eves I have ever experienced.
At this moment I am very content. I am beginning to realize that there is more to my love for you than I had known.I mustn’t be another Scarlett O’Hara with her love for Ashley, so I won’t explain that statement. I can say that I find that I cannot hide nor halt my love for you. I have tried in vain.
I won’t be sending you a tape for some time. My recorder does not maintain a moderate speed, so unless you don’t mind my sounding like a hypo one minute and a silly chipmunk the next, you must wait until I can find someone with a good recorder (German-made).
I received a letter from you. You really like my sincere, corny, poem! And I won’t send you a Christmas present.
I’ve always considered myself an eternal shopper as if I had my own retail shop. I’ve always seemed to meet someone better than the one I’m with. This is not so with you. I’m waiting for you; waiting because if you should decide to take me, I shall never want to leave--- not ever.
Someday you’ll feel this way about someone. I will be happy for you then, even if I am not the one wreathed in your love.
I must go now. I am so very tired. There is something about thought that sometimes makes you tired. I don’t want to stop.
Loving You,
Maggathie
It was obvious that Maggie still couldn’t believe that she and I would be together some day. I know I hadn’t given her reason to be certain, but I thought that she was more aware of how much I was falling for her. She had such a way with words and expressed her doubts so well, “Someday you’ll feel this way about someone. I will be happy for you then, even if I am not the one wreathed in your love."      
As thrilled as I was about what Maggie said about her feelings for me, I couldn’t help but wonder why she went to New York for New Years Eve. Who was there that she knew so well that she wanted to spend New Year’s Eve there? And why was this holiday so bad?
***
The following letter from me to Maggie was sent before I received her previous letter.
                                                                                                                                         January 4, 1968
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
My New Year’s Eve was ----- quiet. I accepted an invitation to supper from some friends. After a pleasant evening of cards and quiet conversation, we decided to go to the Officer’s Club to “ring out the old and ring in the new.” There was an “invitation only” party going on upstairs, so we headed down to the Ratskeller (a small restaurant in the basement). We purchased a bottle of champagne and at the stroke of midnight, toasted to each other’s health and happiness – an almost solemn manner of bidding a New Year welcome.
I don’t know exactly when I’ll be home in April. My commitment to the army ends on April 14th, so I should be home before then. However, I will have to report to one of the Army camps in the New Jersey area for “out processing.” This could take anywhere from one to five days. I should have orders at least six weeks before I am scheduled to depart and should be able to give you more certain information then.
I may have blown my trip home in January. Several graduate schools that I am applying to request that I take an Entrance Exam and suggested that I take it as soon as possible for my application to be considered . The earliest date available in Heidelberg is 20 January. Therefore, if my Major arranges a trip back home for me around that date, I would have to refuse it. So, now not only does my trip home depend on unforeseeable circumstances, but I have added a foreseeable one which could destroy the only chance I get. Another new hope has been added: let’s hope I get my trip home and that it does not fall near January 20th.
Miss Maggathie, do you think that you could ever teach me to play the piano? It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity to learn. I don’t promise to be a quick learner, but I will be a devoted student. Hell, I’ll even pay attention to the lessons.
I drank a silent toast to you New Year’s Eve. Raised my glass of champagne to an empty chair, gave an almost indiscernible nod, and drank. Maybe I’m beginning to crack.
I’m going to have to go now, Maggathie. It’s getting late and I still have some work to do.
Most Affectionately
Dennis
P.S. Counting from today, I calculate that I have about 97 days remaining – give or take a few.
P.P.S. How serious were you when you said: “You must be home in January. If you’re not, I’ll be tempted to come and see you.” ?
***
Maggie sent the following letter before she received mine. When communicating by air-mail, it was a common occurrence for letters to “pass each other,” which would explain why either Maggie or I are not responding to comments made in the letter preceding the one sent.
                                                                                                                                   January 7, 1968
My Dear, Sweet Dennis,
Hi! It’s snowing heavily here in Chicago. There are news flashes of abandoned cars left on the streets. The wind howls through the gangway and I sit here warm, content, close to the one I love.
I have just finished washing my hair and I can’t decide if I should cut it or not. It’s not billowing to the floor, but is becoming difficult to manage and keep in a somewhat fashionable style. Perhaps an inch or two will come off.
I have so much housework to do! I’ve let the chores go weekend after weekend and now I must tackle everything at once. It’s not that I’m living in filth, just mass confusion.
I haven’t checked the mail so there may be a letter from you. I should’ve thought about that before I washed my hair, but knowing that I heard from you just two days ago makes the presence of a letter from you very improbable.
How I miss you, Dennis. My heart actually sputters when I think that maybe there is some chance for us. But I can’t think about the future for very long as to many “ifs” and “buts” worry me. It’s not my lack of confidence that troubles me, it’s the possibility that if things don’t work out, I’ll have to go on looking for that special someone.
It would be wrong to say that I’m tired of looking. I’m far too young to be tired. Maybe I’m too impatient or full of anxiety. (Should I take tranquilizers?).
I still haven’t found anyone with a good tape recorder. My brother, Bill, is the only one who has an electric one and I believe that’s the best I can do. The problem now is getting to Bill’s house so that I can record. Wish me luck, because by hook or crook, I’ll get there.
I’m beginning to wonder if I should save my confession until I can see you. Really, it isn’t that drastic, but can put a different light on the way you feel about me. That’s when I must add explanation. That’s when I’d like you near me, so that you could not only hear me, but read every emotion in my eyes.
It just occurred to me that if you were home, we would probably never really get to know each other as well as we have through our letters. We’d be too busy having a good time or something. I don’t want it to be like that, do you? Promise me that we’ll always have time to learn about each other.
Boy, all my girlfriends are getting married within this next year! That’s my life! --- first engaged – last one married. I shouldn’t let myself be troubled over it. I’ve had the offers, but I think I’m too fussy. My poor husband will have to be a saint or just as crazy as I am.
Well, Den, I must get myself moving or the day will be gone before I know it. Just call me “busy.”
Loving you,
Dennis
I kept wondering about the confession that Maggie had mentioned in her recent letters. I was getting worried when she kept saying things like,“Really, it isn’t that drastic, but can put a different light on the way you feel about me.” What could it be that it could change how I see her?
***
8/28/15
The following three letters speak for themselves and need little explanation.
Several days after receiving Maggie’s letter, I sent her the following letter. I had met with my commanding officer on the morning of January 12th to further discuss the possibility of my going to the United States later in the month and was very ecstatic to discover that a substitute courier from the Washington D.C. station had agreed to fill in for me at the Heidelberg station. My trip had been approved – but only for 2 ½ days.

                                                                                                                                                       January 12, 1968  

My Dear Miss Maggathie:
I’m sitting here listening to Barbra Streisand and thinking of you. She does that to me. You have spoken so much of listening to her and of projecting her songs into your life, that I can’t help but associate her with you. In a way, you’re with me tonight.
I have a question to ask you. It results from something I learned today. May I have the pleasure of your company the evening of 23 January? I’ll be home for two and a half days.
It finally came through – all those hopes and prayers weren’t wasted. Unless the courier who agreed to come to Europe becomes seriously ill or dies, I should be leaving Germany 22 January and arriving in Washington late that same day. I hope to catch a flight to Chicago the same day, if possible, or early the next. I must be back in Washington the 26th of January and will have to depart Chicago the evening of the 25th. It won’t be much time, but it will be something. Yes, there is a God.
I will have to do a couple things while home. I must go to both Loyola University and the University of Chicago for interviews for graduate school. I hope to do both of these in one morning, so too much time shouldn’t be wasted.
Then, of course, there’s the family. But you can be there too – with me. I must be with you as often as possible. There’s so much we must say to each other; so much we must yet learn; so much and in so few days. But, at least this time we will be together – and for longer than the time it takes to drive from the orphanage.
Christmas on January 23rd. I feel like a child again. I must be one – did you ever see a grown man running down a main street almost kicking his heels with joy? Christmas on January 23rd – our Christmas. How I long for it.
There’s so much to do – the calendar – the spaghetti dinner – the piano – the Civic Center and only two and a half days. But, we’ll do them – as many as we can.Then again, maybe not the Civic Center, or the piano (if it’s still at your father’s house) – they can wait until April. For this time, just a quiet evening or two at your apartment – talking and learning more about each other.
I must go now, Miss Maggathie. I still must write my parents and inform them of my coming.
Most Affectionately
Dennis
I will call you when I arrive.
***
Maggie responded quickly.
                                                                                                                                                          January 16, 1968
My Dearest Dennis,
If you knew how goofy I’m acting ever since I heard the good news of your trip home, you’d probably think twice before coming! I laugh out loud at nothing at all. Have you ever ridden on a crowded bus and started to laugh – and you’re the only one laughing? How ‘bout playing Password – everyone really engrossed in it, but I’m way off somewhere and three times gave the word that others are trying to guess as a clue! Instead of greeting everyone with “Hi,” I say “Guess what, Dennis is coming home!”
Oh, you must call me the minute you arrive! I feel that I’m not making any sense. How will I compose myself this coming week?
We really won’t have much time together. Even the spaghetti dinner will be almost impossible as your mother has great meals planned for you. I’m sure you’ll have to be home more than you thought. From the little that I’ve heard, I understand that your mother is very sentimental and will want you at home for most of your stay. Please don’t be angry. There are many circumstances which have led me to believe this and I’m sure you must know of some of them. Rather than cause any ill feelings, I’d suggest that we forget about ourselves until April.
Perhaps I’m exaggerating the situation and I’ll leave that up to you. Believe me, I want to be there with you as often as courtesy permits and if you should find a time when we can take off to seclusion, I’m all for it! But I felt I should warn you that the situation at your home is something that I’ve never coped with before and I’m leaving everything in your hands. Whatever you decide, I’ll understand.
I wanted this so very much. To see you, be near you, hear your voice, and if it must be from across a crowded room, that will be enough. (I think)
I have the feeling that you may be disturbed with me at this point. Actually, I’m disturbed with myself. But we mustn’t be disturbed. We’ll be together and that’s all that matters.
I have so many things to tell you. I’m sure we’ll find some way of learning more about each other this week (I mean 2 ½days).
You must call me the minute you arrive. I can arrange to have some time off from work. Of course, that’s for you to decide. On the days that you’ll be interviewing for graduate school, I’ll be at work, but hope to take some time off so that we can be together as often as possible.
I’m so very excited I can hardly seem to control myself. I just had that strange feeling that you’d be home this month,that our hopes and prayers would not be wasted. Good grief, there is a God and how I love Him for answering my prayers.
There is so much you must learn about me. Sometimes I feel so tense when I think of all that I must tell you. I must confess that I’m counting very much on our relationship leading to happiness. It’s sometimes frightening to place all your hopes and dreams on one slim possibility. As Barbra would say, “It’s insanity to worry so all day …Will he like me? He’s just got to.”
Dennis, I must end this or I’ll be going on and on forever. This will be my last letter until I see you next week. How happy I am!
Take care in your travels. I want to write so much more, but now I can only wait for your call.
Loving you,
Maggie
***
The following letter is the last one I send to Maggie before I arrive home for 2 ½ days.
                                                                                                                                                  Around January16, 1968
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
I have nothing to say – but I must write. You have continuously been in my thoughts these past few days. Every song I hear, almost everything I see –reminds me of you. Last night I went to the movies and saw “Two for the Road” starring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney. I don’t know why, I could hardly associate either myself or you with either of the characters, but I returned home with a burning desire to be with you. I tried to write. Even began a letter. Turned on Barbra Streisand and began to write – then there was a knock on the door. A fellow officer from down stairs, “Just wanted to come up and chat awhile.” After he left, it was 1:30 a.m. Ain’t it great to have neighbors.
I can’t begin to tell you how much I anticipate our meeting. A year ago it would hardly have mattered if I saw you or not, now it means almost everything. I don’t wish to frighten you by implying that these few days could chart the future years, but I would be foolish to deny that possibility. We have so much to say to each other, so much to learn, and all in so little time.
I wish you could meet me at the airport, but I can’t ask you to. The flight I am scheduled to arrive on doesn’t depart Washington until 10:00 p.m., and then I’m not even certain if I’ll be able to make that one. My flight from Germany should land in Washington about 6:30 p.m. I must then go to the Washington Courier Station to check in the material that I am bringing over. This might not be completed until 9:00 p.m. I must then hope to make the proper connections to get to the airport on time to make my flight to Chicago. Yet, I do wish you could be there.
How I’ve longed for you this past week. Three days ago I reread all of your letters– fifty of them – with the hope of partially filling the emptiness I felt. Quite the opposite resulted. Tell me, Miss Maggathie, how can a vacuum become any emptier.
I’ve become somewhat apprehensive about this confession you’re saving for me, “Really, it isn’t that drastic, but can put a different light on the way you feel about me. That’s when I must add explanation…”  I mustn’t think too much about it though - my imagination is far too wild.
Another quote,
“It just occurred to me that if you were home, we would probably never really get to know each other as we have through our letters. We’d be too busy having a good time or something. I don’t want it to be like that, do you?
Answer: No. It isn’t that way; it wouldn’t have been that way; it won’t be that way. If I was home and if we were dating, we would have really gotten to know each other. If there is one thing I love to do with a girl I am dating, it is talk. I would rather spend several hours sitting and talking than running about from one night spot to another. I must discover what a girl is, and I can only do this through quiet conversation. You’ll see how much I enjoy talking next week.
Until I see you. (what a wonderful sound that has)
Most Affectionately
Dennis
***
9/1/15
On the first evening I was home for the 2 ½ days I was going to be with Maggie, she told me about the “confession” she mentioned in several of her letters. It wasn’t what I expected.
§§§
I arrived in Chicago at 11 p.m. Monday (January 22, 1968) and would have to return to Washington D. C. early Thursday evening (January25, 1968). I had family obligations and Maggie could only get off from work on Tuesday, so we wouldn’t have as much time together as would have liked.
§§§
Tuesday was our day to be alone: breakfast at a local pancake house, a quiet walk along the lake shore, lunch at a small Michigan Avenue restaurant, and grocery shopping to stock Maggie’s cabinets.
That evening, after chocolate malts at a nearby ice-cream place, Maggie and I relaxed in her apartment on Lock St. We sat on the living room floor talking and listening to several of our favorite albums: Streisand’s People and My Name Is Barbra as well as Fiddler on the Roof. Maggie sat by my side, lying softly against me, her head on my shoulder and her legs curled beneath her. I held her so close I could feel her body move with every breath.
As the quiet evening progressed, Maggie lifted her head off my shoulder, then placed it back down, straightened her legs slightly, then curled them beneath her again. She sighed as if to say something, and then was silent. After repeating this several times, she whispered, “Dennis.”
As I turned toward her, she slowly lifted her head from my shoulder, gently pushed herself from my side, and looking directly at me, haltingly said, “I, I need to—to talk to you about something.”
My body tensed when I heard the slight hesitation in her voice and saw the apprehensive look on her face. I didn’t think I was going to like what she was about to tell me.
“I need to talk to you about the confession I mentioned in my letters.”
I turned slightly from Maggie, trying to hide my concern and the nausea churning my stomach.
“Dennis, you need to look at me when I tell you this. You need to look at my eyes so you know I’m telling you the truth.”
My heart pounded so loudly I was surprised Maggie couldn’t hear it. I knew from our letters that this was going to come up sometime during my visit home. Maggie had said she would wait until she could tell me face-to-face. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was sure I didn’t want to hear it.
I slowly turned my head toward Maggie and told myself to stay calm and composed.
Maggie hesitated. “I’m so afraid to tell you this. I beg you to please listen and try to understand. Please believe I am telling the truth.”
I braced myself and almost indifferently said, “Go ahead.”
Maggie took a deep breath, sighed heavily, looked down briefly then back up at me. She took another deep breath and looked directly into my eyes.
“About eight months ago … I met another guy.”
My stomach fliped. I turned my head and slowly looked away. Did she just tell me what I think she did? Be calm; don’t get upset. My whole body was getting warm and I was hoping it wasn’t obvious to Maggie. My head was reeling; I couldn’t move.
“Please listen, Dennis. Please wait until you hear everything.”
***
9/4/15
After a few seconds, when I felt more in control, I slowly turned to Maggie. The thought kept racing through my head. She’s telling me it’s over. My mouth was dry, my body was getting cold. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t do anything but stare past her. I was looking at Maggie’s face, but I couldn’t see her. Yet, every instinct in my body told me to keep my feelings to myself. I didn’t want Maggie to know what this was doing to me.
“Dennis, look at me. You need to understand. It was a bad time for me. Nothing was going right. It seemed everybody and everything was against me. And you and I were just beginning to know each other. I met him; we dated quite a bit; and I thought I might be in love with him.”
Finally, I blurted out, “Who is he?”
“You don’t know him. He’s in the Navy at Great Lakes Naval Base. He’s from New York.”
“New York!”  Maggie’s letters were flashing through my head. All those trips to New York.
The words stumbled from my lips. “I’m not sure what you’re trying to tell me. Did you love him? Do you love him?”
Maggie continued. “You need to know something else. You need to know he asked me to marry him and gave me an engagement ring.”
I was numb, but I quickly gathered myself and calmly asked, “Did you take it?”
“Yes.”
My body stiffened; I turned my head from Maggie and started to rise. Before I could lift myself further than a few inches, she grabed my arm and pulled me down next to her.
“Look at me, Dennis. I broke the engagement. He’s a great guy, but I don’t love him. I tried to fall in love with him, I really did, because I didn’t have any hope for us—but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. As long as there’s some chance for us, I can’t love someone else.” Tears welled in Maggie’s eyes.
I was still dazed and did all I could to remain calm and in control. “But, what about this guy?”
“It’s over. It was over long before it ended.”
I sat silently with my arms dead at my side and couldn’t bring myself to hold Maggie. I could only stare forward in a haze. How long had this been going on? How far did their relationship go? Was she telling me everything? What did she expect me to do?
This train of questions came to a jolting halt when Maggie wraped both arms around my left arm, slowly placed her head back on my shoulder, and curled her legs beneath her. When I didn’t respond, she asked, “Dennis, are you okay? Please talk to me.”
I sat in a trance, looking straight ahead. After a very long minute, which gave me time to gain control of myself, I turned to Maggie and calmly said, “Maggie, are you sure it’s ended? I mean, I have no right to expect that you wouldn’t be dating other guys. You told me you were; I just didn’t know it had gotten so serious.”
Maggie lifted her head and again stared into my eyes. “Dennis, please know it’s over with him. You must believe me.”
I could see in her eyes that she was telling the truth and somewhat confidently said, “I do. Honestly, I do.”
We spent the rest of the evening listening to music, lightly touching on our plans for the following day, and briefly talking about a variety of insignificant topics—but there was an uneasiness between us. I was still shaken by Maggie’s confession but didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I wasn\'t sure what to say and didn’t want her knowing how much this was affecting me. I had told her in my last letter, “You’ll see how much I enjoy talking next week,” yet I couldn’t say another word about the confession that had hit me so hard.
It was getting near midnight and I told Maggie it was late; she had work the next morning and I had two appointments for graduate school interviews. We hugged, briefly kissed, and the night ended.
Walking that long block home, I couldn’t stop thinking about Maggie. Her words kept echoing in my head, “I met another guy…he asked me to marry him…gave me an engagement ring. It was over long before it ended… As long as there’s some chance for us, I can’t love someone else.” Why did she feel she had to tell me this? She risked our entire relationship not knowing what my reaction would be. Yet she did tell me. How she must trust me. How she must love me. I should have grabbed her in my arms and told her how much I cared for her and how happy I was she chose me. I should have kissed her and told her how I needed her and wanted her to wait for me—I should have, but I didn’t.
I still wasn\'t sure where this relationship was heading. And I had to be certain.
***
Maggie and I spent as much time as we could with each other in the remaining two days. During most of our time, we tried to learn as much about each other as we could. At times, our relationship seemed a little strained, especially on my part. Although I could clearly see that Maggie did love me, I was still a little upset about her confession. Yet, the more time we spent together, the more I began to realize that she was indeed the girl in her letters.
I remained cautious in showing my feelings to Maggie during my time with her. Although I was beginning to admit to myself how strongly I felt, I still wasn’t sure where this might lead me – after all we had only been together parts of 2 ½ days – and I didn’t want to lead her on.
I sent Maggie the following letter after leaving Chicago and arriving in Washington D.C. I simply couldn’t get her off my mind.
(I should note that Maggie referred to herself as a “klunk” during our time together. For her, a “klunk” was someone who was clumsy - and Maggie had a few incidents where she was less than graceful. That is why I refer to her as “Klunkie” in some of my letters).
***
                                                                                                                                                   January 1968
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
How I miss you Klunkie. What have you done to me? Fat chance I have of not making a mistake on my return flight to Germany. I can’t count pieces; all I think of is this klunkie girl who almost falls when getting in or out of a car, who walks into people when trying to get around them, who makes a mess of a college application. I can’t watch classified material: all I see is this girl with an excited smile waiting at the airport, this girl hurrying home running down Lock Street, this girl, such a crazy girl, who makes me laugh hours after I’ve been with her. How can I listen to the instructions that will be given to me: all I hear is the soft sound of a piano followed by “Oh, I can’t play; you make me too nervous.” All I hear is the change in the tone of your voice when I called from Washington:
Me: “Hello.”
You (Indifferent): “Hello.”
Me: “Good morning, Klunkie.”
You (Excited): “Oh, Hello!”
Klunkie, what have you done to me?
Maggathie, do you know how much I missed you Wednesday and Thursday when you were at work? You said you knew, but I find it difficult to believe that you could imagine how much I actually did. I couldn’t stop thinking about you. Everything that happened the night before, almost everything you did and everything you said would be recalled to my mind. I’d be riding up the escalator at Marshall Field thinking of something you said and suddenly break into a subdued laugh. Or, I’d be walking down State street thinking of something you did and - bam - instant smile. You know, Miss Maggathie, you’re good medicine for me: people need good medicine.
Maggathie, thank you for being crazy, for being klunkie, for being the girl you are in your letters. I wanted so badly for you to be as I hoped you were. So much depended on this meeting. For me, it was going to determine what our relationship would be. If things weren’t as I had hoped, I intended to gradually loosen the bond which we had tied over the past year. Perhaps it wasn’t right to place so much importance upon these three days, but I knew that what I learned then would definitely influence our relationship. And it has, Maggathie.
I want you to wait for me. I know I asked you before on my tape and I know you said you would, but I must say it again. I have never asked a girl to wait for me, but I must ask you. I don’t know what this is that I feel for you now, but whatever it is I do know that it must be given a chance to be realized.
Maggathie, how I wanted you to come to the airport with me. I had to call you from there. When you didn’t answer the phone, I was a bit disturbed; I couldn’t imagine where you could have gone. In similar instances, I would have imagined the worse, but with you, I couldn’t. For some reason I thought (or perhaps I should say – wanted to believe) that you were home, but refused to answer the phone. I had hoped that you wanted that day to be ours, uninterrupted by anyone else. When I called Friday and received your answer, I was happy.
I’m sorry that I must go now. I have to begin checking the material for my return flight to Germany.
Wanting You
Dennis
P.S. You do have pretty legs.
P.P.S. I don’t think I’m scrawny.
P.P.P. S. How empty I feel.
***
Upon returning to Heidelberg, I sat down immediately and wrote Maggie the following letter. I had to be close to her and writing a letter was my way of doing that.
In this letter, I remind Maggie of several comments she made to me during our time together which confused and upset me.
                                                                                                                  Around 27 January 1968
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
I’m sitting in my apartment now listening to my album of “Fiddler on the Roof” and am convinced of two things: 1) that my album is far better than yours, and 2) that I miss you terribly. I never knew my room was so empty.
I’ve seen most of my friends since I’ve returned. You know what the first question was which they asked: “How was Maggathie?” You see, they all knew my main reason for going home. “How was Maggathie?” or “Did you get engaged?” or “When’s the big day?” were comments which greeted me. In a way, I was somewhat surprised that everyone (even some of the fellows that I don’t number among my friends) knew about us. I guess I talk about you much more than I imagined.
I reread a few of your letters last night. I had to be with you in some way. I wish you were here.
God, I just thought of something. If you have such a difficult time getting into my parents car, what problems are you going to encounter with my Volkswagen? I guess I could have foam rubber running boards put on to save your ankles. What a klunk you are. I’m glad.
Maggathie, thank you for a wonderful Christmas. How happy I was those two and a half days. Perhaps I didn’t show it enough and maybe I didn’t say enough, but, honestly, I haven’t felt as fulfilled in a long time. You’ve done something to me, Maggathie, something I’m still hesitant to admit.
You said several things our last night that were the cause of my getting angry. One was that I hadn’t met your expectations and didn’t do the little thoughtful things that you long for; the other was that if we were married, it probably wouldn’t last two weeks; and the last was “I don’t love you.”
I think we spoke of the first one that same night, but let me speak of it again.You said that you thought I called you up Wednesday morning because I thought something was wrong Tuesday night when I left. You couldn’t have been more mistaken. I called you up Wednesday morning because I missed you terribly. In fact, I wouldn’t even have left Tuesday night if I thought something was wrong. I called you at work Thursday afternoon because I missed you terribly. I was at your apartment fifteen minutes before you came home Wednesday evening because I missed you terribly. I moped around downtown (not going for my interviews) and spent all Wednesday afternoon looking for a gift of the heart because I missed you terribly. I almost swallowed my supper whole Thursday night and raced to your house because I missed you terribly. I came to your apartment Tuesday morning without calling because I didn’t want to wait that half hour you would have probably requested because I missed you terribly. You can only do so many“little things” in two and a half days.
You made a statement in reference to this which I would like to quote and then compare it with another quote of yours. When talking about these “little things” you said: “Just once, I would like to look at you and catch you looking at me. You never seem to be looking at me.” The evening just before that when I was sitting in your kitchen chair and you were standing in the doorway of your front room you said: “Stop looking at me.” You said it not with anger, but with pride. I don’t know, perhaps you forgot about this. I’m just trying to rationalize the two statements. You see, Maggathie, the fact that you don’t catch me glancing at you is not reason enough to conclude that therefore I am not. The truth is that I turn my head faster than you turn yours.
The other two statements almost go hand in hand and actually are closely related to the first one. The three statements came in about a three minute period: “you’re not what I expected; a marriage between us wouldn’t last two weeks; and I don’t love you.” How closely related these statements are and how frightening they can sound to a person who’s just beginning to realize how much you mean to him.
Maggathie, it’s getting late and this is my last sheet of paper, so I’m going to have to leave now.
Missing You
Dennis
P.S. Thank you for crying Thursday night.
***
9/8/15
Maggie wrote the following letter the day I left Chicago to fly to Washington D.C. She sent it before she received the two letters I sent above and I did not receive this letter before I sent mine.
***
                                                                                                                            January 26, 1968
My Dearest Dennis,
I’ve already written a letter to you, but I felt so lonely tonight that I disregarded the first letter so that I might fill the emptiness I feel by writing again tonight.
I keep straining to hear someone calling me “clunky.” I don’t even have anyone to be mad at me. You know, you really have to care for someone in order to be mad at them. I learned that last night --- among other things.
How I miss you, Dennis.
I finally washed the dishes from Monday and wiped up footprints from the kitchen floor.
I really shouldn’t feel lonely. You’re here with me right now. Not only because I’m writing to you, but you’re here because I’ve washed my hair and there’s no hair spray in it. You’re here because if I play “Fiddler on the Roof” I will cry. You’re here because when I run, I think I run like a girl. I really feel that I hardly miss you at all --- just when I’m clunky. Do I run like a clunky girl?
I’m not asking for anything, Dennis - just a chance to know you better. Right now I’m sad, happy, frightened and challenged all at the same time. I’m sad because geographical distance makes it impossible to have you here with me; I’m frightened because of the need to have you feel that way about me, and I’m challenged because I have so much to learn. I’m sad because I’m happy and I’m happy because I’m sad. I’m frightened because I’m challenged and I’m challenged because I’m frightened. You’ll understand that.
I think I need you, Dennis. I don’t like opening car doors, or going to bed before midnight and I don’t want to answer the phone anymore because I know it won’t be someone simply asking me how I feel.
Tomorrow is Saturday and I have to work. That’s terrible.
I feel very bad because I think that we hurt my father’s feelings by not stopping to see him all the while you were home. It never occurred to me that he would feel this way and I can’t imagine why! It is my fault. I didn’t even call to talk to him since Monday evening. I went over to his house tonight after work and I saw the hurt all over him when he asked why we didn’t stop in. I feel awful. I’ll have to make it up to him somehow.
By the way, Christmas was wonderful just as I had hoped it would be. Thank you for making my Christmas wonderful.
I’m going to set my wooly locks so I can be my beautiful self tomorrow and then I’ll sit in my bathtub (with water in it) and off to bed. I’m going right off to bed to fall asleep.
Thinking I love you,
Maggathie
***
After reading Maggie’s letter I felt good about much of what she wrote - that she “missed” me and felt that she “needed” me. But I was concerned about her use of the word “think.” Why did she say “I think I need you”  and why did she sign her letter “Thinking I love you”?  I had fallen so hard for her as a result of being with her those 2 ½ days and felt so much closer to her now. Why did she seem to be having doubts?
***
I received the following letter from Maggie a couple days later. In it she explained why she made the comments she made on my last evening home:
1)     I didn’t meet her expectations
2)     I didn’t do the little things she expected,
3)     If we were married, it probably wouldn’t last two weeks,
4)     I don’t love you.
She also wrote about receiving my last two letters and the impact they had on her feelings for me.
***
                                                                                                                                    January 31, 1968
My Dearest Dennis,
This will be a long and difficult to write letter. It will be a long letter because I have so much to tell you. I began letters Saturday and Sunday and Monday, but my complicated, uncoordinated life wouldn’t allow me to finish them. It will be a difficult letter to write because I have hair spray in my eyes.
Here I sit, heart bursting with joy, tears streaming down my cheeks, out-loud laughter echoing through the corners of my home and you ask – “what have I done to you!” I don’t know what I’ve done to you, but whatever it is may it grow and last forever. I want that more than anything in this world (No exaggerating).
How I want you, Dennis. I have so much explaining to do that I’ll have to control these outbursts of a thinking love.
“You hadn’t met my expectations”
“You didn’t do the thoughtful things that I long for”
“Our marriage wouldn\'t last two weeks”
“I don’t love you”
Ha Ha Ha! Did I say all that? What a spoiled brat I am. You didn’t fall all over me and let me walk all over you --- that was all! You proved to me that you were a real man (something rare these days) and proved to me that you weren’t kidding when you said that your love for a girl would always last. (That’s a switch)
Actually, you threw me completely off guard. I was hurt by a new realization – that true love doesn’t grow on trees. In defense, I said things to heal my wounded pride, to show you that I could walk out on you at the whim of a moment, that I could make you see that I was not so foolish as to give my love when I was receiving nothing in return. What a liar I was and all because I was so blind. I couldn’t even tell that you missed me, really missed me, and all because I didn’t really know you.
As for our marriage lasting two weeks – well, that was the classic. Here we hardly really know each other and I make a statement that juvenile.
You asked me to wait for you and I know you meant it. You know the answer – I’ll wait for as long as it takes to prove one thing; that we can be happy together for the rest of our lives.
One thing I must ask you. If there is ever a time when I don’t seem to understand you, please give me the chance to try. Don’t lose faith in me too quickly. Let me learn, for I feel that I love you and with that love, a need to have you always. I don’t want to lose you because of something as stupid as stupidity.
I guess I do miss you after all. A strange feeling is in me and it’s almost frightening --- You may be displeased by this next piece of news. First of all, I must tell you that what feeling I have for you now stems mostly from the three days we spent together and your last two letters. It’s funny how sure I was of my feelings before you came home, and once you were home, so unsure at times, and now so sure again. I’ve changed so in a certain respect. When I’m with girlfriends and happen to catch a guy’s eye, I could care less. If the phone rings and I’m asked for a date, I’m either too busy or too tired. I’m still me, flattered to all ends, happy to get the attention, but still indifferent.
I know by asking me to wait for you, you didn’t imply that I should sit around moping – being a true-blue Nelly. But I am anyway. Not for any other reason than that I can’t do anything more. Oh believe me; I’m not making life miserable for those around me by pouting all day. I’m still happy go lucky and my usual happy to be alive self. The only difference is my purpose – you. I’m not putting up a front anymore, I’m really happy. You’re making me feel this way so why “put on” for anyone else. I’m happy thinking I love you and there’s not much more that anyone else could do for me to let me feel this happy.
I have a terrible feeling that everything I’m telling you is coming out wrong. I needn’t worry. You’ll question anything that you don’t understand and I’ll explain in my next letter.
I quit modeling forever! Boy, that phase of my life didn’t last long. I just couldn’t stand another dousing of that clown make-up and the sound of that one old bug purring the word “Yummy” every time I tried on something new.
Dennis, I hope you’ll always feel a need to be near me. You know, not holding hands or rubbing legs beneath a table (well, that’s not bad), but like what I feel for you --- to be able to look around to find you there, or call your name just to hear you answer. I need someone very much. That someone is you.
To think that the things that I worried about most --- being klunky, saying silly things, getting nervous, smiling too much --- are the things that seemed to please you most. I won’t ever change for “anyone” and how wonderful to know that “anyone” doesn’t want me to.
Has this letter made one bit of sense? I certainly hope so. I’ve tried to say so much, but I’ve found out that my point gets across faster when I’m speaking than when I’m writing.
I must go now. My eyes are crossing.
I think I love you, Dennis
Maggathie
P.S. Your are a scrawn (155 lbs!!)
P.S.S. Thank you for the compliment on my legs.
P.S.S.S. You’re welcome --- but I cried because I had to, not because I wanted to – so I don’t deserve a thank you.
P.S.S.S.S. I know – it’s supposed to be P.S
                  P.P.S.
                  P.P.P.S
                  P.P.P.P.S.
                  P.P.P.P.P.S.
I like clunky spelled with a “c” but it does give it a clunkier affect when one spells it with a “k.” What’s more effective?:
                  GULP
                   or
                  CLUNK
P.P.P.P.P.P.S. I shouldn’t have used affect in the last paragraph. Right, it should be effect?
(This letter needs to exercise)
***
9/14/15
((I’m sorry for not posting for so long. My computer had a virus and I had to wait until my son could come to my house this weekend to fix it.))
***                        
Maggie had so much to write about in her last letter that she didn’t have time to say it all before she became too tired. The next morning, she wrote the following letter.  I loved her casual style of writing. It often made me feel as though she was sitting next to me. She continued to doubt that she and I would become a couple.                              
                                                                                                                 February 1, 1968
My Dearest Dennis,
I had so much to tell you that I couldn’t say everything in yesterday’s letter. Now I can’t think of a thing to tell you. How about if I tell you all about myself.
First of all, I’m a clunk and you know that. I’m crazy and you know that. I’m in love with you and you know that. What’s there to tell you?
I miss you so very much. I get so tickly inside when I remember that you’ll be home for good in about 60 days. I don’t want to count on too much. I know you wanted to be home with me on your last three days, but I’m afraid that this need may lessen once you’re home to stay. How I hope not --- pray not.
I’m writing as if in desperation for your homecoming. With all this trouble in Korea, Viet Nam,etc. and then all the doubts of the future, I am filled with more anxiety than ever before.
I don’t know why I worry so about what will come. It’s silly to worry about things you can’t really prevent. I guess when you need someone as much as I need you; you worry about things like that. When you’ve waited for someone whom you can really love, and he finally walks into your life, it’s difficult not to worry about losing him. I won’t bother you with this worry. I’m sure everything will work out for the best. Trouble is, what’s the best?
I had a nightmare last night and funny – I can’t remember what it was about. I woke up in the middle of the night petrified about something, but can’t remember what! It was storming so maybe the thunder and lightning had something to do with it.
My boss frightened me half to death tonight. He drives my girlfriend and me home and one of the questions asked of me tonight was “Aren’t you afraid to stay alone!” Everyone asks me that and quite frankly that question bothers me. I’ve always felt that no one could harm me unless I was stupid enough to let them in the house. I’m nearly 20 and I’m sorry to say that there’s one thing that frightens me – the talk about werewolves! I’m scared of them and even though I’m quite sure he meant to tease me, I’m very much on guard tonight. Yes, I’m frightened to live alone right now, but I must get over it. And I will.
I miss you so much. Don’t you hope things work out for us?
Everyone knew today when I got to work that I got a letter from you last night. They could all tell by the way I tripped over the extension cord of the phone, spilled a cup of coffee, dribbled pineapple jelly on my plum mini dress and (get ready) got my ankle stuck in between the back and the seat of my chair. Try that in a mini skirt with 6 people trying to get you out. They finally ended up suspending me in mid-air and turning the chair sideways.
My girlfriend Chris is here and she wants to talk about her problems. Her finance is in Vietnam and she’s worried sick. (Brings back memories).
I must go now. I will write again this weekend. I need you so much.
Thinking I love you,
Maggathie
P.S. I do
P.S.S. She is gone and still I’m much too tired to continue on with this letter. I’ll be writing soon, although I should write now. I’ve thought of some of the things that I wanted to tell you.
I wish you were here.
***
The following letter was my response to Maggie’s January 31st letter –the one in which she made several negative comments about me “to heal her wounded pride” when I didn’t respond to her the way other men had.  I spent some time trying to explain to Maggie how I viewed the role of the husband and wife in a marriage. Although this way of thinking is outmoded now, it was how I felt at the time.
                                                                                                            Early February, 1968
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
What must you be thinking by now? Three letters in the period of a week, then silent so long. It’ isn’t my fault though. The tremors caused by the Korean crisis had their effect upon our small station. I’ve been hopping about quite a bit in the past week. I even have little time to write you now.
I’m very sorry we hurt your father’s feelings. The idea that he might be offended at our not stopping to see him just never entered my mind. There were so many things that had to be accomplished in those two and a half days. Too many things in too short a time. I’m really sorry.
Actually, I shouldn’t be writing to you now. I’m in one of my moods again tonight. It suddenly hit me toward the end of the work day. No real reason: suddenly, I was in a depressed mood. It’s really at times like this that I wish you were near. Why– if I was home, I’d just drag myself over to your apartment; sullenly knock on your door – and talk, that’s all, just talk. I wonder if you can tolerate my moods and how you will react to them.
“You didn’t fall all over me and let me walk all over you --- that was all!”  I’m somewhat surprised that you might have expected anything else. Perhaps we never touched upon this point in past correspondence, then again, perhaps you misinterpreted my comment that the “man is king of the family and the woman is the queen.” I believe in a very definite relationship between man and woman: not one which is 50/50 either. The man must be the master, a benevolent and understanding master. He must be the one who does the leading –not one who follows. (Would you believe that few things anger me more than to go shopping with a girl and have her dragging me behind her through the various department stores).  Both the man and the woman must understand their roles and each must act in accordance with it.
I am good friends here with a young couple. I think of them as some of the finest people I have met, yet, I can seldom spend more than a few hours with them without becoming inwardly angry. The husband more often than not sets the table for meals, refills empty glasses during meals and clears the table after meals. After an eight hour day at the office, he must arise at 2 a.m. with their baby girl because, according to his wife, it is his turn. He wouldn’t buy a particular album which he had heard at my apartment and enjoyed, because his wife informed him that no Beatle albums would be in their house. In short, he sometimes makes me sick.
I hope you understand what I’m trying to say. I don’t mean to imply that the woman is merely a servant who must cater to every whim of the man. I don’t mean that it’s above the man to do what is considered “woman’s work.” What I do mean is –the woman must realize what “woman’s work” is and what is the woman’s role. I don’t doubt that I’ll often help with the dishes; I’ll often help with the child; and I’ll often cater to wishes. So long, that is, as she realizes that the woman’s work which I am doing is woman’s work. That when I cater to her wishes I am catering because I want to and not necessarily because she wants me to. When she ceases to see “woman’s work” as such and expects me to do it that is when I cease doing it. When she ceases to look upon my catering as an act of love and misconstrues it as acknowledgement of her power over me, that is when I cease catering. I expect to be the man in any man and woman relationship.
Forgive me if I have belabored what may have already been an obvious point, but I had to make it as clear as I possibly could. I want you to understand my concept of a man and woman relationship. If you are still confused as to what my concept is, I wish you would ask me some questions about it.
“I won’t ever change for ‘anyone’ and how wonderful to know that that ‘anyone’ doesn’t want me to.” You know, Miss Maggathie, what you have said there is beautiful. Thank you so much.
No, Maggathie, I don’t want you to change. I don’t want to make you into anything other than what you are, because it is what you are that differentiates you from
THIS REMAINING PAGESOF THIS LETTER ARE LOST.
***
Maggie sent me the following letter before she received my last one.
                                                                                                                         February 8, 1968
My Dearest Dennis,
I must ask you to forgive me for not writing sooner. You must believe that I have at least three letters started to you and one completely written that I never got around to mailing.
The past two weeks have been hectic. I’ve started at 8:00 a.m. everyday at work (modeling) and have worked as late as 8:00 p.m. I’ve really been running ragged. I also have some rather complex problems to solve, and decision making after long meditation can tire me easily.
All and all I should have at least found time to let you know that I hadn’t forgotten you. Believe me, I didn’t. You played a major role in my meditation.
This has been a bad  past two weeks for me like before when everything went wrong --- maybe now I have different problems, a different outlook, but it has that same haunting feeling. It’s like graduating from big problems to even worse problems. Do I sound like I’m pitying myself again?
I finally did it! I finally fell down my stairway. Usually when the steps are slippery, I slide but save myself by grabbing onto a snowy banister (of course I don’t have gloves on). But this time the klunk wasn’t fast enough (as usual) and made it half way down the stairs without even trying (I had gloves on too!)
How can I explain to you that I miss you so very much? You’d think this feeling would fade with time. It only grows. How I need you, my sunshine.
When I heard that President Johnson may call up the reserves and extend enlistees, I nearly cried. I need you, Dennis, and they just can’t do that to me. They just can’t!
Pretty soon you’ll be home again and that pretty soon means exactly just about 60 days! That’s only about eight weeks, which means only two months and ads up to the same as 1/6 of a year, which in turn is 1,440 hours, or 86,400 minutes or 5,064,000 seconds! --- 60 days. In other words neither of us need hold our breath.
But how I miss you! I hope so much that everything works out for the best. Trouble is (once again) that best may not be realized for many moons. It’s all in the stars?
I received your second letter since your return – not third – and of course, I was in my glory awhile. Then I’d lose “something” and have to run back to read it again and again and again. I need you so much.
Dennis, I must leave you, it’s 11:30. I will write as soon as I can.
Good night, scrawny
Maggathie
***
9/20/15
I APOLOGIZE FOR NOT POSTING SOONER
The following letter was Maggie’s response to my letter in which I told her about how I saw the role of the man and woman in a marriage. I didn’t know what Maggie would think of my viewpoint and wondered how she would react to it.
(I must admit that now that I cannot believe I ever felt that the” man was king” if I didn’t see it in my own hand writing. I lived my entire married life feeling that the husband and wife shared equal responsibility. Maggie and I had some defined roles, but we always had mutual respect for each other).
***
I loved how Maggie wrestled with how she was going to deal with my moods. And I was really surprised to read her very mature response to my “man is king” philosophy – and how she saw the multiple roles of a wife.
                                                      February 12, 1968
My Dearest Dennis,
I was sleeping so soundly, the third good rest I’ve had since I saw you. Then, a knock at my door startled me. The first thing that entered my mind was perhaps the mailman had a package for me or the gas company wanted to check my heater. But lo and behold --- it was a Jehovah Witness who talked about persecution for 15 minutes. Boy was I crabby. She finally left and I nearly cried until she yelled --- you’ve got mail --- a letter from you. And now I’m singing and very wide awake.
Gee, I wonder how I will react to your moods. First of all, I don’t know you, so I don’t know what could get you into a mood, or I don’t even know if you’d want to get out of a mood! Don’t tell me what to do though. Let me figure you out. Only you’ll have to have patience with me, because I’m sure to flub up the first couple of times. Usually when I’m faced with a person who is moody, I’ll just listen to their beef and combat the mood just by letting them know I care. Sometimes, I’ll ignore a mood, act my casual crazy self, and (snap) I’ve got a smile out of them. Sometimes, if they really ignore my attempts to help (boom) I’m in a depressed mood and we end up helping each other. Just give me time, if I haven’t hit what could get you out of a mood, I’ll figure something out.
The relationship between a man and a woman:
Yes, the man is the leader. This I believe with all my heart. Leadership is the biggest factor I look for in a man. I’ve found some that I could string along endlessly. What happens? I lose respect for them and all feelings other than pity. I’ve found some who were leaders (they thought), tyrants (I thought). If it’s one thing I can’t stand is a man who must constantly prove to me and to himself that he’s a man. I know what a man is! You know, the extremist who believes woman is the ground on which a man walks. And that’s not a man at all! I’ve also found those with just the right touch of leadership, but something else is usually missing and (poof) all is lost. So you see, I’m fussy too --- sometimes too much so.
One thing really disappointed me about you; the idea of shopping with a girl. I’m not talking about groceries or buying clothes for myself, but I get the biggest kick out of Christmas shopping with a man. I can recall Christmas’s that shopping started a month in advance ---stopping for hot chocolate --- watching kids go up on Santa’s knee --- looking at fancy window displays --- selecting just the right gift for just the right person. There’s a great feeling there when two people who care about each other  pick out a gift together for a person they both care for. These past two Christmas’s of shopping alone were terrible --- get anything and get home. Sorry, but that’s the way I feel. A man who would toss the money at me to do the shopping for gifts is not the type to make an ideal relationship with me. I’m much too sentimental for that kind of thing. You’re probably saying “Oh, humbug! Sorry!
Yes, there’s a definite line between woman’s work and a man’s work. I honestly (with passion even) would not want to see my husband doing my work, especially dishes --- ugh, that disgusts me. For one thing, I wouldn’t have much respect for him and I’m the type that I hate anyone to interfere with my housework and the way I do things. A suggestion? --- I’ll listen. An offer to take garbage out? --- Fine and thank you --- Wash the floor because I’m in my ninth month of pregnancy? --- I love you. But that’s it, kid!!!(Boy, I am fussy!!)
I do think a woman is a servant in certain aspects. A woman was made to please the man she loves. When a woman loves a man (speaking for myself) she should be a servant to him. A woman must be versatile. She has to be first of all a wife; cooking, keeping house, managing the things her husband puts in her care. She must be a mistress; someone dressed nicely to greet her husband when he comes home, never refusing his passion. She must be a nurse; sympathetic and helpful when her man isn’t feeling well. She must be a friend; friendship in the true sense of the word must never be lost. Although certain things are a man’s worry alone, a man still needs someone to turn to as a friend --- someone there to stand by him right or wrong. In time, she may be a mother too. The only comment I have on that (as I don’t really know how it is to be a mother) is that the man in her life must never be neglected because of children and that’s saying countless things.
Everyone that has heard these ideas of mine says --- ha, ha, ha, wait kid. You’ll see! But, honest, Den, I’ve got certain ideals set up for the kind of wife I’ll be. I’ve seen so many women make a beautiful relationship turn into a ploddy day by day, bogged down type of thing and I don’t want that. Just because two people get married that doesn’t mean they must turn into the typical statistical magazine analyzed way of life that I so often hear or read about --- does it? I won’t get married if that’s true!
I still haven’t received your gift and curiosity has the best of me. One thing is certain --- I’ll be pleased with it even if it was a souvenir napkin from a German root beer stand.
Well, this Klunk better get her housework finished, and I have shopping to do and after all that I must look radiant tonight for a vivacious group of friends. You’ll be hearing from me soon.
Missing You,
Klunkie
P.S. I pulled another one at work last Thursday. It was 5:00 and I emptied my ash tray into the trash can as I usually do, got all the way to the elevator and someone shouted --- Fire! So, we all rushed back, the office was filled with smoke and it would be my trash can that was burning! I got hell, but I told them I’d try harder next time. Now it’s a big joke so all is well again.
P.S.S.. Sorry that this letter is such a mess. You’ll probably have trouble making sense out of it as my punctuation is way under par.
***
I had been very busy at the courier station, having to go on a couple of short trips to Munich and Austria, and had not been able to send a letter to Maggie. She sent the following short letter in which she expressed her fear that something was wrong between us. She continued to be worried that our relationship would not last and that I would tire of her.
February 18, 1968
My Dearest Dennis,
It has been a couple weeks since I last heard from you. How my heart worries as I feel you may be beginning that gradual break that you once mentioned. I only pray that this silence only means that you’ve been busy, or much too exhausted to write.
I must tell you that I wore the bracelet and the pin that you gave me, and I was flooded with compliments, followed by "ohs" and "ahs" wherever I went. How proud I was in telling everyone that they were gifts from you. I am very thankful for them and you.
I still haven’t received the gift that you sent. I got a notice to pick up a parcel at the post office. I went all the way down there to find a package from a beauty club (ha ha) that I belong to. You can’t imagine how disillusioned I was. My dad’s reaction was, “Oh –“
I miss you, Den. And I’m so worried because I haven’t heard from you. Are you making a fool of me this time? Do it quickly --- If you must do it at all.
I must be off. I will write more later this week. I guess I’m just running away – afraid.
With love,
Maggathie
***
I sent the following letter before I received Maggie’s 2/18/68 letter. This was my answer to her 2/12/68 letter.
                                                                                                            Around 2/16/68
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
It is Thursday afternoon, 2:45, and I am sitting in my living room listening to my stereo. I have just returned from having two wisdom teeth removed and decided to hasten a letter off to you before the Novocain wears off.
I received a letter from you today - another long revealing letter. I’m afraid you have misunderstood me. Not your fault though, I certainly didn’t make myself clear. It’s about my not liking to go shopping with a girl. You seem to have interpreted my statement wrongly. I never said that I don’t like to go shopping with a girl; I merely said that I don’t like to be dragged about from store to store. And I mean just that – “dragged about.” I don’t like for the girl to be running from department to department, pulling me behind her like a little puppy or reticent child. In fact, I really enjoy going shopping with a girl for whom I care. I have done it often in the past and will do it often in the future.
The bustle of downtown seems so much less frustrating when there is someone you can laugh with. And your memories of Christmas shopping aren’t too far removed from mine. I enjoy few things more than standing with my girl in front  of Marshall Field’s window displays, shoulders hunched, hands in pocket, with my girl huddled next to me, hands wrapped around my arm, face close against me – looking and smiling. And watching the children, half dazed with wonderment at the gaudy displays. And who cares if you run half a block to catch a bus only to have the doors close when you are within three feet. How can you get angry when two of you are standing there panting with exhaustion.
As for “A man who would toss the money at me to do the shopping for gifts” – all I can say is “NOT I MADAM.” Perhaps you don’t realize how sentimental I am. Buying a gift for someone special is not a casual event. It’s an event which demands a great deal of time and thoughtful consideration. In fact, when we do go shopping, I’m almost willing to bet that you will berate me for being too particular. No, Miss Maggathie, there will never be any “Here’s $50, pick up some gifts for me.” Any gift given as a joint gift will be jointly purchased.
You know, Klunkie, the more I learn about you, the less I wonder. So, your friends laugh and tell you to wait and see when you speak of being a wife, mistress, nurse and friend to your husband. “Wait and see” – I suppose that’s good advice. The way I see it, you can be only two of these without support from your husband: wife and nurse. The other two cannot be accomplished without his cooperation. A mistress needs an agreeable subject and as far as friendship goes, well, whether or not you’re his friend will ultimately be determined by him. But how foolish your girlfriends are to laugh. Actually, all they are doing is admitting one of two things: either they have failed to be these to their husband, or their husband has failed to accept them as such. Either way, their laughter is rather derogatory to themselves.
“Just because two people get married that doesn’t mean they must turn into the typical, statistical, magazine, analyzed way of life that I so often read or hear about --- does it?”  Not if both feel the same way and work at avoiding it. You see, I think that kind of life can sneak up on you and if you’re not careful – BAM – Ho, Hum – another typical marriage. And that’s something I want to avoid at all costs. I think I know some of the symptoms and when I recognize them – immediate reaction.
The real work begins after you say “I do.” Keeping the other person from wondering why he or she married you can at times be a difficult task. But, if both members are trying to accomplish the same, it can be a great deal easier. In short, with my wife’s cooperation, I expect our marriage to be a growing experience of love. I want her to always be aware of why she married me. When she begins to ask herself “why,” and can’t find a satisfactory answer, then I worry – hopefully, before then.
I really wished you were with me last night. A fellow from work threw a party at a German restaurant in celebration of his business. We all got involved in a couple of drinking games and ended up having a somewhat hazy time. I kept thinking of you and wishing you were there. Actually, spent a good part of the evening talking about you.
A quote from your next to last letter: “How can I explain to you that I miss you so very much? You’d think this feeling would fade with time.” No – I wouldn’t.
I must go now.This Novocain is starting to wear off and now would be a good time to take a pain pill and go to bed.
Sorely Missing You
Dennis
***
Maggie answered my letter soon after she received it.
                                    February 20, 1968
My Dearest Dennis,
So, you got two wisdom teeth pulled. Well, you didn’t need them anyway. I hope you didn’t go through too much pain.
I kinda figured you really liked to shop with a girl and meant “being dragged”to be taken literally. Any guy who would spend an afternoon searching for a gift --- a book of poems no less --- isn’t the type to throw $50 at a woman and tell her to buy gifts. I just wanted to see if my hunch was right --- and it was.
I miss ya, scrawn. I can’t help feeling rather lonely all the time, But somehow, you’re still with me.
It’s 1:00 A.M. I worked until 8:30 p.m. tonight. Hey, I’m reallyr unning crazy at work. You’d think I was a courier or something. My duties today started off with taking minutes at a 3 ½ hour meeting. (That was fun ---especially when everyone talked at once). Then I was sent to Marshall Fields to buy a Werner girdle! (We’re copy cats). At 3:30 I drove my boss to the airport (his car), drove all the way back to his house to pick up his wife and she drove me back to work. I can’t figure why he just didn’t leave the car home to begin with!
What did you mean --- “The more I learn about you, the less I wonder” ??? That I’m not mysterious? Don’t answer that if you don’t want to. I’m rather slow at picking up things. By the way, it’s not only my girlfriends who laugh; my sister, my sister-in-law, and quite a few of the old timers smirked at my ideals. It’s funny, my grandmother never laughed; she instilled these ideals in me. That was a woman. They don’t make them like her too often nowadays.
The next two weeks coming up I’m going to do all my spring housework. In February?? Well, I at least plan to wash Venetian blinds and arrange closet space, and maybe do some creative (and cheap) interior decorating to make it seem a little more like “home” around here.
Your parents really are looking for a new home. And Patsy and Leo may have found “the” house. Gee, Bridgeport will certainly be lonely then. It frightens me to think that you may not be near me after all. What am I talking about; you may not even want to be either. Oh, I hope so.
So, I’m the leading lady in your plan. Well, buster, this young starlet better get some sleep or Frankenstein may want to take me for his bride.
Love,
Maggathie
P.S. Tell Benjie that he better stand up straight or he’ll grow that way. I miss him too.
***
9/26/15
I had some news for Maggie that I had learned about when I returned to Heidelberg from the United States - news that I wasn’t sure I should tell her. However, the more I thought about it, the more I felt Maggie should be aware of the decision I made and my reasons for doing so.
(When I mention “extending” in the following letter, I’m referring to remaining in the Army beyond the date I was to be discharged. The opportunity presented to me by my commanding officer was an honor and he was certain I would be grateful and would immediately say “yes.”)
***
                                                                                                Around19 February 1968
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
Let me tell you something I was going to leave unmentioned. When I returned to Germany from the States, I was approached by the Major who very excitedly said, “I want you to think about extending. I’ve just found out that all you need do is extend for one month and you can make Captain.” I thought about it for two days. The advantages: 1) more prestige, 2) about $400 more than I would have if I stayed in an extra month as a first lieutenant, and 3) an opportunity to see more of Europe. The disadvantages: another month away from Miss Maggathie. You should have seen the look on the Major’s face when I said “no”.
Klunkie, Chicago holds little of interest for me. If it wasn’t for the fact that you were back home waiting for me, I would have certainly stayed at least the extra month. “European out” and spend the summer touring Europe. This opportunity is here – now. But you are in Chicago. A simple choice of what I want most. I’ll be home in April.
I can understand why you may have felt as you did when you didn’t receive a letter from me for so long. I have not had much free time to write, and you being you, naturally assumed the worst. I just want you to know that this is not so. I could never make a fool of you. A person who hungers for your letters as much as I do could hardly be starting “that gradual break.”
You know what I really miss, Klunkie? - Waking you up in the morning. Pretty silly isn’t it.
I really miss you.
Most Affectionately
Dennis
P.S. I think we’ll hang our calendar in your bedroom.
(I had sent Maggie a calendar and she wasn’t sure where she should hang it.)
***
Maggie answered my letter quickly. She told me how happy she was that our relationship seemed to be getting stronger, and then expressed concern that I might be making the wrong decision about extending my stay in the Army.
I absolutely loved the way Maggie ended her letter. How could I not be falling in love with her?
                                                                                    Around February 22, 1968
My Dearest Dennis,
I feel that I must rush this letter off to you, not only because I have neglected you, but also that there is so much that I must say to you.
The letter I received from you today made me float on cloud 9. I can’t believe that this is happening to me. It’s almost as if someone said, “Maggathie, you are by far the best woman on earth” (the speaker being someone who really knows what he’s talking about).
Which brings me to the subject of --- Are you sure you knew what you were doing when you refused a one month extension. Den, am I worth all that? Believe me, I want you home near me as soon as possible, but I don’t want you making the sacrifices for my selfish reasons. I won’t be hurt if you think it over and decide to stay, but I will be hurt if you come home in April and end up regretting it for the rest of your life. What if you don’t like me anymore? What if suddenly you take one long look and find that I’m not that Maggathie you so often spoke of. Think it over,scrawn.
As for my neglecting you. Yes, I’m a terrible fink. I could give a list of excuses for letting moments pass when I could’ve written, but I’m afraid my No. 1 excuse is that I was afraid to write. I was almost certain your feelings had turned away from me. I’m stupid and so damn insecure!
So, Chicago holds little interest for you. Well, you know what, I’m getting fairly tired of it myself. I’m so worried about this “Long Hot Summer” that lies ahead, I’m tired of nosey neighbors who think that neighbors are people to be spied on and gossiped about, I’m sick of dirt and grit, and murder, and guys with fast cars, and Mrs. Whatchamacallit’s fur coat, and empty stores, and you know what? I’m gonna find all that no matter where I go. What’s a Klunk like me to do?
Hang our calendar in my bedroom? I have a pink bedroom, scrawn, how’s a gold calendar with red knobs gonna look in a pink bedroom – (silly). I guess your idea has its advantages --- like - all I have to do is ask you for the date and I’ve got you trapped – or when I wake up I’ll think of you because it’s sure to catch my eye -- and it might even cover that spot that I forgot to paint.
I haven’t pulled any smashing Klunk-type things since I nearly started my office on fire, but I’ve been exactly 3 minutes late for work for the past two weeks, I sent a very important letter to Skokie, Illinois via air mail and it took an extra two days to get there, I threw an ice cream cone out of an unopened window – cone and all slid so gracefully down the side of my bosses car, I left my keys in my door for nearly 24 hours, and washed my dad’s navy blue shirt in bleach. Boy, I’m so dumb. Actually, I do have a head on my shoulders when needed, otherwise I forget about it.
Your Valentine was very beautiful, your Happy Sunday after Valentine’s Day card knocked me off my feet and that card with the octopus on it made me miss Benjie (Our Benjie) (sigh). If only I could be there to see him now --- growing, growing away from me (sigh). Does he still have his eyes?
I miss you, scrawn. You know if you were home I’d be a million times more content and happy. I could cuddle you, and run away from you, and wrestle with you, and laugh with you, and cry with you, and talk with you, and be quiet with you, and walk with you, and ride with you, and work with you, and go to the zoo with you, and shop with you, and sing with you, and eat with you , and (getting monotonous????) sleep with you (Ah Ha, getting better eh!), and fight with you, (for variety only) and love with you, and on and on and on.
Loving You,
Maggathie


***


It had been a month since I was last with Maggie and I was missing her more with each letter I received. I reread “I miss you scrawn…and on and on and on”over and over again. I didn’t know how I was going to last another six weeks in Europe. She was on my mind constantly.
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, and while I was casually strolling the streets of downtown Heidelberg, I came across a small sweet shop with a window displaying a variety of stuffed animals and assorted candies. I glanced inside as I passed. After only a few steps, I found myself back at the window. My eyes were drawn to the stuffed animals where there sat a little black cat with flowers on its head. I wasn’t a cat lover, nor did I think Maggie was, so I payed little attention to it as I entered the shop to see if I could find a stuffed animal or something else Maggie might like. I wasn’t looking for anything expensive, just a little gift from my heart—something that whispered “Maggie” to me. After about a half-hour of squeezing almost every toy animal in the store and not liking any of them, I found what I wanted: a frosted crystal statue of the Blessed Mother and Child.
As I left the small shop, Blessed Mother and Child wrapped in paper and resting safely in a gift bag, I was drawn again to the window display. That damn black cat with flowers on its head caught my eyes again and I soon found myself back inside asking the clerk to wrap it up.
The following Monday, I mailed my gifts to Maggie with the enclosed note below to explain the one that was not so obvious.
***
                                                                                                Around 24 February 1968
Dear Klunkie:
I would like you to meet “Mestopholis” – “Mes” for short. He was sitting in the window of this sweet shop downtown and began to whimper as I passed. Quite naturally I couldn’t believe my ears and continued on my way – the whimper progressed to a whine. Well, now a whine does something to me that’s difficult to explain. I stopped and turned – goodbye heart.
“Mes” has this tremendous yearning to go to the States – Chicago of all places. Quite naturally I began to tell him all about you. What a sad mistake that was. I’m afraid I’ve lost him to you. He tried to break it to me gently – something about boy/girl relationship. I cried a little.
I made him promise one thing though – that he would put those flowers in his hair and disguise himself as a female. You see, I can’t take the chance that he’ll steal your heart from me. Damn Cat!
Most Affectionately
Dennis
***
9/30/15
Maggie received the gifts I sent and wrote me a letter shortly afterwards. She was babysitting for her sister and my brother and sent the letter on lined paper, torn from a large notebook. In the letter she continued to doubt that all would work out for both of us.
I love Maggie’s PS’s. When she wrote like this, I felt that she was sitting next to me.
                        Around February 27, 1968
My Dearest Dennis,
I’m writing on Theresa’s Big Scribbler Tablet and as you may guess I’m babysitting again for Leo and Patsy. (They’re still searching for a house).
What am I talking about? I received your presents and I can’t get over how really great that statue is. I was at first worried that it might glow in the dark. I could just see me waking up in the middle of the night to find something glowing in the corner of my room! But really, Den, the Blessed Mother and I are very close. Actually, we’ve been under a special bond since about 1961, not only because she’s my patron saint, but more because she really has taken good care of me since the absence of my own mother. You don’t know what it is to miss a mother, so you really can’t imagine what comfort having The Blessed Mother trying to replace my mother brings to me.
Well, “Mes” is really a heart warmer! The flowers fooled me for a while, but this old Klunk ain’t so stupid after all. “Mes” confessed that Chicago and I would be more enjoyable if you were here (I think so too). By the way, did “Mes” meet Benjie?
Oh, how I miss you.
I was just looking at “Mes” and he has the fattest tail! (And very scrawny legs!) Oh, well --- “Mes” the Greek with scrawny legs and a fat tail. Somehow those flowers do “something” for him (oops, I hope he doesn’t see this). I wouldn’t want him to think that I’m not the Maggathie that you told him I was.
It really snowed today in Chicago. I was rather angry at that old snow! I was hoping I could toss my boots and begin shopping for dresses in pinks and blues again. But no, just when I think spring is on its way, just when I think April is only a skip and a jump away --- Boom --- snow!! I like snow alright but not when I’ve already dreamed about spring.
I really hope everything works out for us, don’t you? I don’t know what plans I fit into in regards to your future. You may ask me to wait for three more years, or maybe you’ll say “run away with me now.” Whatever the future holds, I hope that it will work out for the best for both of us.
One thing I’m wondering. Do you feel that you know me now -- at least better than before you were home? I’m really very easy to figure out. Right?
Oh, I suddenly don’t feel too well. I keep getting chills and my throat is very sore. Gee, if I’m coming down with something, I hope that I haven’t passed it on to the kids.
I’m getting awfully sleepy. I think I’m going to lie across Pat’s bed and see if I can catch up on some rest.
Forgive me for leaving you hanging like this. I’ll write again as soon as possible, okay?
OK
Loving You,
Maggathie
P.S. Mes says “Meee (Good night) Ooowwww
I hope there aren’t any germs on this letter.
P.S.S. “Mes” looks like a boy cat with flowers in his hair.
P.S.S.S. Mes must be Greek – he walks backwards.
P.S.S.S.S. Do you swallow your gum?
***
I sent the following in response to Maggie’s earlier letter in which she told me she wanted me to reconsider my decision not to extend my military stay for one month because she didn’t want me “making sacrifices for her selfish reasons.”
                                                                 Late February 1968
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
I’m terribly lonely tonight. The day at work had not been a good one at all. Even your letter didn’t help. In fact, it was more your letter than anything else that made me feel this way. I felt so close to you when reading it, that it made me miss you even more. I want to be with you.
Which brings me to the subject “….I want you home, near me, as soon as possible, but I don’t want you making the sacrifices for my selfish reasons.” Correction, Miss Maggathie, I am not “making the sacrifices for your selfish reasons,”  but rather, I have made the decision for my selfish reasons: I want to be home with you as soon as I possibly can. I had a choice to stay an extra month in the Army and acquire some prestige and quite a bit extra money, or to come home to you a month sooner. It wasn’t really much of a decision: I simply chose what meant far more to me.
God – I could never be a bachelor my entire life. I simply couldn’t take too many evenings like this one. I’m alone and for the first time in quite a while, I’m aware of it. I do enjoy being alone though. I enjoy being alone with a girl also, not solely for the reasons that you’re thinking of, Klunkie. I mean, just sitting and talking with each other, or just sitting and being with each other.
I was talking to a couple of German acquaintances last night (girlfriend and boyfriend) and they brought up an idea which fascinated me and I would like your reaction. They thought that after a couple had been married for awhile, they should have separate bedrooms. They reasoned that this would have numerous advantages: the husband would be spared the sight of his wife greased down and pinned up; the wife would be spared the discomfort of a snoring husband; both would have a great deal more privacy when desired; both could face each other in the morning after being fully awakened and much more becoming – and both could spend the evening in the same room when both consented. COMMENTS PLEASE.
I want to see you before I see anyone else. I don’t know what time I will be arriving in Chicago, but whatever time it is, I will come to your house first. Do you have an extra key to your apartment? If so, could you send it to me – and if not, could you leave it somewhere that I could obtain it without letting the entire family know that I have returned? I want very much to see you before I see anyone else. The key will permit me to remain at your apartment in the event I return when you are still at work.
I only hope that I am able to leave the Army when my tour of duty is completed. There has been a great deal of rumor about placing a “freeze” upon all active duty personnel. I usually don’t pay much heed to rumors, but this one is so frightening that it really bothers me. If President Johnson decides to extend all military personnel, it would mean at least another year in the Army for me. Just the thought gives me the chills. If you have any influence with a couple of saints, have them throw in a few good words for us.
You won’t be receiving a letter from me for a while. Henry, Cheryl and I will be leaving for a week’s tour of Spain. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out – right now it’s rather cold here – but we’re hoping for the best. Of course, I’ll send postcards – and take pictures and tell you all about it when I return, which should be March 10th – which should make it – provided nothing goes wrong – only 28 days until I depart for you – and the States.
I want to write more, Klunkie, because I don’t feel lonely anymore and I want to talk to you, but it’s already 11:30 pm and I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow – the auditors are coming Monday and I have a great deal of statistics to compile.
I must go.
How I Miss You
Dennis
***
I was praying hard that this ongoing troop buildup in Vietnam wasn’t going to impact my April discharge. The Tet Offensive last month contradicted President Johnson’s message that we were winning the war and there was “a light at the end of the tunnel.” I kept feeling that this couldn’t be happening! Not now, when I was so close to going home—so close to being with Maggie.
***
10/4/15
It took Maggie a couple of weeks before she answered my letter. She knew I was traveling in Spain and I’m sure that was one of the reasons she hadn’t written for a while. In addition to traveling, I also had to train the lieutenant who would be replacing me. So, it really didn’t bother me that so much time had passed since her last letter.
In her next letter, Maggie made it very clear to me what she thought about the idea of separate bedrooms for a husband and wife. She was also grateful for my explaining my reasons for choosing not to extend my tour of duty to make Captain.
***
March 13, 1968
My Dearest Dennis,
I must apologize for not writing sooner. I am so glad that you wanted to see me first. It’s going to be very difficult once you’re home. You’ll have so much to do (unpacking, arranging, setting plans etc.) and I know you’ll be swooped up by relatives and friends, that I’m very happy that we’ll have a few moments alone untouched by clock watching and telephone calls.
Separate bedrooms? Well, I think that if I woke up during the night feeling afraid, I’d want a comforting hand right near me. And if rollers turn my husband off when we’re making love, then I’ll wait until he’s fast asleep before I set my hair. And I’ll eat a mint before he awakes to my first kiss. And if we need privacy there’s a den, or a long drive, or a lonely walk. No, separate bedrooms may be a great solution to some people’s lull in romance, but not for Miss Maggathie. If my husband loses his interest because of the monotony of it all, I won’t be Maggathie!! My husband wouldn’t even suggest separate bedrooms (or I’d cry to death).
Did I tell you that Patsy and Leo are building a new home? Well, my dad is going with them when they move. That means Miss Maggathie will be soloing it for real! I can laugh about it now, but the thought of it sometimes actually frightens me. Guess I’m not so grown up after all.
I received two threatening phone calls within the last week. I’m not sure if the caller (a male) is a genuine lunatic or some screwball pulling a not-so-funny-funny. I’ve got people working on it though.
So, how was Spain?
Thank you for explaining your decision on to be a captain or not to be. I was very worried that you may be making a mistake. Now I’m certain that you haven’t.
Someone blew a horn outside and I jumped about 15 feet! Silly Maggathie.
I think I’m going to end this and get to bed. It’s a spring-like rainy night perfect for cuddling --- my pillow? I’ll write again as soon as possible.
With love,
Maggathie


***

Soon after returning from my trip to Spain, I wrote Maggie to briefly share some of my experiences. I continued to be very uneasy about the Army canceling all discharges because of increased fighting in Vietnam and I again asked Maggie to pray that this didn’t happen.
Around 15 March 1968
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
I finally have a chance to sit down and write you a letter. Things have really been piling up since my return from Spain and even now I have little time to write. Since I will be departing Germany in three more weeks and giving my position to the officer who succeeds me, I have a great deal of partially finished projects to complete. This has kept me busy a vast majority of the time. I’m sorry I couldn’t write sooner.
My trip to Spain was a worthwhile experience. In capsule, we were almost run off the road by three French teenagers; we saw a bull fight our first day in Spain; our plane to the island of Majorca was lightly struck by lightning; and I lost my friend’s camera. The last episode effected my spending as I will have to pay about $60.00 for the lost item.
I would like to tell you more about my trip to Spain, but I really don’t have the time. No pictures either.
The days are steadily progressing and I’m still keeping my fingers crossed. With General Westmorland asking for 200,000 more soldiers, 23 days still looks mighty far away. Why don’t you put in a few good words for us to the Blessed Mother.
As for “Mes,” well, how could you help but fall in love with him. But just be careful, Klunkie. If you give too great a part of your heart to him, I’ll have to inform the proper authorities that he entered the country illegally.
And of course he met “Benjie.” It was that damn fool octopus that mentioned your name to him in the first place. You didn’t think I’d risk telling him about you if I ever had any hopes of keeping him with me. Once “Benjie” spilled the beans though, it would have been foolish of me to remain silent.
Klunkie, I want you to know that I miss you. I want you to know this because I probably won’t be writing too often in the next three weeks. I have a great deal to do here yet. I just don’t want you thinking that my silence implies indifference. I know how pessimistic you are regarding our relationship and I don’t want unavoidable circumstances to prompt you to conclude wrongly.
I must go now, Klunkie.
Missing You
Dennis
P.S. What flavor ice cream was that that you dribbled down your bosses window?
P.P.S. No, I don’t swallow my gum. I found that if you stick it behind your ear, it can be rechewed for as long as nine days.
***
Maggie sent me three letters within the next four days. In the first one she sent (3/17/68) I loved what she wrote about “finding my love.” She continued to have a very hard time believing that I would fall in love with her. Of course, I couldn’t blame her because I still hadn’t said those three words (I love you).
                            March 17, 1968
My Dearest Dennis,
I’ve so much to say to you and yet I’m afraid that you may not want to hear it.
First of all, I miss you so very much. I’ve needed you so badly these past few weeks. Everything is finally working itself out somehow. Be ready to hear all about the terrible times of troubled Klunkie someday. I don’t wish to waste time now on a subject so very uninteresting.
Prepare yourself for a lot of loving-up once you’re home. I think I’ll just love you to death when I see you. I won’t maul you or anything as aggressive as that -- or will I? No, I have so much to say to you.
I’m so excited. D-day is only 26 days away unless old LBJ sticks his nose into the situation.
Please don’t expect to see too many changes around here. In spite of my exercising, I still look like a mud fence. In spite of the extra money I’m making, this 2x4 apartment looks like a 2x4 apartment.
I hope you miss me.
I love you, Dennis. And sometimes even when the hope of finding your love seems to grow dim, I think that perhaps I’m only imagining defeat and that your time to love just hasn’t come yet. Then I can go on hoping.
And I love you. And I need your tenderness so very much. I long for your nearness all the day --- and night.
With Love,
Maggathie


***

March 19, 1968
My Dearest Dennis,
I only have a little time to write as I am already at work and must start within the hour.
The ice cream cone I so neatly smeared over my boss’s car was originally a double dip cone, but I was down to the chocolate before I decided to throw it away.
Of course I’ll mind if I won’t hear from you too often for the next few weeks. I certainly will have pessimistic outlooks on our future; I’ll probably doubt you; I’ll probably worry, but deep down inside I’ll know that you want to write, that our future holds only what we can want it to. I’ll feel that you miss me, and my worry will vanish when I can hold you again.
Mes hasn’t stolen my heart away from you. I almost fell into his trap, but I began to come to my senses when he decided that he looks good with flowers in his hair. My father would kill me if he saw that I was considering a future with a flower child!
I miss you very much and hope that I’ll hear from you as often as you can afford to write. Good luck on your projects, but please don’t lose too much sleep over them.
I’ll write soon.
Loving you,
Maggathie


***

March 20, 1968
My Dearest Dennis,
I’m afraid I can’t send you a key until my next letter as I gave my spare key to my landlady. We had an emergency here and I was called home from work because she didn’t have the key to let the gas company into my apartment. So, I decided to simply have more made. You’ll get it though – I promise.
Sometimes I picture what it will be like if you surprise me when you come to Chicago.
At night – I’d be sleeping soundly and awaken with the touch of strong arms and a gentle kiss.
After work – I’d be rushing up the stairway, open the door, and suddenly be caught up in your arms.
In the evening -- I’d be doing something (sewing), suddenly I hear something – turn -- and you’re there.
What will happen –
I’ll rush to your arms and trip on the way knocking you over -- I’m so Klunkie!!
I miss you very much.
Miss me if you like. Write when you can. I love you.
With love,
Maggathie
P.S. Forgive me for I am sloppy.
***
October 8, 2015
I had received three letters from Maggie and had not had a chance to answer any of them. With my time in the Army quickly coming to an end, there was so much I had to do. Not only did I have to get all my jobs completed, I also had to train the officer who would be taking my place. On top of all of this, there were many good-bye parties being thrown by my friends. Also, there was quite a lot to be done to arrange for the shipping of my property to the United States.
Although there was still a chance that the Army could still cancel all discharges, I began feeling that Maggie’s and my prayers must be working. It was now less than a month to the date I would be leaving Germany and the days seemed to be getting longer and longer. I was grateful that I was so busy, otherwise my thoughts of  being with Maggie would have consumed every waking moment.
***
Late March 1968
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
At least you know now that I was telling the truth when I said I wouldn’t be able to write too often in the next few weeks. I’m sorry I couldn’t write sooner, but too many things have been happening. Work of course – but not all work. Since my departure is nearing, a number of my friends have been asking me over their home for supper or throwing small parties in my honor. Add to this such events as – doing some last minute shopping, packing up my property to be shipped, taking my car 300 miles to the harbor to be shipped etc. etc. Please forgive me   .
Last week-end a friend of mine and I took my car to Bremerhaven, Germany to be shipped back to the States. Let me say one thing – it wasn’t a pleasant trip. Because of weather conditions – a constant, heavy rain - it took us nine hours to travel 300 miles. We departed Heidelberg at 7:00 am and arrived in Bremerhaven, somewhat bedraggled, at 4:00 am. Up the next morning – or should I say the same morning – at 8:30 and off to the shipping company. Handed in my car then had to take an eight hour train ride back to Heidelberg. For some strange reason, I was tired for the next two days.
I’m afraid I’m going to have to end now. It’s four in the afternoon and I’m due for dinner at Henry and Cheryl’s house soon. They’ve invited a couple more friends over for one of our last meals together.
Forgive me if I really haven’t said too much in this letter or recent past ones. Don’t assume that something is wrong. I’ve simply been pressed for time and have found it extremely difficult to concentrate enough to say anything of importance. I’ll make up for it when I’m home.
I’m going to be extremely pressed for time within the next two weeks – so please understand if there’s an unusual long time between letters.
Missing you
Dennis
***
                 March 26, 1968
Hi Lovey,
Would you believe I’m depressed? I’ve always known that I’m a demanding -- not demanding --- possessive woman, but now I’m even more certain of the intensity of these feelings. I was thinking of when you’ll be home and how much I’m going to want you near me. I’m afraid things will be terrible until I can understand that you cannot always be as close to me as the next room. Oh, but I miss you so very much and how I long to be a part of your everyday life. Like tonight – it’s storming and I’m so afraid -- ever since I was hit by lightning last summer. I need you now.
Problems at work have begun to iron out, but now I see new ones erupting. I’ve been used carelessly as a scapegoat and it is now too late to defend my innocence. I must grow thicker skin.
My sister, Patsy, still hasn’t had her baby and for that reason I’m babysitting her other children tomorrow so that she can go to the doctor. I hope she holds out for at least one more week. I ordered a gown and a matching robe for her to take to the hospital and it hasn’t arrived yet.
The days seem to be dragging! You’re probably so busy that they’re buzzing by for you. I just hope you’re not overdoing yourself with your projects. I miss you so very much.
You’ll be home around April 12th -- right? It’s just like me to get everything goofed up. I was going to suggest meeting you in New Jersey, but I figured you could not give me a definite time. It would be fun though -- driving together all the way -- like in the movies?
Oh Dennis, I must go now. I still must take a bath and set my hair. How I pray that I’ll hear from you tomorrow.
Loving you,
Maggathie
P.S. I’m sleepy
P.P. S. I’m afraid of the storm!
***
Maggie wrote another letter just two days later. Our time to be together is fast approaching
***
                            March 28, 1968
My Dearest Dennis,
Do you realize that sometime next week I’ll be writing my very last letter to you -- at least until you’re here in the U.S. I miss you so much.
I received a letter from you on Tuesday and was quite surprised at the length of it. I expected one paragraph with an "X " marking the signature. I’m certain that nothing is wrong and that you really are busy, but I’m anxious to find ouy how you’re going to make up for this when you come home.
I’m at work now so I don’t have too much time to write.
You know, I really enjoy writing letters -- especially to you, but I must add that this is one correspondence I’ll be glad to see end. How I pray that being with you, near you, from now on will prove to come true and grow into something a million times stronger than that which grew via air mail.
Oh, I must go now. My boss has just asked if I can complete my reports today.
I must go. I love you (I think?)
Maggathie
P.S. I think I really do.
***
10/13/15
My time in the military would soon be ending so long as President Johnson didn’t decide to extend the time every soldier had to stay. The fighting in Vietnam continued to get worse and General Westmorland was requesting more troops. I continued to be concerned that all experienced soldiers would have their discharges canceled. If that happened then, when I was so close to being with Maggie, I don’t know what I would have done. I continued to just keep moving ahead with my plans to return to the United States and prayed all would be okay.
***
Around 1 April 1968
My Dear Miss Maggathie:
This will probably be another short letter with little to say. I have so many things to do yet that I find it difficult to sit still for more than fifteen minutes.
The packers will be coming tomorrow morning to crate up my household goods. This afternoon I’m going to have to make a complete inventory of everything I own and have everything neatly piled in one room. Unless this is done, I can expect little cooperation from the packers.
You don’t have everything all goofed up. I should be home somewhere around the 12th of April. You are right about the time though – it has been flying for me. In two weeks. I’ve had two free nights. The rest have been filled with dinner engagements and small parties.
I’m really going to be sorry to leave some of the friends I’ve made here. It’s really at times like this that I know why I never considered the Army as a career. Of course, if I wasn’t in the Army I would never have met them, but somehow that doesn’t ease the pain.
I hope to continue corresponding with them, but I know how that usually ends up. One of the parties takes a little longer to answer a letter, then the other takes a little longer to answer the answer – and so on – until neither person is writing anymore. Maybe not in this case though.
That suggestion you made about meeting me in New Jersey – funny, but I had the same idea, and I also arrived at the same conclusion. I know approximately when I’ll be arriving in New Jersey – if my plane leaves when scheduled – but I don’t know how long it will take for me to be processed out of the Army. If I could even estimate – I would ask you, but I can’t even do that.
Klunkie, I’m anxious to see you. I don’t know when I’ll be arriving in Chicago, but no matter what the time, I’ll be coming to you first. If you’re at work, you may return home and find me calmly sitting at your kitchen table. If you’re home and awake, you may be startled by what appears to be the sound of an opening door. If you’re asleep in bed – well – er – uh – are you a sound sleeper?
One more week and I leave Germany.
Very Affectionately
Dennis
***
Maggie sent the following letter at around the same time I sent my last letter to her. This was Maggie’s last letter to me.
                        April 1, 1968
Dear Dennis,
This will be my last letter to you as I am not certain when you’ll be leaving Germany. Your homecoming is 11 days away, yet I feel the butterflies on my insides already (either that or I’ve got worms!)
Patsy had a baby boy, Danny. I’m so happy she had a boy! Your mother has taken charge of the other three with the exception of last Saturday morning when Patsy felt the urge. Tomorrow night I plan to go there and try to catch up on some of the washing and ironing.
I’ve been doing so much lately that I’ve barely had time for my routine work. Would you believe I’ve got homework from work? Ugh.
Oh, I bought a parakeet and his name is Skootie. He’s real cute and just as stupid.
My dad is sick. It’s nothing too serious but I only wish he would go to a doctor. I suspect arthritis as he has pain in his right arm and leg. I still wish he’d go to a doctor. He’s supposed to move sometime next month.
I’m in such good spirits knowing that you’ll be home. Even today, I can barely keep my eyes open but I’m in the mood to sing, or dance, or both.
You don’t know how very much I live for the day when you’ll click into my apartment. Nothing else matters half as much as when I’ll be with you again.
Until I see you, I’ll be waiting here thinking of you.
I wonder if I’ll miss writing to you.
With love,
Maggathie
***
10/18/15
I was discharged from the Army on 10 April 1968. After returning to Chicago, I accepted a position in the Personnel Department of a large company, while awaiting a response to my applications to the graduate social work programs at Loyola University and University of Chicago. Maggie still worked at Gossard Lingerie. From the day I returned home, Maggie and I had been inseparable. With the exception of our time at work, we spent almost every waking minute with each other. Our family and friends quickly learned were they stood on our priority list.
I was now sure that Maggie was the woman I wanted to marry. Although I realized she was hoping for an engagement ring on her twentieth birthday, I decided against proposing on that day. Knowing Maggie still didn’t fully believe our relationship could lead to marriage, I was sure she would conclude that the engagement wasn’t going to happen this year, and maybe never. But to propose to Maggie on her birthday would be my asking her to accept me as my gift to her. And that’s not how I saw it. Wednesday, July 3, 1968, came and went without even a hint of a ring.
I wanted to propose to Maggie on my birthday in August. I was sure she wouldn’t be expecting it and by doing so, I would be asking her to accept my proposal as her gift to me. And she was my gift far more than I was hers.
***
On Wednesday, August 21, 1968, Maggie and I planned to celebrate my birthday at my brother Leo’s new house. I informed her that prior to going there, we had to pick up my parents to drive them to the party. We entered my parents’ house up the back porch stairs that led to the kitchen. As I opened the door, the kitchen looked like it would any other day. Directly in front of and perpendicular to the wall was a gray Formica kitchen table with chrome legs and two gray vinyl upholstered chrome-legged chairs on either side. To the left was a short hallway that led to the front room, and to the right, a walk-in pantry with the always-opened, half-window door. The light gray speckled linoleum floor was worn in familiar places and spotless from almost daily scrubbing, while the walls were a pale yellow from frequent washing. The entire kitchen smelled of Pine-Sol and was cleaner than most operating rooms in the finest hospitals.
The house seemed empty and Maggie immediately asked where my parents were. Although I knew they were already at my brother’s house, I told her that they were probably in the front room. Maggie slowly walked down the short hallway, cautiously peering ahead in anticipation of seeing them sitting on the couch. With her back turned to me, I quickly reached into the right pocket of my pants and nervously fumbled for the tiny black felt box. My hands were so shaky; I almost dropped it as it caught on the upper edge of my pocket. I quickly gathered myself and pulled it completely out, almost dropping it again. Hurriedly opening the box to display the diamond ring, I softly whispered, “Maggie.”
Maggie paused and slowly turned her head to my whisper. Upon looking back, she glanced down at my hands. Then her eyes darted from the ring in my right hand, to my face, then back to my hand again. Her face was ashen as she turned fully toward me.
Then I quietly said what I have never said to any woman before, “I love you.”
Maggie knew the full meaning of those three words:
“When I say “I love you,” it will mean I want you for my wife; I want you to be the mother of my children; I want you to stand by my side as long as life permits. It will mean that you are the one who complements me, who makes me whole. When I say “I love you,” it will mean that my life is yours. Everything I do, everything I hope to do, all my wildest dreams, all my fondest desires are for you. When I say “I love you,” it will mean that there is no other and far more important, that there will be no other.”
Maggie continued staring up at me, then down at the ring, then up again. Her hands shook as she quickly brought them to her lips. Her eyes covered half her face and glistened with tears. Suddenly she screamed. She grabed the ring from my outstretched hand, box and all, and screaming and crying, ran around the kitchen table into the pantry, slamming the door behind her. I waited, expecting Maggie to soon emerge after composing herself. Twenty seconds passed and the door remained shut.
I walked to the pantry door and looked through the window. Maggie was sitting on the floor in the right-hand corner, under the shelves of canned foods, legs pulled tight to her chest, her head buried in her knees—sobbing. As I slowly opened the door, she looked up at me, tears streaming down her face. I gently lifted her to her feet and held her tight in my arms.
We both stood there—trembling.
Maggie and I married one year later, on August 24, 1969.

Our journey was just beginning.
THIS IS WHERE MY BOOK, "WOULDN'T IT BE SOMETHING," ENDS.
MAGGIE AND I HAD MANY CHALLENGES IN OUR FORTY-ONE YEARS OF MARRIAGE AND I HAVE BEGUN WRITING ANOTHER BOOK TO SHARE OUR EXPERIENCES WITH MY GRANDCHILDREN, CHILDREN AND FRIENDS.
I AM PLANNING ON MAKING A POD CAST APPEARANCE ON THE VILLAGE LINKS 123 WEB SITE POSSIBLY SOME TIME NEXT MONTH. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION REGARDING A TIME AND DATE WILL BE PROVIDED LATER.
I WOULD LOVE IT IF YOU COULD PARTICIPATE SO WE CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT EACH OTHER.

10/27/15

I would like to share a short story I’ve written about Maggie and me searching for our first apartment. I was in graduate school to become a social worker and it was still five months before our wedding day. Maggie was getting nervous that we had not yet begun to find an apartment and was pushing me to begin our search.

Through Maggie’s Eyes

The door swings open as I raise my hand to knock. Maggie stands there, full-moon eyes and radiant smile, a copy of the Bridgeport News at the end of her outstretched arms. Something in the middle column is double circled in blue ink. As I lean in to read what I cannot see from my distance, Maggie recites aloud from memory, “Looking for your first apartment? 1 BR, quaint kitchen, near public transportation. $80 a month. Call Vince Zappelli, BI7-5555.”

It’s five months until our wedding and Maggie’s getting anxious that we haven’t started looking for an apartment. Hell, man, I’m in the middle of finals and I don’t have time for anything other than cramming. But, for the past two weeks Maggie’s been scouring the local papers including the Sun Times, Tribune, and Daily News, and strategically placing circled ads within my site. I promised her that as soon as exams were over, we’d begin looking in earnest. How hard can it be to find an apartment in Chicago? I only have three criteria: it has to be cheap; it has to be livable; and it has to be cheap. However, Maggie’s so excited about starting our new life together, that all she can think of is finding our own place. Signing a lease is further proof to her that this wedding’s going to happen – something Maggie still doesn’t believe.

“This is it, Dennis. I can feel it. I know it’ll be the first place we’re looking at, but something keeps telling me this is it.”

It’s not unusual for Maggie to just feel something. If something stirs inside her, or something “clicks,” that’s all the proof she needs. Concrete evidence isn’t necessary. If she feels it, then that’s simply the way it is. I know that’s absolutely silly, but the amazing part is, she’s usually right.

I realize I can’t put this off any longer. How much time will it take to look at an apartment? A couple hours this coming weekend isn’t going to kill me. So I relent. “Don’t get your hopes up,” I tell her. “This is the first place we’re looking at. Don’t get your heart set on something we haven’t seen yet.”

“I won’t, Dennis, I promise I won’t.” Yet I know she’s already arranging furniture in her head.

It’s Saturday, and a warm, drizzly April morning in Chicago.  Although the apartment is barely a mile from Maggie’s father’s place, we have to drive.  In less than five minutes we’re inching our way down May Street trying to find the building with ‘the quaint kitchen.’ Parked cars line both sides of the street and since the house we’re looking for isn’t numbered, we pass it before we know we’ve done so. I quickly realize our mistake and park in one of the few vacant spaces a half-block away. The drizzle has stopped so we casually walk the short distance to our destination, double checking the posted addresses on some of the other buildings to be sure we have the right house.

Within seconds we’re standing in front of a two story, blonde brick building that apparently has multiple apartments. It’s relatively clean, but not very attractive. Like almost all the other houses on the block, there’s no grass in front and the concrete sidewalk goes from the curb to the base of the building. There’s a screen door and as we approach it, Maggie lags slightly behind. I look for a doorbell and seeing none; I open the door and knock.

After a long minute with no answer, I knock again, this time considerably harder. When another long minute passes with still no answer, we assume we’ve been stood-up. As Maggie and I turn to leave, the inner door slowly opens and an older gentleman stands behind the screen– looking somewhat puzzled. His hair’s a mess and he seems confused as he squints in our direction.

“Mr. Zappelli?” I hesitantly ask.

“Ye…Yeah?” he carefully responds as if he’s not sure himself.

“Are you Mr. Vince Zappelli? We had a 10 o’clock appointment to see the apartment. I called you Thursday night and you said it would be okay to come today. You said 10 o’clock would be fine.”

Still standing behind the screen door and looking confused, he mumbles “Oh …ye…yeah … su…sure … I remember.” He brings his hands to his face, rubs the doubt from his eyes, and then combs both hands past his temples to the back of his head. After a brief sigh he says, “Just let me get the keys.”

Several more minutes pass before Mr. Zappelli returns and slowly opens the screen door. I can see that he’s perhaps in his mid-60’s. Although he stands stooped, he’s probably still a couple inches shorter than me, maybe about 5’6.’’ He’s balding and parts his remaining hair across his head from the right side to the left. His face is full and his gray stubble is either the beginning of a beard or a clear sign of someone too lazy to shave. I’m guessing he’s not growing a beard. His shirt is wrinkled but relatively clean with only a small yellow mustard stain on his right collar about chin high, and it’s too short to cover his stomach that cascades over his jeans. He emits a faint odor of garlic, cigarettes and beer.

As the screen door slams behind him, Mr. Zappelli turns to us and barely acknowledges my presence with a shallow nod of his head. When he sees Maggie though, he straightens up and his eyes widen as he gives her a full body scan from head to toe then up again, pausing at her breasts. He doesn’t say anything, but hurriedly looks away when he realizes I’m watching him.

“Uh, uh, the apartment’s in back,” stumbles from his lips. “Just follow me.”

Mr. Zappelli leads us down a long narrow gangway between his building and his neighbor’s. It’s so narrow and dark that a sunbeam could never find it. At the end of the gangway are two flights of gray wooden stairs leading to what I assume are the entrances to the apartments. As I place my left hand on the rail, it shakes slightly and the wood seems to be rotting in the right corner of the second stair. I make a mental note.

“How long have you kids been married?” Mr. Zappelli asks as we make our way up to the second floor. Apparently he didn’t pay much attention to what I told him on the phone a couple days ago.

Before I can answer, Maggie bubbles “We’re getting married in five more months. It seems like forever.”

“Well,” he responds, “It’ll be here before you know it. You’re a good looking couple.”

As we reach the landing, just before entering the 'apartment for rent,' Mr. Zappelli stops and turns to us to volunteer some information. “This apartment’s been vacant for several months now and it needs a little work. If you decide you want it, I can have someone finish it before you move in or you can do the work yourself and I’ll adjust your rent.”

When he opens the apartment door, there’s a distinct musty odor. Not overwhelming, but definitely noticeable. After a few sniffs to confirm my senses, I question, “What’s that smell?”

“Oh, that,” Mr. Zappelli responds. “Like I said, this place has been empty for a few months. It’s been pretty much closed up since then. The smell will be gone after I open the windows for a couple days.”

We enter and begin our very short tour of this ‘one bedroom apartment with a quaint kitchen.’

He has an answer for everything.

I notice a stain on the ceiling in the corner of the kitchen and ask, “What’s that?”

Mr. Zappelli quickly responds, “Oh yeah, we had a leak during the winter from an ice jam in the gutter. It’s fixed now but I haven’t had a chance to repaint the ceiling. That’s one of the little jobs you can do to save some rent - if you want.”

I walk into the bedroom and its emptiness magnifies how small it really is. “This bedroom seems awfully small,” I lament. “I’m not sure we can fit a bed in here and still have room for a dresser?”

Mr. Zappelli gently nudges me with his left arm while he whispers “You’re newlyweds; you don’t need anything other than a bed.”

I don’t appreciate Mr. Zappelli’s remark; I’m not one of his beer buddies at the local bar. But I simply ignore his comment. I just file it away along with the other reasons I don’t like this guy. It ranks third after his full body scan of Maggie and his smell.

Wary of these few discoveries, I begin examining the apartment more closely and notice some small cracks in the bedroom walls and water marks in the bathroom where they shouldn’t be. As I stroll around, Maggie stays in the kitchen, looking through the cabinets. Mr. Zappelli doesn’t leave her side.

I can easily hear what transpires between them. Within minutes, Maggie learns that Mr. Zappelli is sixty-seven years old and his wife died five years ago after forty-seven years of marriage. He has two children, one living in Brighton Park, the other in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, and each has two children of their own. Even though they’re within twenty minutes of his house, they don’t visit much and he wishes he could see his grandchildren more often. He’s been living in this building since he was twelve years old and would never leave Bridgeport. He belongs to St. Mary of Perpetual Help church, went to grammar school there, and almost graduated from De La Salle High School before he was expelled in his senior year for drinking on school property.

How does Maggie do this? The cashier at the grocery store, the clerk at the cleaners, the mail man, the damn bus driver; she knows them all. How old they are, how long they’ve had their job, whether or not they’re in love or just broke up with their boyfriend or girlfriend. She has an innocence about her, something that makes people open up—tell her their most personal stories.

When I return to the kitchen, with a couple more questions, I can’t get Mr. Zappelli’s attention. He talks to Maggie now, not to me, and it’s apparent that I have lost him to her. Finally, he turns to me and says, “You can call me Mr. Z. All my friends do. I don’t mind if…”

“Alright! I think I’ve seen enough,” I quickly interject.

“Well,” Mr. Zappelli responds, looking directly at Maggie and not at all at me, “Are you interested?”

“I’ll call you by Monday,” I hasten a reply. “We have to go now. We have another appointment.”

Maggie looks at me with questioning eyes, but says nothing.

As we leave, Mr. Zapelli escorts us the half-block to our car, talking to Maggie the entire way while I walk several steps ahead. I don’t know what they’re talking about and I don’t care. I decided some time ago that Mr. Zapelli can say nothing that would interest me. I can almost hear Maggie’s smile and can’t understand why she’s being so polite.

I don’t like this Mr. Zappelli. I don’t like the way he looks. I don’t like the way he smells. I don’t like the way he leers at Maggie. No, I don’t like this Mr. Vincent Zappelli at all; and I don’t trust him. I can’t wait to get back in the car and get the hell out of here.

Once we’re in the car and half way down the street, away from Mr. Zappelli’s waving hand, I sink down into in my seat and let out a long sigh. Smug in my knowledge of Maggie’s answer, I facetiously ask, “Well, my dear, what’d you think of that place?

“I think it has potential,” Maggie softly replies.

“WHAT!!”  You’re joking right?”

“All it needs is a little paint and a little bit of love and I’m sure we can give it that.”

“Maggie! The place is a disaster and that guys a complete lecher. I don’t trust him.”

Maggie shifts slightly in her seat to face me directly, and then in a measured tone says, “Dennis, I think Mr. Z is a kind man who’s just a little lonely. You shouldn’t be so critical of people you barely know. And I’m aware that the apartment is not in the best of shape, but I just want you to know that I can make this place our home. But if you think it’s not right for us, I’m okay with that. I just need you to know that I can make any place our home.”

A couple seconds pass as I absorb the impact of Maggie’s comments. Then, staring straight ahead, I respond, “I never doubted that, Maggie, not for a minute. I promise we’ll find our home; just not this place.”

***
11/4/15
I would like to share some poems written by Maggie and me. These were written before we began sending letters to each other. Maggie’s poems are more emotional than mine and capture certain feelings that she had. My early poems focused more on nature scenes or were observations about life. Although Maggie enjoyed the poems I sent her, she once questioned my motivation for writing my poems - “Do you feel what you write or write what you feel.” I thought this was very perceptive for a seventeen year old girl.
This is a poem Maggie wrote about her firstlove. I’m not sure how old she was or to whom it was written, but I think shecaptures her feelings very well.
First Love
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you –
a glow catches my eye
I turn -- find nothing….
No one will see my look of love for you.
It’s been so long since I’ve heard your voice –
a whisper calls my name.
I turn – find silence….
No one will hear the words of my inner soul.
It’s been so long since I’ve touched you –
a warmth comes over me.
I wait – find emptiness….
No one will feel the depth of my embrace.
My poem is about a scene one might come across on asummer day. It’s simply a description of what I saw one day while walking neara lake.
Summer
Silent ship
Upon a silent sea
Under a setting sun
Pushed by a gentle breeze
Which whispers to the sails
And puffs their airy pride
To cross the sea
Soundlessly,
And gain the other side
11/8/15
Here are a couple more poems.
The first one was written by Maggie. I’m not sure when she wrote it, but it’s about missing her mother. Maggie’s mother died when Maggie was 13 years old. She missed her most during times when she would have liked to share a joyous moment with her mother, as when having a baby, or on special holidays.
                                         Mourning
                I MISS YOU...
                And the hands that cooled my cheeks,
                Fixed the sash on my dress.
                Held me when we crossed big streets.
                I MISS YOU...
                And the smile that warmed my heart,
                Let me know that all was well,
                Smiled until it became my smile.
                I MISS YOU...
                And the eyes that lit up my soul,
                Washed away shadows of doubt,
                Found mine to say that you loved me.
                If I could bargain with my life,
        I'd give a year of my days for one of your smiles.
The following poem is one I wrote when I was in the military in Heidelberg, Germany. I would often take a walk to a pond that was near where I lived. One calm autumn day I saw a leaf fall from a tree into the still pond. It created small ripples that lapped against the shore. Then all was calm again.
                                   Autumn’s Fall
                        A leaf which could not last
                        The lure of autumn’s song,
                        Dances through the air
                        And lights within a pool.
                        The startled host awakened
                        By this unexpected visit,
                        Softly taps the hand
                        Of the sleeping land.
                        Leaf, land and pool
                        In solemn silence sit,
                        Hushed audience,
                        Mute in reverence.
11/15/15

Maggie wrote the following poem after her father died. She was already a grown woman, married to me, with four children when he passed away. In this poem she writes of the call of a certain bird (which we later learned was a “black capped chickadee”) and explains why its song means so much to her.  When Maggie was a little girl, her father would waken her with the tune of this bird – “Maaa Geee.” “Maaa Geee.” My children and I never called this bird by its rightful name. We always called it the Maggie Bird


                                           Dad

                        I heard that bird again today
                        the one that sings your song.
                        The two note aria that brings me light.
                        I know you’re with me.

                        You used my name to sing the tune
                        which went on until I was out of bed.
                        I have never seen this bird.
                        I listen and think of you.

                        I have never seen this bird
                        but it finds me when I’m low.
                        Each time I hear it sing
                                I smile and think of you.

I wrote the following poem when I was still in the Army in Heidelberg, Germany. While delivering military material throughout the European countryside, often by car or truck, I would look out the window at the animals on the farms we passed. It was a cold, winter day when I saw the following scene.


                                 Winter

                When silent streams stand steaming
                Under leaden skies,
                And frosted beets lay gleaming
                In their jeweled beds,

                The red eared farmer stamps his feet
                And rubs his wind chapped hands,
                While the cuddled calf in comfort lies
                By his mother's shivering side.

11/21/15

Sorry I haven’t written for a while. I’ve been having trouble with my computer.

I don’t know when Maggie wrote the following poem. I found it among her papers after she died. However, I know she wrote it before we were married and possibly before she began being interested in me. Maggie was a beautiful girl and had many boys interested in her. My guess would be that she wrote this about some boy she knew. It had no title.

                The clear wind came crying….
                pressing its time-weathered lips
                              against mine….
                playing some soul’s song to the sea,
                beach grass bowed
                             and sand traveled with no baggage.

                You called from behind the hill ….
                    Walking back I thought
                             This shall be a memory, a secret
                                  for the sea, wind and me.

The following poems is one of mine. I believe I shared it with Maggie through a letter, but I can’t be sure. There were a number of letters I sent to Maggie that were not among those I found in her closet after she died. I believe she threw away a number of my letters when she felt that I saw her only as my sister-in-laws little sister. I did give a title to the poem, but I would prefer you get your own meaning from it.

                Listen to the rush of the waves,
                See them charge the helpless shore,
                Watch them batter the beaten land
                And conquer it bit by bit.

                Watch the wearied foe resist,
                Hear her moan their fated meet,
                See her sternly, stubborn, stand,
                Yet slowly slip away.

11/29/15
Maggie continued to write poems even after we were married. Although she was a mother of four children, our oldest being blind, she always seemed to find time to express herself through poetry.
The following poem is my very favorite and I’ve always kept a copy of it in my wallet so I can always have it near me.
                Sunshine
               If I should smile        
                And find you not smiling,
                The sunshine will go out of my day.
               And should I sing
                And find you not listening,
                I will stop smiling.
               Should I look to your eyes
                And find they do not meet mine,        
                I will stop singing.
               And should I reach for you
                And find you not near,
                I will stop seeing.
               Should I offer love
                And find you do not want it,
                I will stop feeling,
                And learn to exist
                In a world without sunshine.
Maggie’s next poem was written early in our marriage. We had our first child and Maggie was a “stay at home mom,” which was something she loved being. I love the end of this poem because I find it to be so tender. I would call Maggie every day from work just to see how she was doing. Because it’s not obvious, I should clarify that the first person talking on the phone is Maggie (“Baby’s fine…”). The second person talking would be me (“Any mail…”).
                         Typical Day
                      You call daily,
                        Usually during my favorite soap opera,
                        And our typical exchange begins….
                      Baby’s fine.  How’s your day?
                        Coming home?  Four hours, you say.
                      Any mail?  Have a good meal?
                        No big problems.  How ya’ feel?
                      So very typical,
                        That I sometimes dread picking up the phone...
                        And always end up
                         Not wanting to say good-bye....
                             I almost cry.
The following two poems are mine and were written when I was in college. The first one is about how words can’t fully express what you might be feeling. The second poem is a simple observation about life.
Words
Words are mirrors, fun house fashion,
Before the naked soul,
Stuffing and stretching it into a truth
The author hardly knows.
Pulling and pushing until the sounds
That stumble from the lips,
Drop like lead from gilded chests
Upon a marbled floor.
         Growing Up
        When I was a child
        I thought that I
        Had captured a star
        But it was only a firefly.
        Now I'm a man
        Yet I sadly find
        That I'm still chasing stars
        And still catching flies.
12/2/15






LOOKING FORWARD TO TALKING TO YOU ON DECEMBER 4TH AT 10:00 AM

12/5/15

I so much enjoyed talking to all of you the other day and wish we could have had more time with each other.  I have spent much of today with my children and grand children and have a lot to do before I go to sleep.  I will send more poems tomorrow.

12/6/15


Maggie continued to write poems after we were married. I was busy with graduate school and just didn’t have the time to do the same. That’s not a very good excuse for me because Maggie always seemed to find the time; even after we had four children and she was doing the majority of the child care.

***

Almost the entire time that Maggie and I were writing letters to each other when I was in the Army in Germany and Maggie was back home in the United States, she always doubted that our relationship would end up in marriage. She had had a school girl crush on me since she was 13 and I was 20, and although we did come to know each other and fall in love through our letters, she still couldn’t believe that this was happening.


Maggie wrote the following poem within the first year after we were married. When she speaks of “doubting” me, she is referring to “doubting that my love for her would last.”


Sometimes I doubt you


           and they say “Love is trust.”But even as I feel the weight            of your arm on my shoulder        or catch a sparkle from the ring          on my left handI doubt youand know,That love IS trust        along with the feeling               that all is too good to be true…..But our love did last, and we remained married for 41 years until Maggie’s death.




















***


As I mentioned above, Maggie and I had four children and she wrote a poem about each of them. The one I will share today is about our oldest son, Michael, who went blind at age three from a brain tumor on his optic nerves. The poem captures the simple pleasures Michael enjoyed in spite of his blindness.


                         Michael



Blue flowered cushions on the couchAre the romping ponies you have tamed.Pennies hurled into coffee cansAre the blasts of gunfire that killedThe enemies from far away lands.High on the upper bunkYou scaled a mountain,And climbing downEntered the bottomless pitTo find hidden treasures.You've soloed in an airplane on the swing set,Stalked through the jungleIn the 6 X 8 foot garden patch.You skated and ran, jumped and swam,You played and laughed, cried and sang.And you loved.






And looking back....

How clearly I see

All that you have seen.

12/13/15
It is the Christmas Season in the United States from now through 12/25/15. I don’t know how familiar you are with our Christmas celebration, but it’s a very busy time filled with gift giving and family functions. I have been spending much of the past week making or buying gifts for my three children and seven grandchildren as well as friends and other family members.
If you don’t hear much from me between now and 12/25/15, I hope you’ll understand why.
I did want to share with you the poems that Maggie wrote for our other three children, Jennifer (Jenny), Erica and Paul.
Jennifer was born around the time when Maggie and I began realizing that our son, Michael, seemed to be having problems with his vision. We had taken him to several eye doctors, but never got the answers we were looking for. The doctors continued to tell us that there was nothing wrong with Michael. Maggie always felt that because of our deep concern for Michael, we did not give Jennifer the attention she deserved when she was a baby. Because of this Maggie always felt that Jennifer and she were not as close as they could have been. She wrote the following poem to express this feeling.
Jennifer
Whenever Jenny laughs,
my heart lies in soft, satin grasses
kissed by the warmth of the summer sun.
Whenever Jenny sings,
I soar up high on angels wings
and dance in the clouds with my dreams.
And I sink to a cold darkness
of being helpless and lost,  
                Whenever Jenny cries....
***
Erica was born three years after Jennifer. If ever there was a child that was almost exactly like her mother, it was Erica. Maggie saw so much of herself in Erica - and what she saw has lasted until this day. Today, it’s as if Erica was cut from the same cloth as Maggie.
The “little people” Maggie mentions are little doll figures that Erica always played with – always lining them up in a neat row. And just like Maggie did when she was young, Erica would dress them in scraps of clothing and pretend they were “silk” dresses.
“… spill a glass of milk” just like Maggie as a child, Erica was often carless.
A “poncho” is a shawl that is usually worn around the shoulder. However, Erica would put hers around her waist pretending it was a dress. “Holly Hobby” is the name of a doll.
“Pee blanket on the bed” Erica, like Maggie, had trouble learning to be potty trained.
Erica
Bump, thump, bippitty-bop
spill a glass of milk.
Little people stand in line,
   burlap turns to silk.
Up-side-down around
       poncho on her waist.
Cookie swirls in party cups,
       give Holly Hobby taste.
Click, clack, clippity-clop,
        princess in a dress.
        Pee blanket on the bed,
        dolly's hair's a mess.
Plink, plank, plippity-plop,
        doodle with a pen.
        Right before my very eyes,
        my childhood lives again.
***
Paul was born one year after Erica. In her poem about Paul, Maggie mentions the plain, but memorable things Paul would do as a young child – and how much she will miss them. She realizes this is her last child and she knows she cannot keep him a baby – though she hates to let him grow up.
“Lassie” was a famous movie dog who often performed acts of bravery.
Paul
                The days of tears for Lassie lost
                with his hand drawn to his nose        
                will soon be just a memory
                as my youngest baby grows.
                The clutter that now lines the shelves,
                his airplane made of wood
                will be tucked away for tomorrows.
                I would stop him if I could.
                The wiggly foot that helps him write,
                the half-forgotten chore,
                his warmth and weight in my easy chair
                will be lost forevermore.
                I wish I had more time with him
                a time just for him and me.
                        I can only keep him for awhile
                then cry as I set him free.
***
12/27/15
Christmas Day has passed and I am now back to my less hectic life. Thank you for understanding that I would not be able to send much during this busy season.
I plan to continue sharing some poems that Maggie and I wrote after we were married.  Although Maggie wrote more than me, I did write a poem that tried to express the joy of coming home after working all day.
When it was almost time for me to arrive home from work, Maggie would tell our children to “Go to the window and watch for daddy.” Sometimes I would have to work latter, or traffic was bad - and I didn’t get home as soon as Maggie expected. On those days our children would get tired of looking out the window and would soon be off playing with their toys. However, when I would exit my car and see the streaks of their fingertips on the glass panes of the window, my heart would soar and my difficult day would soon be forgotten.
I called the poem I wrote “Fingerprints.”
Fingerprints
Fingerprints upon the pane
From hands that could not know,
The magic of a child's wish
Could never bring me home.
Empty chairs against the wall
Beneath the smudged streaked hopes
Of children who began to learn
The limits of their power.
Simple signs, yet they make this man
Bent heavy by the day,
Grasp the sun beyond the clouds
And press it burning to his heart.
I know my posting today is short, but some of my holiday guests have recently left and I am tired. I will try to send more within the next few days.
January 3, 2016
Today I would like to share a couple more of Maggie’s poems. We had been married for about nine years, had our four children, and were living in a small suburban community outside of Chicago. Maggie was a stay-at- home mom and wasn’t working. Although she loved being a mother and wife, like almost any other person, Maggie was struggling with where her life had taken her. Turning 30 years old was a little difficult for her and she wrote the following poem to express her conflicting feelings. I love her honesty.
(Maggie did smoke and loved her coffee while watching “soap operas” on television).

Thirty

At 25, you can't see where dreams have led you...
A wedding, babies, a brick home in suburbia and
The little hopes that fell along the way
As silently soft as losing an eyelash.
You can't see yourself in the soap opera themes
That are as much a part of you as the coffee intoxication,
Inhaled tar, and the promise made to the smudged windows
That veil the passing days.
You can't see the years that came and died
With Monday's wash, the visit to the mailbox, and
The bank's approval on the loan for the ever depreciating
Needs of all that your life is about.
You can't see the glow you've lost or the strength you've found
To shut the door in the salesman's face,
Sleep alone at night,
And remain very, very calm - -
At the sight of gray hair and lost eyelashes.
Around this same period in Maggie’s life, the woman’s liberation movement was occurring in the United States. The purpose of the “movement” was to “free” women from the expectations that they should simply stay home, be good housewives, take care of their husbands, and raise the children. In making the point that women are equal to men and can do whatever a man can, the traditional roles of “wife,” “mother,” and “homemaker” were made fun of.
In Maggie’s next poem, she speaks of the expectations to fit into the new definition of what a woman should be and comes to a conclusion that satisfies her. She defined this as her “cry to the liberated woman.”



Mid-Life Crisis

I searched for words to define my worth
And couldn't find the me I knew.
My inner soul had given birth,
And someone unfamiliar grew - as I stood by.
This stranger from within took hold
To shake the old, familiar ground,
To laugh at my beliefs of old
To rattle all my dreams around - and frighten me.
And in the end I did anoint,
The same new person on the wing.
I found I hadn’t missed the point
In being brave enough to cling - to what I am.
January 12, 2016
Maggie was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in 1996, when she was forty-eight years old. It was cancer of the lung that had spread to her brain. Although the chances of recovering were less than 5%, we were lucky. The cancer cells in both Maggie’s lung and brain were still small and had not yet travelled to other parts of her body. Maggie made the decision to fight the cancer very aggressively and agreed to remove the brain tumors with both surgery and heavy doses of radiation, and attack the lung tumors with chemotherapy and removal of her left lung. Trips to the hospital were frequent and very tiring.
Maggie and I believed that her decision to attack the cancer as aggressively as possible was the right decision, but there was no question that she and our entire family were terribly frightened. Facing death, Maggie wrote the following poem, telling me and our children what she would miss most in life. She didn’t give it a title.
I want to explain a few of the less obvious images in the poem:
“Early morning birds splashing in their bath…” We had a bird bath in our back yard and Maggie loved to watch the birds through our patio door.
“The crabapple tree in bloom…” We had a flowering crabapple tree in the front of our house that bloomed beautiful pink flowers every spring.
“Chocolate covered raisins after shopping …” Every time Maggie and I went shopping at the local malls, we would buy chocolate covered raisins – one of her very favorite candies.
“Spaghetti and meatballs just like Nana’s.” Maggie loved to cook her grandmother’s ( “Nana” in Italian) recipe.
I will miss
        Early morning birds
        Splashing in their bath
        Gathering there close enough for me to watch.
I will miss
        The crabapple tree in bloom
        Growing deeper shades of pink in the sunlight
        Ripened flowers falling down to cover the grass like feathers.
I will miss        
        Seeing babies in their strollers
        Fresh tiny faces not yet able to be false
        Full of brightness and innocence and free of pain as angels
I will miss
        People who are kind
        The ones who reach out to others
        Without a thought of wanting anything in return --- ever.
I will miss
        Chocolate covered raisins after shopping
        Warm home-made bread just out of the oven
        Spaghetti and meatballs just like Nana’s
I will miss Christmas
        Shopping for the something special
        The smells of evergreens and cookies
        And all things new.
I will miss
        The love of my forever friends
        Watching my children grow older
        And most of all……you.
Maggie did “survive” the cancer. She went into remission and lived for another thirteen years. Her oncologist often referred to her as his “miracle” patient.
January 18, 2016
I didn’t write any more poems for over 30 years. My work became my passion and I never seemed to have the time or the inspiration to write poetry or prose. I was a Social Worker and spent much of my career working with child abuse and was involved in all areas: investigations to determine if abuse had occurred, protective services if the child was in danger, family treatment if the parents could be helped and the child could be safe, and program development – creating new programs to work with parents and children. Most of my 36 years in social services was in the area of child abuse.
It wasn’t until after some of my grandchildren were born that I began to write again. I sometimes went for long walks by myself and would think about what was most important to me. It was on several of these walks that I wrote a poem about my grandchildren. In this poem I tried to express the complete joy it was for Maggie and me to be grandparents and what being around these toddlers did for the both of us.
                        Our Grandchildren
We see in them so many things that brighten up our days,
That take us back so many years and in so many ways.
Their labored crawl, their shaky stance - hands tight upon the chair.
Their wobbly steps, arms stretched wide – grasping at the air.
The gentle fall on cushioned seats, then slowly up again,
Stumbling forward a few more feet - new journeys to begin.
The wonder of discovery in all that they explore,
A fuzzy ball, a wooden block, an open cabinet door.
A twisted twig, a fallen leaf, a pebble on the ground,
Stuffed in pockets and carried home –simple treasures found.
Wide eyed smiles and quickened steps as they hasten to our door,
Tiny arms around our necks fill our hearts once more.
A hurried hug, a passing kiss, then off to play with toys,
They have the power to make us young and fill our days with joy.
Not long after I wrote this poem, Maggie began having medical problems that took a great deal of time and attention. I didn’t write again until after Maggie died.
January 27, 2016
Maggie didn’t die from cancer. She died from the cure. It was the radiation to her brain that killed her bit by bit over the thirteen years that followed the treatments. The heavy doses began taking their toll as Maggie gradually began losing her fine motor skills resulting in difficulty walking, writing and speaking. When she could no longer play the piano, something she loved so much and would never give up, I knew her condition was going to do nothing but get worse. Maggie eventually died at our home in February of 2010.
I began writing again after Maggie died. It was my way to get in touch with all the conflicting feelings that were churning inside of me; anger, doubts, fears, regrets and many others. I had to face them and I believed that putting these thoughts on paper would force me to look more closely at these feelings, perhaps understand them more clearly, and deal with them better.
About a month after Maggie died, I was thinking about what I missed most. I realized that it was the little things we did together almost every day, I wrote the following poem.
Let me explain a couple items before you read the poem:
1.        I always got out of bed about an hour before Maggie. I would make a fresh pot of coffee for her and put her coffee cup at her place on the kitchen table.
2.        Maggie loved to do the crossword puzzle at breakfast. I would have our daily paper opened to the crossword section and have it waiting for her when she arrived downstairs. Although she never needed my assistance solving the puzzle, she often let me help her.
3.        Maggie and I would do laundry together. She did the actual washing and I would help her fold the clothes and put them away (a job she hated to do).
4.        Maggie had prisms hanging in our kitchen window and whenever the sun set, rainbow spots appeared on our kitchen walls. Maggie would count them and tell me how many “angels” came to visit us that day.
                                 Missing My Maggie
                                The waking sun shines
                                  Behind muting clouds
                                  Through half-closed curtains
                                  To softly say “It’s a new day” –
                                        And I think of you.
                                I crawl from my bed,
                                  Foot in front of halting foot,
                                  Knowing that by stopping
                                  I may never move again.
                                And my day begins –
                                Buttered toast for breakfast,
                                  Cereal and milk,
                                  Coffee freshly brewed.
                                  Then opening the cabinet door,
                                        I see your favorite coffee cup
                                        Sitting forever empty next to mine.
                                Blindly skimming the morning paper,
                                  Once slowly savored,
                                  Past unseen news,
                                  I’m jolted by the crossword –
                                        No longer shared
                                        To be left undone.
                                Laundry completed by noon,
                                  Neatly folded and carefully stacked,
                                  As always,
                                  In piles, “mine” and “yours,”
                                  To be placed in dresser drawers –
                                        Until I reach and realize
                                        There is no “yours.”
                                Streaking past the open shade               
                                  The slowly sinking sun
                                  Beckons your prism angels
                                  To dance and be counted
                                  On kitchen walls.
                                As day nears end –
                                The waning moon glows
                                  In the star speckled sky
                                  Through half-closed curtains
                                  To hurry sleep that doesn’t come –
                                        As I lay owl-eyed,
                                     Thinking of you.
February 4, 2015
I’ve always been a talker and after Maggie died, I wanted to talk about her to anyone who would listen. However, I found that after a number of months had passed, friends and relatives didn’t want to hear me talk about Maggie – not the way I wanted to. I know they felt uncomfortable or may have been afraid of opening healing wounds, and I know I had been guilty of that myself in similar situations, but I needed to talk about her.
I found myself getting very angry at people who were trying to be kind when they would make such comments as “It will get better – or - “Time heals all wounds” – or - “Maggie wouldn’t want you to feel this way, she’d want you to be happy.” And I hated when someone would say “You’re looking good.”
Since I was having a hard time finding anyone other than my children to listen to me, I realized that I had to write about these feelings so I could face them.
Just Let Me Talk
I know Maggie’s death means far more to me and our kids than to anyone else. I know life goes on more quickly for others than for our family right now. I know that. I also know that others are uncomfortable talking to me about Maggie. Perhaps they’re afraid of opening healing wounds, or maybe they don’t know what to say. I know I’ve been guilty of this myself, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling the way I do. It doesn’t stop me from feeling abandoned when someone doesn’t ask me how I’m doing – or when they do ask, but really hope I don’t tell them anything that might make them uncomfortable. I can see it in their face and in the way their body tenses.
I see people going about their day; shopping, laughing, and talking about current events. And I think, “I’m okay with that.” Then suddenly I want to grab them by their shoulders, shake them and say,
“Hey!  Listen to me! Don’t you know that Maggie’s dead?”
I could be sitting in a restaurant, hearing the laughter and banter from surrounding tables, and I think, “This is normal. People should be enjoying themselves. Their lives should be moving on though mine has stopped.” Then, suddenly, I want to stand on a chair and shout,
“What’s wrong with you people? Don’t you know that Maggie’s gone? Don’t you know what a gift we have all lost? How can you be so indifferent?”
And I don’t want to hear; “Time heals all wounds,” “Maggie wouldn’t want you to feel this way, she’d want you to be happy,” “It’ll get easier.” I’m aware of that. But I don’t feel that right now, and I don’t want to feel that right now. I want to miss her. I want to miss her terribly.
And please don’t tell me “You’re looking really good” – or – “You’re looking no worse for wear.” Don’t tell me that because I want to yell back,
“I’m not feeling good and I’m missing my Maggie every waking minute of every waking hour.”
I don’t want anyone thinking I’ve gotten over Maggie’s death so quickly. I’m nowhere near getting over it. I will never get over it. I even feel guilty that I may look as if I am getting over it. How dare they think that I could be doing so well so soon? It’s an insult to Maggie. Don’t they know that half of who I was has been torn jagged and the me that remains will never be the same?
So, ask me how I’m feeling and let me tell you without seeing that “Oh, oh, I shouldn’t have asked” look in your eyes - or watch you anxiously shift from one foot to the next. Listen to me and just let me tell you how empty I feel, because I need that so much now. I need it so much that if a total stranger would be sincerely interested in hearing about Maggie and our life together, I would tell that total stranger everything.
February 11, 2015
After Maggie died, I found myself thinking about the many years we spent together and the many ways I took her for granted. Although I loved her very much, because we were with each other every day, I guess I thought she would always be there. Now that she was gone, I began thinking of all the things I didn’t say that I wish I had, and things I did say that I wish I hadn’t.
I remembered a particular day, long before Maggie was sick, when she and I were sitting on our family room couch, watching some forgotten program on TV. Our children had long been married and were out of the home, so it was just Maggie and me sitting alone. I remember her turning to me and asking a question that at the time I didn’t take very seriously.
After Maggie’s death, I thought back to that question and really regretted my answer. How could I say something so stupid?
I wrote the following poem as if I was talking to Maggie and in it I try to give her the answer she probably wanted.
The Right Answer
One day,
While we were sitting alone on the couch,
You turned to me and asked,
“What would you do if I died first?”
And I said,
“I don’t know. I guess I’d go on living.”
And I knew from the frown on your face
That wasn’t the right answer.
You wanted me to say
“I couldn’t go on living without you.”
But I always spoke from my head
While you spoke from your heart.
I sometimes wonder now,
How you would have done had I died first.
And knowing how often you said
You feared that most,
I think it would have been much harder for you.
I thought that.
But now I can’t imagine how that could be possible.
I didn’t give you the answer you wanted,
But now I know,
There are so many ways one can die
And still go on living.
February 17, 2016
When Maggie died she was always in my thoughts from the moment I awoke until I fell asleep, I found myself feeling very passionate about her – just as I had when we were young in love. When two people are young and in love, all they can do is think about each other, wanting to be close, and missing the other when they are apart. That’s exactly how I was feeling now that Maggie was gone forever — and that made me feel very guilty.

I began questioning myself. What happened to that passion? Where did it go and why didn’t I keep it strong throughout our marriage?  In my head I knew what happened: we were married for forty-one years, we had four children, a house to pay for, medical bills, and all the other happenings that get in the way of two people focusing on each other only. But I was having a difficult time accepting those reasons. I continued to blame myself for letting that passion fade.

I began writing about this guilt I felt and, in doing so, I started to understand where that “burning love” went.

Burning Love
I think about Maggie constantly. I can’t go more than ten or fifteen minutes without thinking about her. And if I do go that long – with my mind somewhere else – I feel guilty. As if I’m afraid I might lose the intensity of what I’m feeling. As if I’m being unfaithful.

How I wish I would have felt our love so intensely when she was alive. Oh, I loved her. There’s no question about that. But, I stopped loving with the burning passion I feel now – the passion I felt when we were early in love. I know such intensity can’t last. That’s not possible. Time and circumstances always get in the way.

Over the years, our burning love for each other mellowed into a love that was maybe deeper – a love tempered by the everyday happenings of marriage and having a family. I think that has to happen. Love has to become more subdued. It has to become a part of you in a different way – or it would become unbearable. I wouldn’t be able to live every day – all day - with the intense desire I had for Maggie when our love was young and just between us.

Our love changed over time from one where we hungered for a strong embrace and a passionate kiss, or became giddy at the sight of each other, or tingled at our very presence – to one that showed itself in simpler ways: morning notes  to say “I missed you” when I had to leave before she awoke, the drawer of forever clean socks and closet of crisply pressed shirts, the gentle touch across my back as she passed my chair, and our soft smiles to quietly say “I love you.” It showed itself in taking turns at 3:00 am feedings and changing diapers, the quick kiss and hug before rushing off to work, the daily call to say “I’m thinking of you” (though not always said), and the  coziness of our home. It showed itself in putting on makeup before she came down in the morning, throwing crab apples at the squawking crows so she could sleep an hour longer, playing Yahtzee tournaments at night – best of seven for the championship, and holding hands long after our children stopped holding ours. It was a comfortable love – “comfortable” in the best sense of that word.

So, I guess I wouldn’t say that our love lost its’ burning passion, it’s just that this passion embered in everyday ways - ways that long outlasted the blazing love of young hearts.

February 23, 2016

I believe that the best way to deal with sorrow is to face it directly. The poet, Robert Frost once said “The best way out is always through,” and I took this statement to heart after Maggie died. Not long after Maggie’s death, I admitted to my sister that reading Maggie’s letters was very, very painful. When she asked me why I was doing this to myself, and why didn’t I wait until more time had passed and the pain had eased some, I didn’t have a good answer. But later that day I wrote about why I had to read these letters – now – when I was deep in pain.

I want to read these letters now, when my feelings are raw and my heart is bleeding—not when everything is tempered by time, not when my emotions have subsided and reading them becomes simply an enjoyable experience. I want to read them when my eyes are blurred with tears and my heart is aching. I want to read them when the pain is so deep I can’t imagine ever feeling anything other than this again. I want to feel Maggie with me, alive and here, not just as some fading memory.

After Maggie died many well intentioned friends and family members encouraged me not to dwell on my memories of Maggie. They would tell me that letting go of the memories would be better; that I had to get on with my life – and that’s what Maggie would want me to do. That just didn’t seem right to me. Yes, the memories did hurt, but it didn’t make sense to me that I should try to forget them – try to run away from them. I thought about this for some time and wrote the following:

In the following narrative I mention “Kohl’s.” This is a department store that Maggie and I went to so often that it was as if our car was programmed to go there.
Running From Memories
Everyone deals differently with memories of a lost loved one. Some run, try to stay away from anything that would bring on the pain. Change everything they can; put away the pictures, give away the clothes, paint the rooms, change the furniture, and erase most visible signs of the one they lost. They say; “Life goes on,” “It’s a new day,” “Don’t wallow in the past.”
Run! Run! Run! But you won’t get away.

Why would I try to run from memories? It’s impossible to do. I can suppress them, and that may help me feel better for a while, but suddenly, out of nowhere, I will see something – or hear something - or smell something I wasn’t expecting – then it all comes rushing back with such a force that it takes my breath away. I know that will still happen when I confront my loss, but it would seem to me it would be much more intense if I tried to run from my memories. I can’t keep pushing them back, because they’re not going any place until I let them out, look at them, feel them, taste them – make them a part of who I am now.

I wallowed in my memories of Maggie, especially in the early months after her death. I reread her letters although my heart was bleeding. I played her favorite songs, read her poems, touched her clothes, and thought of her constantly—the proverbial “every waking minute of every day.” I cried. I laughed. I felt terribly down and wonderfully high. Any direction I drove – North, South, East or West – I ran into Maggie. There wasn’t a street I could drive down that didn’t bring her to mind: past Kohl’s where our car was automatically programmed to go, past the doctor’s office where we too often went, past the hospitals that we frequented too many times, past that little empty dilapidated wooden white house that Maggie always said “just needs a little bit of love.” I can’t cook a meal without remembering it was something she used to cook and wondering if I was doing it right – or knowing it was something I cooked that she didn’t like because of the aroma that permeated the house or the incessant chopping that preceded the cooking.

I did wallow in my memories. Perhaps “wallow” is the wrong word, but I certainly embraced them, even when they hurt so badly. I embraced them because in doing so, I was embracing Maggie. I was holding her close to me and keeping her part of me. I wouldn’t have, couldn’t have done it any other way. To run from these memories would be to run from Maggie and why would I do that?

“Over time the memories will fade and then it won’t hurt so much.” At least, that’s what I always heard and always believed. But, I don’t like the word “fade.” I don’t think it’s the right one. “Fade” implies that something is not as vibrant—that it’s gotten older and is something less than what it was. It has a real negative connotation. And that may be part of the reason I wanted to keep my memories of Maggie vibrant. I didn’t want them to fade, to become something less. I didn’t want Maggie to fade. I couldn’t do that to her. I couldn’t do that to myself.

But now, I don’t think it’s the memories that fade. I think they stay strong. I think the hurt fades. I think the pain the memories bring, that’s what fades. That’s what I think people are running from. The memories stay strong—maybe in a different place in the mind and in the heart—but they stay strong. And when you run from the pain, before the memories have a chance to find that new place in your mind and your heart, then the pain stays with these memories forever. And when these memories jolt you when you least expect it, and they will, they bring the pain with them—the pain you never let fade—just stored away with the memories you wouldn’t face.
February 29, 2016
Once I decided that I was not going to be running from my memories of Maggie, I began thinking of some of the tender moments we shared throughout our married life. Shortly after we were married, Maggie and I had made a promise that we would hug each other every morning. No matter what happened the day before or how we might be feeling about the other person, we would begin each day on a good note – with a morning hug.

There are those who say a loving couple should never go to bed angry, but Maggie and I didn’t feel that way. I mean, we always tried to avoid that happening, but we also believed that sometimes that was too hard to do. If you were really angry with one another, it might not be possible to feel closer before going to bed. But, “sleeping on a problem” that seemed so serious often made it look less so the following morning. So, every morning, before we began our day, Maggie and hugged each other.  

Throughout our married life, Maggie and I never missed a morning hug. When Maggie would enter the kitchen, I would rise from my chair and greet her with hug. Yet, as much as we believed in the importance of what we were doing, over time, it did lose some of its significance and became more of a habit.


                                     Morning Hug
                          Just married and young in love
                            We promised to begin each day
                            With a morning hug.
                            To be as one.

                          A strong embrace
                           To start our day:

                              Your arms wrapped tight around my neck,
                                Stretching to the tips of your toes
                                To rest your head on my shoulder,
                                Then place a kiss upon my cheek.

                         Sometimes in morning’s early rush
                           I would hurry our hug.  
                           But you were quick to chide,
                           “What kind of hug is that?”
                           And I would pull you close,
                           This time tighter - this time longer.

                         But life, silently creeping
                           From day through ordinary day,
                           Began stealing our morning gift
                           Before we knew its true worth.

                        And this tender moment,
                          Though still cherished,
                          Too often became a habit:

                             Arms loose around the waist,
                               Playful pats on the back,
                               Cheeks lightly brushing,
                               Phantom kisses in the air.

                        Now, time has taken you,
                          Long before you should have left me.

                        If I could hold you one more time
                         So close to me again,
                         To make you part of me,
                         I would swallow you with my arms.

March 9, 2016
The more I wrote about all the feelings that were colliding inside of me after Maggie died (the anger, fear, doubts, etc.) the better I was able to understand them and the better I was able to face them. In doing so, I could allow myself to think about pleasant memories that Maggie and I shared.

Maggie had a deep respect for lightning storms and I remembered how frightened she would be whenever they occurred.She had been struck by indirect lightning when she was nineteen years old. While she was in her house, sitting on a metal chair talking on the phone during a severe storm, a bolt of lightning hit so close that it knocked her off the chair and completely across the room. And all the tiles in kitchen, wherever there was wiring, popped off the wall. She survived that strike, but always feared severe storms from that day on.

Whenever the weatherman would predict a heavy thunder and lightning storm late in the evening, Maggie and I would lie in bed counting the seconds between the lightning and the thunder to measure the distance of the approaching storm. Although it is not scientifically accurate, we believed that each second between the bolt of lightning and the clap of thunder measured each mile the storm was away. So, if there was a bolt of lightning followed ten seconds later by a clap of thunder, then the storm was ten miles away from being overhead.

One night after Maggie’s death, a severe thunder storm awakened me about 1:00 am. I sat in our bedroom thinking about the tender moments Maggie and I spent together during such storms and wrote the following poem:

Midnight Thunder
Lying quietly, side by side,
We count the seconds
Between lightning and thunder
To measure the distance
Of the approaching storm.

Ten seconds …. ten miles

The soft glow of flickering lightning
And stuttered mumble of far-away thunder
Calms you
As you lie next to me.

Five seconds …. five miles

The bright flashes of streaked lightning
And weighted rumble of too-close thunder
Makes you restless
As you inch nearer to me.

One second …. one mile

The charged crackle of lightning,
Painting our room in brilliant white
And blustering booms of thunder,
Rattling windows and shaking walls,
Frightens you
As you tremble in my arms.

As the storm departs
The rapid winks of fading lightning
And low grumble of retreating thunder
Lulls you to sleep
As you nestle by my side.

March 17, 2016
Much was going on in my life during the first year after Maggie died. Not only was I writing about the many feelings I was experiencing (some of the narratives and poems I’ve shared with you), but I had also begun working on my book, “Wouldn’t It Be Something.” In doing so, Maggie was always on my mind because I was constantly reading and re-reading the letters we sent to each other. I mean, she was already on my mind the proverbial “every waking minute of every waking hour,” but reading the letters made this feeling even more intense. Thoughts of Maggie were so vivid that it was as if she was sitting next to me every time I saw her handwriting and read her words. Now some people might think that this was a form of self-torcher, but for me it was a way of getting through the pain of her loss. Because, as I said before, my writings helped me face the reality that I shouldn’t be sad for what I lost, but glad for what I had in my life.

I was successfully facing my feelings and presenting myself to friends and family as someone who had gotten past his grief. They would see me enjoying myself and hear me laughing and thought that I was “over it.” Maggie had been dead for a little over a year now and I was trying to be careful not to speak of her too often because I knew it made some people uncomfortable. Only my children and those who had experienced the loss of someone they loved dearly knew that grief doesn’t ever go away totally. It’s always there, maybe not as strong, maybe not as often, but it’s there. And that’s okay. Thinking about this, I wrote the following poem:
I’ll Be Okay
A year has passed.

You ask, “How’s it going?”
And I tell you what you want to hear,
Though my heart is still numb -
“Going good,” or “it’s okay,” or “getting there.”

I don’t want you thinking,
“Oh no, is he going to talk about her again?
It’s been over a year.”

I try to read your face.
I see something – something that says,
“Don’t go there.”
So I tell you “It’s going good.”

You think I should be beyond this by now – but I’m not.
I’m able to go a little longer
Without her on my mind constantly.
And I feel, “I’m getting there,”
But I’ll never be the same.

I may not laugh as loud. I may smile less. I may be quieter.
Maybe you haven’t noticed - but that’s all right.
I don’t want you feeling sad for me.
You have your life and I don’t want to intrude.

So, I’ll talk more, and smile more, and laugh a little louder,
And I’ll tell you everything is “okay,”
Because it’s been over a year now – and I “should be getting over it.”
And if that’s what you want to think – I’ll let you.

I am getting better.
But the me that was - is gone.
And I’ll never be who I was,
Because part of me was her,
And she’s gone.

I’ll be different – I can’t help that,
But I’ll deal with it.
I’ll never get over it,
But I’ll be okay.

3/24/16


Maggie and I were very lucky to have had four children and seven grandchildren - and they have all been a source of immense pride for both of us. When Maggie died, our oldest grandchild was eight and the youngest had recently been born. Because Maggie had been sick for 18 months prior to her death, none of them will have a personal experience of the wonderful grandmother she was. Their memories of her will come primarily from what has been told to them by me and my children who are now their parents.  Each grandchild has a copy of my book and in the dedication I wrote the following to help them know their grandma a little better:In memory of Mary Margaret (Brown) Depcik, my Maggie, who taught me the beauty of loving someone without reservations, the power of a smile, the value of the simple pleasures in life, and the honesty of writing what you feel.Dedicated to my children (Mike, Jenny, Erica and Paul) who will never forget their mother, for she is part of each one of them and they are more talented, more humble, and more giving because of her.And to our seven grandchildren (Danny, Michael, Carter, Alex, Olivia, Henry and Nora) who were too young to remember what a wonderful grandmother they had, but will know her through the loving care of their parents.I believe that young children can see and feel experiences that older children and adults cannot. Because of their innocence, they are more open to that which is spiritual and aren’t hardened by the doubts and burdens that daily life imposes upon us. I also believe that children with special needs have an even greater sense of innocence and therefore have an enhanced connection with that world beyond ours. On a couple occasions, shortly before Maggie’s death, I was very moved by what two of my grandchildren said:When Maggie was in her final week of her life, my daughter, Erica, told me that she overheard her six year old son, Michael, praying to God before he went to sleep: “Dear God, please make my grandma feel better. And if you don’t, then please take good care of her in heaven.”Several days before Maggie died, my other daughter, Jenny, was visiting our home with her family. Maggie was lying in a hospital bed in our living room, very weak, but still conscious. Jenny’s five year old son, Carter, who has autism, was standing at the foot of Maggie’s bed, just staring at her. We all wondered what he might be thinking. After looking at Maggie for several seconds, Carter turned to us and said:“One time, I died before, and I was in a bed just like that.” There are a couple more experiences with Carter that occurred after Maggie died. However, I have to be at a meeting soon and must leave now. I will write again in a few more days.




















3/28/16
I promised to share two more experiences between my daughter and her son (my grandson) Carter.
It had been almost two months since Maggie died when my daughter, Jenny, called to tell me about a conversation she had with her five year old son, Carter, at the kitchen table that morning.

            Carter:  “Grandma talks to me in my heart, but can she talk louder.”
            Jenny:   “Really? What does grandma say?”
            Carter:  “She says, ‘Carter do you miss me? And when I say I miss you grandma, grandma says ‘But Carter, I’m so happy –
                          I can walk, I can talk’”

Now, you need to know that for almost 15 months before Maggie died, she couldn’t walk and she could barely speak – being able to say only one or two words at a time – often not speaking at all.

About a month later, Jenny called to tell me about another recent conversation with Carter.

            Jenny: “Carter, does grandma still talk to you?”
            Carter: “She says goodnight to me, but says it quiet. She’s going to say goodnight to you too.”
            Jenny:“What does grandma look like?”
            Carter:“I have a hard time seeing her, but I can hear her.”
            Jenny:“Does she sound happy or sad?”
            Carter:“She doesn’t sound happy, she feels happy.”
            Jenny:“Do you think she looks like she did when she was in the bed?”
            Carter:“No, when she was going up the heaven stairs, she was happy.”

When Carter had seen Maggie for the last time, she was in a hospital bed in our home and she was not doing well. Although she was not in pain, she was having difficulty breathing and had lost a lot of weight.

Perhaps there is something to be said about young children having a more direct connection with those in the after-life. I know I can’t explain this.

4/3/16

I know that recently I have been sharing some of my writings and experiences that occurred after Maggie died, but I would like to go back to talking about the letters that Maggie and I wrote to each other fifty years ago. It was through those letters that Maggie and I came to know each other and through those letters that we fell in love. Over the years that we corresponded via air mail, we never spent more than twenty minutes alone with each other. In fact, we rarely saw or spoke to each other throughout most of that time. Our entire relationship happened through those letters. Those letters changed my life forever. And discovering those letters in Maggie’s closet, a month after she died, helped me through the most difficult time I ever faced. The power of those letters changed my life not once but twice.

I am currently going to local libraries, museums, book clubs and other places to speak about “the power and uniqueness of the handwritten letter” and I would like to share some of my thoughts with you.

***

There is a form of communication that right now is terribly outmoded, and, in the not too distant future, it may very likely become extinct – and that’s the handwritten letter.

We communicate differently today – electronically. There’s e-mail, text, tweets, snap-chat, and other forms of communication with which I’m not the least bit familiar. And, there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s progress. In fact, today’s forms of communication are far superior to the handwritten letter in at least the following ways:

They’re far more convenient: You can send a message 24 hours a day, seven days a week from absolutely anywhere. All you need is the right kind of electronic device with some sort of keyboard and you can “peck” and “poke” your message – no matter where you are. Then all you need do is press “enter” or “send,” and your message is on its way.

With the handwritten letter, you have to rummage through your desk drawer for some stationery that isn’t wrinkled or smudged. You have to find that pen that doesn’t blotch. You have to find an envelope and stamp. And then, you have to get that letter to the postman; however you do that, before your message is finally on its way.


They’re far faster: After you “poke” and “peck” your message and press “send,” your message is not only on its way, but it will get there in a matter of seconds. You could be sending your message thousands of miles away – across several oceans – and at the press of a key it gets there immediately. And if the person to whom you’re sending it responds quickly, you have their response also in a matter of seconds. And that entire transaction takes only minutes.

With the handwritten letter, you could be sending it to your very best friend who lives only a short distance from you. And that friend could immediately respond to your letter with one of their own. Yet, the time that would elapse between you sending your letter and receiving a response from your friend would certainly be days. So, “minutes” verses “days” – definitely, far faster.

But there’s something about the hand written letter that can never be duplicated by any form of today’s electronic communications. And I’ll talk about that next time.

4/11/16

I apologize for not writing sooner. My sister was a guest in my home for the past five days and I was not able to do any writing.

Finding Maggie’s letters in her closet about a month after she died was a heart wrenching and soul saving discovery. Among the many letters she sent, several were typed because she “wrote” them when she was at work. While reading and re-reading all of her letters, I found that I was having a far different reaction to those that were typed. There was no question that I enjoyed them, but for some reason I wasn’t experiencing the same emotional impact as I was from those that were handwritten. However, at the time, I really didn’t give much thought to it.

Because it was around Christmas when I discovered the letters, I was also receiving Christmas Greeting cards from family and friends. I soon realized that I was having a similar reaction to the greeting cards – some of them made me feel closer to the person who sent it. Now, I knew it wasn’t the printed message that the card company placed inside. Although some of the messages were more touching, that wasn’t it. I found myself being a little disappointed whenever I received a card with the name of the sender pre-printed at the bottom. It was as if that person couldn’t take the time to personally sign the card. How much time would it have taken for that person to hand write a short message – something as simple as “Wishing you a Merry Christmas” and then sign their name? Yet, it wasn’t just the “time” element that bothered me. No, it was something else. It felt so impersonal.

When I read Maggie’s handwritten letters, I was with her. It wasn’t just words on a page. These were her words, written with her own hand. These words, these feelings came from her heart, to her pen, to the paper upon which they were written. For me, no one could make the same exact soft curve of Maggie’s “S” or the gentle loop of her “L.”




These handwritten letters were uniquely Maggie; no one else could have written these. And so it is with any handwritten note or letter you have from someone you cared about deeply. It is uniquely that person.

Oh, I’m sure some computer wiz could develop a program that, after pecking and poking the keyboard, could precisely duplicate Maggie’s handwriting. But whatever was printed through that program would be generated by a computer; it wouldn’t come from the heart, through the pen, to the paper; it wouldn’t be a part of the person who sent it. In having Maggie’s letters, I have a piece of Maggie, because I have what she, and only she, wrote.  And that’s why no form of modern communication could ever duplicate the handwritten letter.


4/18/16

It’s unfortunate that I didn’t appreciate Maggie when she was near me every day as much as I do now. I too often took her special gifts for granted and overlooked what made her unique. When we were first married, Maggie and I truly believed that we needed to take the time to understand and enjoy each other; however, every day happenings kept getting in the way. The mortgage had to be paid, hospital bills had to be budgeted, and our children’s daily needs had to be met. Time and obligations too often distracted us from each other.

There is no question that Maggie and I did love each other deeply throughout our entire married life (although we sometimes struggled to keep our relationship strong), yet it wasn’t until after she died and I read and re-read her letters that I began to realize that I never took the time to know her as I do now. I’ll always regret that.

Maggie began writing letters to me when she was 16 years old and I was 23. Looking back on these letters after Maggie died, I was struck with her honesty, maturity, intelligence and her often poetic writing ability.

After Maggie’s death, I selected numerous excerpts from her letters that impressed me and put them in a notebook. I found that they often got lost in the context of the entire letter. If you’ve read what I’ve sent you over the past couple years, you may remember some of these excerpts - but it’s more likely you “read through them” as I did the first time I read them. I would like to share some of my favorite excerpts with you:

***

Because Maggie’s sister was married to my brother, she and I had been around each other several times at various family functions.  Neither of us had any romantic interest in each other; Maggie usually had a boyfriend and I saw her only as my “sister-in-law’s little sister.”

In July of 1966, I was home from the Army to visit my parents before going overseas to Heidelberg, Germany where I was being stationed. Maggie was 18 years old, and both she and I were at a family dinner. Several months after my return to Heidelberg, I received a letter from Maggie that contained the following:

You know, I miss you. Now, isn’t that silly. I’ve been in the same room with you about 5 times in the last year, I’ve driven with you twice, you came home for 48 hours out of which approximately 6 hours were spent anywhere near me, and I miss you! All I need is a question mark over my head.

This was the first time Maggie indicated that she had some interest in me. I was very touched, but somewhat apprehensive. I didn’t know how I should take this – but she did get my interest.

***

I will share similar excerpts in future posts, but they will not necessarily be in chronological order. They will also include some “behind the scenes” information that will hopefully make the excerpts more interesting.

4/24/16
More Letter Excerpts

Maggie and I had been writing to each other for about six months. I had no romantic interests in her at this point and only saw her as my sister-in-law’s little sister. I did know that she had a school girl crush on me when she was thirteen and both she and I were in the wedding party of my older brother and her older sister. However, Maggie was now 18 - and out of high school - and I didn’t know how she felt about me. I don’t have the letter I sent her, but I must have made some comment about us barely knowing each other – since we’ve never spent any time alone. I loved her answer for how she knew me:

From a letter dated 1/28/67

                How do I know you? I know you as:
                the gentleman who isn’t a prude-
                the intellectual who isn’t a snob-
                the fun-loving guy who isn’t silly-
                the advisor who isn’t a gossip-
                the handsome hunk of a man who isn’t
                        conceited……

I was also impressed by a statement Maggie made in this same letter. She was going through some soul searching because she had to quit the nursing training program because her father was retiring and there was not enough money to pay for the schooling. Consequently, she took a job as a secretary which she didn’t find very challenging and referred to it this way,

I’m now an “office beauty” with little uniqueness and not much more of a display of accomplishments

She then went on to say,

I shall fumble along and do my best from now on. Now if I can determine where I’m fumbling to and if my best was better than it is, I might be able to get somewhere in this world. I may not be a rose, that’s a rose, that’s a rose, but I am a Mary Margaret, that’s a Maggie, that’s a Maggathie.

I was impressed by her last reference to Robert Frost’s poem “The Rose Family” and how she saw herself as several different people in the same person.


5/1/16
More Letter Excerpts

My interest in Maggie continued to grow with each letter of hers that I read. Although she was only eighteen, she was impressively introspective. Other girls with whom I shared letters – girls who had graduated from college, unlike Maggie who completed only high school - would write about the latest movie they saw or the new dress they bought. Maggie was different. She never hesitated to reveal her innermost thoughts. I had never encountered someone as honest.

As she did in an earlier letter, she wrote about the many faces of Maggie

From a letter written in early March 1967

"My fear is me. I’m either a mixed up character or I have a split personality. One day I’m declaring independence and the next day I’m needing someone to lean on. One minute I’m so happy-go-lucky and then the least little thing can make me feel as if the whole world was closing in on me. Sometimes I’m filled with a fiery passion and sometimes I want to be treated like a new born baby. When I find someone to understand that and put up with it, then I’ll find “him.” He’ll have to be some great guy to be able to handle my enigmatic personality."

***

In a letter she wrote in early February, 1967, Maggie was hesitant to admit that her feelings for me were becoming more serious. She didn’t say it boldly and only hinted at it, however, the push and pull of her feelings made me curious.

"At this moment, I am very torn between telling you of all that I feel and the fear of saying too much."

The thought that kept racing through my head was – what is it that she feels for me that she’s so afraid to admit. Because I knew she was engaged and that her fiancé was in the Army in Vietnam, my reaction was one of surprise and caution.

Then in this same letter Maggie quoted a statement I made to her in my last letter when I told her (“…that I save your letters and often reread them with increased pleasure and added admiration.”).  She wrote:

"This is when my heart floated away. I lost my breath, my knees buckled and I knew I wasn’t the same anymore."

How could I not be moved by this?  At one level I thought she was being poetic and may not mean this as it sounded, but at another level I was hoping there was truth in this.

***

A couple letters later, it became clearer to me why Maggie was becoming so expressive.  In a letter she wrote in late February/67, she told me about a date she recently had with a neighborhood boy – then casually mentioned, “This will be my first date since I called off my engagement.”

I never knew she “called off her engagement” and was surprised she mentioned it so casually. In my next letter to her, I asked why she told me this way. Maggie’s answer clearly showed that she was beginning to have some higher hopes for our relationship, but doubted that there was little chance of that happening

"I informed you of my broken engagement in such a manner so as to avoid sounding as if I were advertising it--- or as if to say, “Well, I’m free now, what are you gonna do about it?” I also believe that this change will not affect our relationship. I realize I am someone special to you, but hopes of becoming more than that are too far out of reach."

(I learned much later that Maggie ended her engagement because she discovered that her fiancé had gotten a Vietnamese girl pregnant.)


5/7/16

There were several comments Maggie wrote in her letter to me on  March 27, 1967 that I found to be poetic, insightful, and amusing. It was letters like this one that kept me thinking that she could be the girl I’ve been looking for – yet, because I was seven years older than her and because I only saw her as my sister-in-law’s little sister, I wouldn’t admit to myself that my feelings for her were changing.

Her first comment was very poetic. In Chicago, March is a transitional month – moving from winter into spring. There are days when the wind blows and the temperature drops near freezing, then on the next day, the sun is shining and there’s a hint that warmer weather is coming. This is what Maggie is writing about when she says the following:

I’m not talking about the weather now because I haven’t anything else to say, but anyway—there’s a sort of a spring here, although the sky hangs thick and once in a great while a ray of sun crashes through and melts in a puddle. You’d hardly know it, but there’s a sort of spring here…


***

Later in this same letter, Maggie asks what I think is a very insightful question. We had been exchanging poems in out letters to each other. Maggie’s poems were always about “feelings” – sadness, happiness, love etc. My poems were more about ideas (i.e. how a person changes over time), thoughts (i.e.how words can’t always capture what is in your heart), and pastoral scenes (i.e. a leaf falling in a pond).  Maggie often told me how much she enjoyed my poems, but in this letter she asked me:

I think that you have a mind capable of beautiful thoughts, but one thing disturbs me and I must ask-------do you feel what you write or write what you feel? I’m not saying that your poems seemed to be lacking feeling, but that’s a question that is still unsettled in my mind.

And she was right. Maggie’s poems came from her heart, mine came from my head. She would feel an emotion and write about it; I would think of an idea and put that into a poem.

***

Near the end of this letter, Maggie writes about my wanting a photograph of her. I had been asking for one for a couple months and this was her reply.

Do you really want a picture of me? Haven’t they discovered another means of curing the hiccups in Germany? I’m afraid to send you one for fear that you may be so overcome by my beauty-fell face that you may go in a trance that will allow you only to gaze upon it and do no more --- like no more letters.

Maggie.jpg



5/16/16


I am so sorry for the delay in posting more excerpts. I have been having problems with my computer "freezing" up on me and had to have service done on it. Everything appears to be working now, so here's my new post:


I had been very cautious in expressing my feelings for Maggie. Maggie was far more open. She freely made comments like “my heart floated away” and signed her letters “Love.”  Me, well, I was far more careful. I would write about my latest European trip or my new stereo sound system and sign my letters “Affectionately.” Because of this, Maggie never knew exactly how I felt about her. Actually, I wasn’t sure either. I knew she intrigued me more than any other girl I had known, but I didn’t want to admit my feelings until I was certain.

In a letter I sent to Maggie in Early September, 1967, I told her that I would always be honest with her – even if that honesty would hurt her. I then told her that she would be the first to know if my feelings for her ever changed - she would not hear it from anyone else.


I loved the response she sent in her next letter, dated 9/13/67:

I’m glad that I can be sure that I won’t ever have to find out from some source, other than you, that your feelings have changed for me. I’m not exactly sure what your feelings for me are right now, but if and or when they do change, it’s good to know that I’ll be the first to know.

What a beautiful way to tell me – hey, you idiot, you still haven’t told me how you feel about me, so how will I ever know there’s been a change.

***
Maggie continued to be so honest and open in telling me how she felt about me.  We had never spent more than 20 minutes alone with each other – and that was over a year ago when I drove her home from her nurses training program. There was no romantic interest on either of our parts at that point; she had a boyfriend and I saw her only as my sister-in-law’s little sister.  So, even the 20 minutes we did spend alone meant little to either of us. That was changing now – more quickly for her than for me.  And it was all happening through our letters – letters written from a thousand miles away.
Maggie had no problem in admitting what was in her heart. Maggie had recently turned 19 and in her 9/19/67 letter she said:

I’m surprised at how close I really feel to you right now. Most people couldn’t make me feel this way if we held hands!

Then a little later she wrote:

My past romances started with a flashy courtship, soft music, moonlight kisses etc. You’ve given me none of these and yet, I feel that I love you. How? Why? Maybe that’s part of growing up too.

And:

Please forgive me if I’ve caused you to worry in any way --- especially if you worry that I care for you far more than you could possibly care for me. I’m fully aware of how I can be hurt and yet I’m unafraid.

***

Maggie had gone to New York on a business trip in Early October 1967. She was working for a company that made women’s clothing and was selected to attend a two day conference.  After being there for a couple days, she absolutely fell in love with New York and couldn’t stop talking about it in several letters following her trip. In one of these letters she wrote,  "I fell in love with New York and was almost tempted to move up there in the spring."

Reading this frightened me. I was beginning to realize how much I cared for Maggie and was looking forward to coming home from the Army in six months and getting to know her better. Now she was suggesting that she might not be living in Chicago when I returned.

What I did not know then, was that Maggie had a male friend who also lived in New York, who had more interest in her than she had in him. She saw him as a very close friend; he saw her as something more than simply that. Maggie only briefly mentioned her "friend" to me, but, I was beginning to get a little suspicious from some comments she made in one of her letters.  When I wrote to her and told her I would be disappointed if she moved to New York, Maggie responded,

About moving to New York --- It all boils down to my need of security and something stable on which to build my hopes… If I knew that you did not want me to go, I would be foolish to even think about going. On the other hand, if I have no one to hold me here in Chicago, New York offers many new horizons.

That got my attention, but I still couldn’t tell her what I know she wanted to hear. I sent the following cartoon to Maggie:




5/21/16

Following is an excerpt from one of my letters -  and Maggie’s response.

I know Maggie wanted me to tell her “I love you,” but those three words meant too much to me to simply utter them to make someone feel good. Because I was worried that she would give up on me I tried to explain my reluctance:

I’m not saying I love you – not yet. There’s still too much to learn. Too much which can’t be discovered in letters. Too much which can only be revealed in personal contact …. I need and want to love. I want to give myself – my entire self – all my hopes, all my accomplishments – I want to give all that I am and all that I hope to be. I want to give love, but the person to whom I give it must understand what love is … She must understand that it isn’t only kissing and cuddling; it’s sitting silent at opposite ends of a room, seemingly unaware of each other, yet knowing that he is there, that she is there, and that love is the binding force which makes them one. She must realize that love need not merely be professed verbally and constantly demand the utterance of those three little words. She must be aware of the simpler, yet far truer means of communicating a love: a telephone call to say you’ll be home late and not to worry; staying at home when the boys are playing cards because the wife isn’t feeling too well; or bringing home the simplest of gifts on unexpected occasions to show that you have been on his mind. She must know that true love is constant, that problems will most definitely occur, and that there may be times when it is difficult to believe that you are loved. She must be aware of these occasions, understand them for what they are (merely a passing phase) and react accordingly.

I wasn’t sure what Maggie’s reaction was going to be. I knew she was a beautiful woman and had many men interested in her. And I was certain some of them told her those three little words. I breathed a sigh of relief when she answered,

I’m tired of hearing those three little words, Dennis. I’ll admit that they are the greatest words to hear when they’re said with all the feeling they imply, but how those words are toyed with to mean just about anything! ... Wouldn’t it be great if things really worked out for us? Right now I’m filled with hope and anxiety, and yet both feet seem to be on the ground, and I’m willing to wait, and be ready for anything.

Then in later letters, Maggie said the following when I hinted that I was afraid she would get tired of waiting for me to say what she most wanted to hear:

Why do you feel that I may tire of waiting for your complete love? If I’m crazy enough to believe that there may be some chance for us, then I’m crazy enough to wait.

And,

I’ve never loved like this before.

And

I am here and I guess I always will be.

And

I’ll wait and wait and wait and I’ll be the sincerest waiting girl you ever knew.
***
5/26/16

Although Maggie had told me a number of times that she didn’t expect me to tell her “I love you,” there was no question that she was not going to hide her feelings for me. Yet, she obviously questioned the wisdom of being so honest. Here’s what she wrote in a couple of letters:

In a letter dated in early November, 1967 she questioned her openness in proclaiming her feelings for me:

Something keeps telling me I’m playing my cards all wrong, but then love isn’t a card game.

Then, in a letter shortly following the one above, she commented:

You know every bit of sense I have tells me that I am making a mistake by letting you know exactly how I feel about you. I suppose I’m supposed to keep you guessing or something like that, but somehow I can’t do that to you.

In addition to these comments, I was very touched by her honesty in a letter she sent in mid-November, 1967. She is so vulnerable here and does not hesitate to tell me what she needs in her life at this point. Maggie was now 19 years old and living alone (her mother died when Maggie was 13 and her father moved to another state when Maggie was 18. She had to quit the nurses training program which she loved and, due to lack of money, was working in a job she hated).

I feel now as if the only way I can truly be happy is to be sheltered and protected and given my own way, petted and never opposed. I am overly touchy about my softness and seem unable to make a positive effort in any direction…

Everyone” is right though. I do need someone to love and protect me as I am very insecure at this stage of my life…

I must go now before you call for men with a straight jacket. I’m not crazy, Dennis, just madly in love with you…

It was very difficult for me to read letters like this from Maggie. I knew she was opening her heart as no other girl I knew ever had. Yet, I still couldn’t tell her I loved her. I honestly didn’t know whether or not I did and I was determined not to lead her on. I felt it would be far crueler to do so. I kept asking myself – what if when I get to know her better, I discover that I don’t feel the same way she does.  However, I did become a bit more expressive in my letters – telling her that she was the most important girl in the world to me right now. I also told her that she was a big part of my future plans and I couldn’t wait until she and I could spend time together, to get to know each other better. But I couldn’t write those three words.

Then Maggie and I hit a very critical turning point in our relationship – and it almost ended.


June 3, 2016


As I wrote earlier, Maggie and I were nearing a very critical point in our relationship – one that almost ended it. Although I didn’t realize it, Maggie was going through some very difficult personal struggles

•        At 19 years old, Maggie had moved to her own apartment and was living away from her family for the very first time in her life. Her grandmother, who was like a second mother to her since Maggie’s mother died six years earlier, was often sick.

•        Maggie had to quit nursing school, which she loved, because her father retired and money was scarce.

•        She had to work in a job she hated so she could afford to have her own apartment, because her father was planning to move to another state. She was frightened to live alone, had mounting bills and often felt lonely.

•        When her older sister learned that Maggie was beginning to like me very much, she told Maggie “Wait until he gets home, he’ll be sorry.” Although I don’t think this was anything more than an older sister teasing her younger sister, it frightened Maggie since I was had been very cautious in expressing my feelings in my letters.

•        I was very busy at my job in the Army and was only able to write few short letters to Maggie during a time when she was beginning to doubt that she and I would ever get together.

•        In the last short letter I sent to Maggie, I had to tell her that I would not be home for Christmas – the first time we would be seeing each other in over a year. We had been planning my trip home for several months and were both looking so forward to it.

While all this was going on, Maggie’s grandmother died.

For Maggie, the death of her grandmother was like losing another mother. She had always been there for Maggie after her mother died, and now she was gone. Maggie was very depressed, very alone and very ready to give up on any dreams she may have.

The letter Maggie sent to me after her grandmother died shook me to my core. Here are some of my favorite lines from this letter (written 11/27/67).  The way Maggie began the letter grabbed me by my shoulders and shook me. Her honesty caught my full attention

My grandmother is dead. Forgive me for writing this so bluntly, but I sat there and watched and lived through her “death rattle” and now she is dead.

I’m frightened and dazed, not so much because of death itself, but because I have lost her, the one who loved me most of all. I was her favorite, for me she would’ve died and I gave her ---nothing and now she is gone. Every creak in the woodwork, every chill in the air I feel, causes me to be frightened and heightens a desire to run, but where?...

I was deeply touched by how clearly Maggie expressed her grief at losing her grandmother. Her blunt honesty really hit me. I sat in my room reading these first two paragraphs over and over and feeling so sorry for Maggie’s loss.

Later in the letter Maggie wrote the following. The “two days ago” she refers to is the letter she received from me telling her I would not be able to come home for Christmas – the first time we would be face to face for over a year. She needed me so badly at this moment and I could do nothing.

And things couldn’t have gotten any worse just two days ago! How I need you now! As much as I try not to force you into commitment, I sincerely need you now whether you would wish to help me or not. I believe you would. If you were here, I would feel at least half-human and half-myself. Would you? Could you? I am not worthy of you. I must stop this dreaming…

Maggie ended the letter telling me that it was over for us. She couldn’t go on dreaming anymore about the possibility of us making it – and she was hoping her grandmother would help and take care of her now that she felt so utterly alone.

At the very end my uncle gave a speech and mentioned that it was I, above all, even her own children, that she loved and worried about most. She told me that living or dead, she would take care of me

Perhaps she will take care of me now. I hope so. I need to be taken care of by someone. I don’t want to go on alone anymore. I am afraid and tired of fighting alone. I’m going to find someone to love me. I’ll know it when it comes because when I look into a pair of eyes that are one with mine in love, I won’t be able to see them because they’ll almost be my eyes. I must leave you. No more dreams.

My hands were shaking when I read that last paragraph, especially when she wrote - I’m going to find someone to love me ... I must leave you. No more dreams. I was also moved by the way she described how she would know when she found the "right one." I knew that if I told Maggie that I loved her, this would be of great comfort. But I still couldn’t do that. This would be the worst time to do that. I couldn’t risk saying those words until I was certain.

Next time I will share some excerpts from my letter to Maggie.


***

June 9, 2016


I knew how important Maggie’s grandmother was to her. They had a very close bond and losing her increased Maggie’s sense of isolation.  I wished that I could be at her side, to comfort her and to let her know that I was someone she could lean on – but I was thousands of miles away. I quickly sent a letter letting Maggie know how useless I felt:

It is at times like this that one fully realizes how limited words can be. Any phrase I might use to attempt to express my condolences seems so ordinary – so empty. What am I to say?

I feel so utterly useless. You are so sad and so desperately in need of someone and I can do nothing. I can only sit, an ocean apart, and attempt to convince you that you are not alone; that the void you feel is shared by someone who cares very much for you. I can only say that I want so badly to be by your side so that you may rest your head upon my shoulder and cry until the tears refuse to come; so that I may hold you near, hold you so near and so tight that you would gain a degree of comfort from knowing that there is someone upon whom you can depend. I can only say this and do no more. And because I can only say this, I feel as though I have failed you. The time has come when you need me most, need me, not simply words, and I can do nothing.

After telling Maggie how sorry I was that her grandmother had died, I immediately sent another letter to explain why I couldn’t say “I love you.”  Maggie had been honestly expressing her feelings for me for some time now and I knew that she was very concerned that I could never feel the same way about her. It would have been so easy to just write those three little words. I knew she was very vulnerable and I was afraid that if I didn’t, I risked losing her. Yet, I couldn’t do it.

I was now twenty-six years old and I had dated many girls in my life, however, I never told one of them that “I love you.” Those three little words held so much meaning to me. I always felt that they were often uttered too quickly and lost their meaning. To truly love someone takes time. I never believed in love at first sight. Oh, I know one can have strong feelings for another shortly after meeting them, but that’s not love, not for me anyway.

I wanted Maggie to know why I couldn’t tell her “I love you,” and hoped that she would understand.

In my next letter to her I wrote:

What am I to do, Miss Maggathie? You have stated in previous letters that you do not wish to force me into a commitment, yet what am I to do when I’m faced with the possibility of losing you? What am I to do when the only girl who means anything to me says, “I must have an answer – now. I cannot wait.” What am I to do when it is impossible to give this answer?

You don’t know, Miss Maggathie, the almost psychotic fear I have of saying “I love you.” The word “love” is so fraught with meaning, so fraught with responsibilities that I dare not utter it until I am certain. When I say “I love you,” it won’t simply imply that I find you physically and mentally attractive or that I place you above any other girl – it will mean far more than this. When I say “I love you,” it will mean I want you for my wife; I want you to be the mother of my children; I want you to stand by my side as long as life permits. It will mean that you are the one who complements me, who makes me whole. When I say “I love you,” it will mean that my life is yours. Everything I do, everything I hope to do, all my wildest dreams, all my fondest desires are for you. When I say “I love you,” it will mean that there is no other and far more important, that there will be no other. This is why I must be certain. This is why I cannot speak; why I must couch my feelings in hidden phrases. Please try to understand, Miss Maggathie – you must.

I had no idea how Maggie was going to respond to my letter.


***

June 15, 2016


I was so afraid that Maggie would give up on me. She was such a beautiful young woman who had so many men pursuing her - why would she continue to be interested in me when I was so cautious in expressing my feelings for her? Especially since both Maggie and I had agreed long ago that we would continue to date other people. After sending my letter, I kept thinking she wouldn’t answer it. That she would move on to some other guy who was telling her everything she wanted to hear.

The wait for Maggie’s letter was agonizing. Corresponding by letter in 1967 wasn’t like it is today. People communicate differently today – they communicate electronically. There are emails, texts, tweets, snapchat, and other forms of communication with which I’m not the least bit familiar. Today, all you have to do is compose your message and press “enter,” and your message is at its destination in a matter of seconds. When you sent a letter in 1967, it took days. So, when you were anxious about the reply, it could take 5 to 6 days before you could expect to receive that it. A letter from Germany to Chicago took 3 days, and if Maggie answered almost immediately upon receiving it, another 3 days before I would get her letter.  Add another day if there was a Sunday between the letters (because mail wasn’t delivered on a Sunday).

I received Maggie’s letter on the 6th day after I sent mine. That meant it was important enough to her that she answered immediately, but I still didn’t know what to expect. Was her quick response a good sign or was she being swift in telling me that she was moving on with her life.

Following are several excerpts from Maggie’s letter to me:



I had intended on forgetting about you. But just as the doubt of the future tells me to find someone else, so does my love for you tell me that I must wait until I am sure there is nothing to hope for.

Then later in her opening paragraph she said,

There is so much that I should be grateful for. So many things you’ve said and meant without even spending as much as one evening with me, and still I feel that I need more, much more than that.

About midway through her letter she wrote,

You’ve thrown me off by telling me not to stop being anxious about the future. Perhaps you didn’t realize how much you’re involved in that future. If you did realize I was referring to you, than for heaven’s sake please don’t build my hopes up only to send me crashing toward a heart break…

I can’t help myself, Dennis. I am really in love with you. My romantic life is thrilling, flashy, and even warmed with true loves, but I can give nothing in return as you and only you have my all. I don’t know what to do anymore.

I could have danced on the walls of my apartment. Maggie had not given up on me and there continued to be hope that we could get through this turning point in our relationship – something that was going to continue to be difficult when we were on different ends of an ocean.

***

June 21, 2016

In my next letter to Maggie I responded to a comment she made - “I don’t want to go on alone anymore. I am afraid and tired of fighting alone.” This really disturbed me. I know I hadn’t told Maggie that I loved her, but I at least thought that I was there for her when she told me about the challenges she was facing in her life. I wrote:

I am saddened to think that you feel this way. If you feel that you have faced your problems by yourself; if you truly believe that you have stood with no one by your side, then I have suffered in vain. I have failed you again. You turned to me when you were troubled and I failed to convince you that I was concerned; that I was happy when you were happy, sad when you were sad; that what you felt, I felt – that you were not alone. If I have failed you in this, then I could not have failed you more seriously. If I have failed you in this, I do not deserve your love.

Excerpts from Maggie’s next two letters convinced me even more that we had indeed gotten through this turning point.  She was beginning to understand why I was being so careful in what I said to her and I was certain that that had to be difficult. I knew she had dated a lot of guys and that many of them were far more expressive, telling her how beautiful she was and how much they loved her. I also knew that she feared our “getting together” was highly unlikely.

Maggie’s response to my letter was quick:

You have helped me so much, Dennis. You have listened to me. You have advised and consented. You have hoped for me. This alone is far more than I ever expected. You haven’t been here physically, but you, wonderful you, gave me the warmth of an embrace from away across an ocean.

My love for you is genuine. It has lasted through doubts and fears, unbearable heartaches, exciting romances and all via air mail.

I have crushed my feelings of impatience. I’m back to the way of giving you all that I can and freely accepting all that you can give without frustration, or anxiety. I am myself again.

And then in a letter she wrote that same evening:

I am happy because I have had an enlightenment. How foolish I was to have pushed you; to have asked you to commit yourself when you have already committed yourself without my asking.

I can wait until you can tell me face to face that you love me only if you really will mean all that it implies. I never want you to say those three words until they say all of what you said they would.

I can say them to you and I mean it. I haven’t placed you on a throne, Dennis. I’ve only told you of what I have learned about you. My only disappointment in you could be that you cannot love me. If that happens, it will be difficult for me at first, but life will go on.

Maggie and I were getting closer to more clearly understanding our relationship. However, since I was unable to make a formal commitment, we continued to agree to date other people. I wasn’t comfortable with this decision because I was afraid of losing her, but I had no right to ask her to “wait for me.” I couldn’t expect her to stop seeing other men if I was unable to promise that we would be together when I was discharged from the Army. From this point on, anytime there would be a delay in receiving a letter from Maggie, I expected the worst (Why isn’t she writing? Did she fall in love with someone else?).

Next time I will send some of my favorite excerpts from letters written by Maggie during the following two months.


***

June 28, 2016



I dated very few women while in Heidelberg. Oh, I would occasionally take a girl to a concert or a movie, but it never went further than that. Although I would not admit to myself  that I was really in love with Maggie, there was no question she was always on my mind. Anytime I went out with girl I would find them boring and nowhere near as beautiful as Maggie and my interest in them would quickly fade.

I continued to be concerned that Maggie would tire of my reluctance to tell her I loved her, but my moral compass wouldn’t let me go there. Since I couldn’t be sure that the Maggie I knew in her letters was the Maggie I would find when I returned home, I wouldn’t take that final step. Any time I received a letter from her, I scrutinized every page, every paragraph, every word — looking for any hint that her feelings for me may be changing. Over the course of the next couple of months, Maggie eased my concerns without knowing I had them.


Around Christmas (December 25th) I knew Maggie would be going to a lot of parties, some with family and others with friends. I also knew that Christmas in the United States could be very romantic. A walk in the cold air, snowflakes falling gently on your face, lights twinkling from displays on the streets, and Christmas carols in the air.  It’s the most joyful time of the year when spirits are high and people seem much closer to each other. It’s a perfect time to be with someone you love or for a new romance to begin.

I knew Maggie was dating other guys and I was sure she would be spending time with them during Christmas.  What if the magic of the season made her think I wasn’t worth the wait?

The next letter I received from Maggie was written on Christmas Day. I was thrilled to receive it, but reluctant to open it. Maggie began the letter by telling me of all the events she went to during Christmas week and the fun she had. What she wrote next put my mind at ease.  

I want you to realize too that I have not shut out the world for you. I have tried to forget you, tried loving others, but I cannot. It’s not as if I’m depending on your love; it’s not as if my world will end if you cannot love me. All I can say is that right here and now, I must love you. I cannot do anything else.

Then a little later she wrote,

You must believe that I’ll never stop waiting for you. God knows that I won’t. I have dated so many fine, eligible young men since my engagement was broken. That first date may set me wondering, but after knowing these men I find that my love is still directed toward only you. I have many wonderful times, but no relationship can proceed beyond that point. These men are here now to dry my tears, to move heavy furniture, to hold me near and yet although you are an ocean away, you have done so much more for me. Believe that, Dennis.
***

July 4, 2016

New Year’s Eve is another romantic time. It’s a time of new beginnings— a time to set the past aside and move forward. I kept thinking about Maggie and wondering who she would be with when the clock struck midnight and the new year was ushered in. I remembered the New Year’s Eve parties that I went to before I was in the Army and how the magic of the evening and a few drinks could capture someone’s heart.  Part of me was convinced that Maggie really did love me. After all, many of the comments she had been making in her letters proved that. But another part of me – the logical, rational part – kept raising the question “How could she possibly know that she loves me when we’ve never spent more than twenty minutes alone?” I kept thinking that Maggie will soon realize this and decide that I wasn’t worth the wait.

My New Year’s Eve was a very quiet one. I had dinner with a fellow Army officer and his wife at their home and at the stroke of midnight we made a toast to each other’s health and happiness. I then raised my glass of champagne to an empty chair and said “Happy New Year Maggie.” That was my New Year’s Eve.

Maggie had flown to New York on New Year’s Eve to visit a friend and wrote me a letter immediately upon her return. Some of what she wrote warmed my heart, but also raised some questions that I kept to myself.

She made a reference to the movie “Gone With the Wind” when expressing her feelings for me. I had never seen the movie and had no idea what she meant. Although I liked what I heard, I wondered what she meant when she wrote “I have tried in vain.”


Following are several of my favorite excerpts from Maggie’s letter of January 3, 1968:

I am beginning to realize that there is more to my love for you than I had known.  I mustn’t be another Scarlett O’Hara with her love for Ashley, so I won’t explain that statement. I can say that I find that I cannot hide nor halt my love for you. I have tried in vain.



Then later in the letter:

I’ve always considered myself an eternal shopper as if I had my own retail shop. I’ve always seemed to meet someone better than the one I’m with. This is not so with you. I’m waiting for you; waiting because if you should decide to take me, I shall never want to leave -- not ever.

Someday you’ll feel this way about someone. I will be happy for you then, even if I am not the one wreathed in your love.

Maggie’s last comment made me realize that she was mature well beyond her age. Although she was only 19 years old, she was hoping that I would someday experience the love she felt for me, even if I felt it for some girl other than her.  That blew me away.

***

July 11, 2016
More of My Favorite Excerpts

For the past several months, I had been trying to get permission to return to the United States even if only for a few days. Because of the increased combat in Vietnam, as well as the shortage of officers at the Heidelberg courier station, our commanding officer was having difficulty granting my requests. On a couple occasions there was a possibility that the trip might happen, one was at Christmas and the other at New Years. Both times I would write to Maggie with the good news only to have to send a follow-up letter telling her that the trip fell through.

In her response to one of my letters telling her I wouldn't be home, Maggie wrote,



If you knew how disappointed I am at this moment, you’d go AWOL. Just when I was beginning to think that things couldn’t get worse --- Dennis can’t get leave for Christmas! I feel hurt for your family alone, let alone worrying about the loneliness I’ll feel during the holidays.

(If you are not familiar with the term “AWOL,” it’s the military acronym for “Absent Without Official Leave.” This refers to leaving your duty without permission and is a very serious offense).

In a following letter, Maggie wrote,

How I miss you, Dennis. My heart actually sputters when I think that maybe there is some chance for us.

And then later in the letter she wrote,

It just occurred to me that if you were home, we would probably never really get to know each other as well as we have through our letters. We’d be too busy having a good time or something. I don’t want it to be like that, do you? Promise me that we’ll always have time to learn about each other.

It seemed that every time it looked as though the trip home would happen, the plans would fall through. And once again I would have to send Maggie a letter telling her that I wouldn’t be coming home. Then it happened; some classified material had to be sent to Washington D.C. and I was selected to deliver it. However, after delivering the material, I would only have 2 ½  days to go to Chicago, return to Washington D.C, and fly back to Germany. It was going to be very tight, but I was determined to make it happen. I wrote to Maggie and gave her the good news.

In her next letter she wrote,

If you knew how goofy I’m acting ever since I heard the good news of your trip home, you’d probably think twice before coming! I laugh out loud at nothing at all. Have you ever ridden on a crowded bus and started to laugh – and you’re the only one laughing? How ‘bout playing Password – everyone really engrossed in it, but I’m way off somewhere and three times gave the word that others are trying to guess as a clue! Instead of greeting everyone with “Hi,” I say “Guess what, Dennis is coming home!”

And later in this same letter,

There is so much you must learn about me. Sometimes I feel so tense when I think of all that I must tell you. I must confess that I’m counting very much on our relationship leading to happiness. It’s sometimes frightening to place all your hopes and dreams on one slim possibility. As Barbra would say, “It’s insanity to worry so all day …Will he like me? He’s just got to.”

That last line is from one of Barbra Streisand’s songs – “Will He Like Me” – and perfectly describes what Maggie was feeling regarding my coming home. Here are the full lyrics.

        Will he like me?
        Will the shy and quiet girl he’s going to see
        Be the one that he’s imagined me to be.

        Will he like me?
        Will he like the girl he sees?
        If he doesn’t, will he know enough to know
        That there’s more to me than I may always show?

        Will he like me?
        Will he know that there’s a world of love
        Waiting to warm him
        How I’m hoping that his eyes and ears
        Won’t misinform him.

        Will he like me?
        When I’ll see him seems a million years away
        It’s insanity to worry so all day.

        Will he like me?
        He’d just got to.
        Will he like me?

I had such mixed feelings about coming home.  What if the Maggie I came home to turned out to be far different from the Maggie in her letters. I had never felt this way about another woman and was so afraid I would be disappointed. What if I didn’t like her? I had dated many girls in the past and always found a reason why I should stop seeing them. Sometimes it was as simple as the way they laughed, or how they dressed, or their beliefs. They were often simple, silly reasons, but they always got in the way of knowing them better.

There was so much riding on my trip home.

***

July 18, 2016

Several days before I was to leave for the United States, I wrote a letter to Maggie telling her how important this trip was to me,

I have nothing to say – but I must write. You have continuously been in my thoughts these past few days. Every song I hear, almost everything I see – reminds me of you…

I can’t begin to tell you how much I anticipate our meeting. A year ago it would hardly have mattered if I saw you or not, now it means almost everything. I don’t wish to frighten you by implying that these few hours could chart the future years, but I would be foolish to deny that possibility. We have so much to say to each other, so much to learn, and all in so little time.

***

My flight from Germany arrived in Washington D.C. at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, January 22, 1968 and I had only 2 ½ days to deliver my material, fly to Chicago to spend some time with Maggie (as well as my family), and return to Washington D.C. by Thursday evening  (January 25, 1968).

I was so afraid that I would miss my scheduled flight to Chicago. If that happened, the next plane wouldn’t depart until the following morning and my time with Maggie would be shortened dramatically. Luckily, a friend of mine at the D. C. courier station was waiting to drive me to the airport as soon as my material was checked in. Since my flight was scheduled to leave in about an hour, I’m sure we broke speed limits and went through several traffic lights to get to the airport on time. Once there, I raced through the terminal to reach my Chicago flight about ten minutes before it left.  

When I arrived at the Chicago airport at 11:00 p.m., I was surprised to see Maggie. I never expected her to be there and didn’t know how long she had been waiting – since I asked her not to meet me because I wasn’t sure what flight I might be on. She was as beautiful as her picture - and her smile - well; I’ve never seen a smile like that.

But, did I run to her? Did I sweep her into my arms? Did I kiss her? Nope, none of these. I was definitely happy to see her and my heart told me to do all of that, but my head cautioned me to be careful. Don’t lead her on. You don’t know how these two days will end up. Just, take it easy. So, I smiled, walked up to her, gave her a brief hug, and thanked her for being there. That was it. Not very romantic, and I’m sure, not at all what Maggie was expecting. In an early letter to me, Maggie once wrote, “I am fortunate that I know a very cautious and somewhat subdued individual in you.”  I doubt that she was thinking that now.

Maggie drove me to my parent’s house, which was only a block away from her apartment, and we agreed to spend the next day (Tuesday) as “our day.” This was the only day Maggie could get off from work and she had to go to work on both Wednesday and Thursday. Because of this, Maggie and I could only be alone together that one day (Tuesday) and for six hours each of the next two days, before I would have to return to Washington D.C.
Tuesday was our day. We had breakfast at a small cafe, took a quiet walk along the shore of Lake Michigan, had lunch at a small downtown restaurant, and shopped for groceries to stock Maggie’s cabinets. That evening, after we bought chocolate malts (Maggie’s favorite treat) from a neighborhood ice cream store, Maggie and I relaxed in her apartment, sitting on the floor talking and listening to some of our favorite record albums.

During the following days, after Maggie would return from work, we spent as much time with each other as we could. We talked and shared our individual likes, dislikes, dreams and hopes. As she repeatedly displayed in her letters, Maggie was far more willing to show her affection than I was. In my mind, I was not coming home to have sex; I was coming home to learn more about Maggie. I knew too many friends for whom sex was the driving force in their relationship and I always felt that the passion they experienced got in the way, sometimes blinding each person’s understanding and appreciation of the other at a more lasting level. I don’t think Maggie felt the same way. Yet, although I was slowly admitting to myself that Maggie was indeed the girl I had hoped she was, I remained cautious in admitting it to her.  

But what a complete fool I was. I looked upon this trip as my opportunity to decide whether or not I could fall in love with Maggie. I never realized that she would also be making a decision; was I the guy she hoped I was. I was falling in love with Maggie, but was she falling out of love with me? During our last evening together, Maggie made several comments that frightened me - frightened me so much that I couldn’t talk with her about it until I returned to Germany. During that last night, at different times throughout the evening, Maggie expressed the following,

“You hadn’t met my expectations”
“You didn’t do the thoughtful things I long for”
“Our marriage wouldn’t last two weeks”
“I don’t love you”

It wasn’t until my next letter that I could respond to those comments

***

July 25, 2016


The time I spent with Maggie was not only what I had hoped for; it was far more than I expected. She was everything she was in her letters. I simply couldn’t get her out of my mind from the moment we said good-bye. In the taxi drive from my home to Midway Airport and on the flight from Chicago to Washington D. C., Maggie was all that I could think about. It was as if nothing existed, but her. I had never – ever – felt this way about a girl.

As soon as my flight landed in Washington D.C. around 1:00 a.m., I called Maggie. I knew our conversation would have to be brief because it was late and I had to check in at the courier station within an hour, but I simply had to hear her voice.

After reporting in to the station and upon arriving at my hotel in Washington D.C., I threw my luggage aside and rushed to the desk to write a letter to Maggie. I had to get as close to her as I could and if I couldn’t do it physically, I would do it through a letter.

(You will see that I refer to Maggie as “Klunkie.” She often called herself a “Klunk” since she was sometimes clumsy – tripping over a rug, bumping into a wall etc. So, that became one of my pet names for her. She would call me “Scrawny” because she thought I needed to gain weight).

Following are some excerpts from my next two letters.

How I miss you Klunkie. What have you done to me? Fat chance I have of not making a mistake on my return flight to Germany. I can’t count pieces; all I think of is this klunkie girl who almost falls when getting in or out of a car and who walks into people when trying to get around them. I can’t watch material: all I see is this girl with an excited smile waiting at the airport, this girl hurrying home running down Lock Street, this girl, such a crazy girl, who makes me laugh hours after I’ve been with her. How can I listen to the instructions that will be given to me: all I hear is the soft sound of a piano followed by “Oh, I can’t play; you make me too nervous.” All I hear is the change in the tone of your voice when I called from Washington:

Me: “Hello.”
You (Indifferent and sleepy): “Hello.”
Me: “Good morning, Klunkie!”
You (Excited): “Oh, Hello!”

Klunkie, what have you done to me?

Maggathie, thank you for being crazy, for being klunkie, for being the girl you are in your letters. I wanted so badly for you to be as I hoped you were. So much depended on this meeting. For me, it was going to determine what our relationship would be. If things weren’t as I had hoped, I intended to gradually loosen the bond which we had tied over the past year. Perhaps it wasn’t right to place so much importance upon these three days, but I knew that what I learned would definitely influence our relationship. And it has, Maggathie.

I want you to wait for me. I know I asked you before and I know you said you would, but I must say it again. I have never asked a girl to wait for me, but I must ask you. I don’t know what this is that I feel for you now, but whatever it is I do know that it must be given a chance to be realized.

***

And then, the very day I arrived back in Heidelberg, I wrote another letter to Maggie which included the following:

How happy I was those two and a half days. Perhaps I didn’t show it enough and maybe I didn’t say enough, but, honestly, I haven’t felt so happy in a long time. You’ve done something to me, Maggathie, something I’m still hesitant to admit.

You said several things our last night that were the cause of my getting angry. One was that I hadn’t met your expectations and didn’t do the little thoughtful things that you long for; the other was that if we were married, it probably wouldn’t last two weeks; and the last was “I don’t love you.”

You said that you thought I called you up Wednesday morning because I thought something was wrong Tuesday night when I left. You couldn’t have been more mistaken. I called you up Wednesday morning because I missed you terribly. In fact, I wouldn’t even have left Tuesday night if I thought something was wrong. I called you at work Thursday afternoon because I missed you terribly. I was at your apartment fifteen minutes before you came home Wednesday evening because I missed you terribly. I moped around downtown and spent all Wednesday afternoon looking for a gift of the heart because I missed you terribly. I almost swallowed my supper whole Thursday night and raced to your house because I missed you terribly.  I came to your apartment Tuesday morning without calling because I didn’t want to wait that half hour you would have probably requested because I missed you terribly. You can only do so many “little things” in two and a half days.

The three statements came in about a three minute period: “you’re not what I expected; a marriage between us wouldn’t last two weeks; and I don’t love you.” How frightening these statements can sound to a person who’s just beginning to realize how much you mean to him.

***

Maggie had also written a letter the evening I returned to Washington D.C. which I did not receive until after I wrote my letter above. Here are my favorite excerpts from her letter:

I’m not asking for anything, Dennis - just a chance to know you better. Right now I’m sad, happy, frightened and challenged all at the same time. I’m sad because geographical distance makes it impossible to have you here with me; I’m frightened because of the need to have you feel that way about me, and I’m challenged because I have so much to learn. I’m sad because I’m happy and I’m happy because I’m sad. I’m frightened because I’m challenged and I’m challenged because I’m frightened. You’ll understand that.

I think I need you, Dennis. I don’t like opening car doors, or going to bed before midnight and I don’t want to answer the phone anymore because I know it won’t be someone simply asking me how I feel.

In her next letter to me, Maggie voices her feelings about our time together and also explains why she made the comments: I didn’t meet her expectations, a marriage between us wouldn’t last two weeks, and she didn’t love me.


***

August 1, 2016

I had been back in Heidelberg for a couple days when I received Maggie’s response to my last two letters: the one in which I asked her “What have you done to me?” and the other in which I questioned her statements that angered me the last night I was with her. As usual, she spoke with absolute honesty.

It may seem that I am sharing Maggie’s entire letter, but these are merely my favorite excerpts. I’m also underlining some of Maggie’s comments that affected me the most. THESE WERE NOT UNDERLINED IN THE ACTUAL LETTER.

This was a long letter that not only touched my heart, but made me realize even more what a unique person this Maggie was; how very different she was from any other girl I had ever dated.

***

Maggie began her letter, dated January 31, 1968, telling me how she felt about my “What have you done to me?” letter:

Here I sit, heart bursting with joy, tears streaming down my cheeks, out-loud laughter echoing through the corners of my home and you ask – “what have I done to you!” I don’t know what I’ve done to you, but whatever it is may it grow and last forever. I want that more than anything in this world (No exaggerating).

And then later in this same letter she addressed her comments on our last evening together:

“You hadn’t met my expectations”
“You didn’t do the thoughtful things that I long for”
“Our marriage wouldn’t last two weeks”
“I don’t love you”

Ha Ha Ha! Did I say all that? What a spoiled brat I am. You didn’t fall all over me and let me walk all over you --- that was all!  

(MOST OF THE GUYS MAGGIE DATED WERE SO CAPTIVATED BY HER THAT SHE PRETTY MUCH CONTROLLED THEM. THEY WOULD OFTEN DO OR SAY WHATEVER THEY THOUGHT SHE WANTED THEM TO DO OR SAY, HOPING SHE WOULD CONTINUE LIKING THEM.)

You proved to me that you were a real man (something rare these days) and proved to me that you weren’t kidding when you said that your love for a girl would always last. (That’s a switch).

(MAGGIE WAS BEGINNING TO REALIZE THAT I MEANT WHAT I SAID IN MY LETTERS – THAT I WOULD NOT TELL HER I LOVED HER UNTIL I WAS CERTAIN – THAT WHEN I WOULD SAY “I LOVE YOU” IT WOULD BE FAR MORE THAN JUST WORDS. I’M SURE MANY GUYS SHE DATED HAD NO PROBLME SAYING THOSE WORDS).

Actually, you threw me completely off guard. I was hurt by a new realization – that true love doesn’t grow on trees.

In defense, I said things to heal my wounded pride, to show you that I could walk out on you at the whim of a moment, that I could make you see that I was not so foolish as to give my love when I was receiving nothing in return. What a liar I was and all because I was so blind. I couldn’t even tell that you missed me, really missed me, and all because I didn’t really know you…

As for our marriage lasting two weeks – well, that was the classic. Here we hardly even know each other and I make a statement that juvenile.

You asked me to wait for you and I know you meant it. You know the answer – I’ll wait for as long as it takes to prove one thing; that we can be happy together for the rest of our lives


And then, near the end of her letter, Maggie wrote:

One thing I must ask you. If there is ever a time when I don’t seem to understand you, please give me the chance to try. Don’t lose faith in me too quickly. Let me learn, for I feel that I love you and with that love, a need to have you always. I don’t want to lose you because of something as stupid as stupidity.

I guess I do miss you after all. A strange feeling is in me and it’s almost frightening --- You may be displeased by this next piece of news. First of all, I must tell you that what feeling I have for you now stems mostly from the three days we spent together and your last two letters. It’s funny how sure I was of my feelings before you came home, and once you were home, so unsure at times, and now so sure again

Dennis, I hope you’ll always feel a need to be near me. You know, not holding hands or rubbing legs beneath a table (well, that’s not bad), but like what I feel for you --- to be able to look around to find you there, or call your name just to hear your answer. I need someone very much. That someone is you.

To think that the things that I worried about most --- being klunky, saying silly things, getting nervous, smiling too much --- are the things that seemed to please you most. I won’t ever change for “anyone” and how wonderful to know that “anyone” doesn’t want me to.

I was ecstatic after reading this letter.  I now realized why Maggie made those comments that frightened me and I also felt that our relationship had gone to a higher level. We both came through our 2 ½ days together with a greater understanding of each other and a greater awareness of ourselves. I was now certain that Maggie was not only the girl in her letters, but that she may very well be the woman I would marry. Maggie, on the other hand, began to get a deeper appreciation of love - that it wasn’t simply impulsive kisses and holding hands, but something that needed to be nurtured before it could grow strong and last a lifetime.


***

August 8, 2016

I was scheduled to be discharged from the Army in early April, 1968 – less than 2 ½ months from the last day I was home with Maggie. During that time, Maggie and I wrote to each other about twice a week.

One of my favorite letters from Maggie was written in early February/1968, less than a week after I returned to Heidelberg. Following are some of my favorite excerpts from this letter. Maggie began in such a charming way -

I had so much to tell you that I couldn’t say everything in yesterday’s letter. Now I can’t think of a thing to tell you. How about if I tell you all about myself.

First of all, I’m a clunk and you know that. I’m crazy and you know that. I’m in love with you and you know that. What’s there to tell you?

Then later in her letter, Maggie very honestly expresses her fears about our relationship. She always doubted that she and I would become a couple - and I certainly didn’t give her much reason to believe that that could happen until my trip home. Yet, as open as I was about my feelings for her since our 2 ½ days together, she still harbored fears that this wouldn’t last.  

I miss you so very much. I get so tickly inside when I remember that you’ll be home for good in about 60 days. I don’t want to count on too much. I know you wanted to be home with me on your last three days, but I’m afraid that this need may lessen once you’re home to stay. How I hope not --- pray not.

Maggie then went on to share her deepest fear and what losing our chance for real love would mean to her. I was very moved by her mature acceptance of whatever the future might bring and very touched by her honesty and vulnerability.

I don’t know why I worry so about what will come. It’s silly to worry about things you can’t really prevent. I guess when you need someone as much as I need you; you worry about things like that. When you’ve waited for someone whom you can really love, and he finally walks into your life, it’s difficult not to worry about losing him. I won’t bother you with this worry. I’m sure everything will work out for the best. Trouble is, what’s the best?

Near the end of her letter, Maggie shared how she reacts when she receives a letter from me. Again, she captures my heart with her descriptions and her absolute fearlessness in showing her feelings. She paints a picture that is not only touching but very funny.

Everyone knew today when I got to work that I got a letter from you last night. They could all tell by the way I tripped over the extension cord of the telephone, spilled a cup of coffee, dribbled pineapple jelly on my plum mini dress and (get ready) got my ankle stuck in between the back and the seat of my chair. Try that in a mini skirt with 6 people trying to get you out. They finally ended up suspending me in mid-air and turning the chair sideways.

***

In a letter Maggie wrote a couple weeks later, she continued to openly express her fear that our relationship might not last. With the continuing escalation of the war in Vietnam, I was very busy delivering classified material throughout Germany and neighboring countries. Consequently, I was unable to write a letter for over a week, not even a short one to tell Maggie how very busy I was. Maggie, of course, expected the worst.

It has been over a week since I last heard from you. How my heart worries as I feel you may be beginning that gradual break that you once mentioned. I only pray that this silence only means that you’ve been busy, or much too exhausted to write.

Maggie’s reference to “that gradual break” is from my earlier letter to her in which I told her that I would end my relationship with any girl I no longer cared about by gradually decreasing my contact with them – assuming that they would soon get the message.

I miss you, Den. And I’m so worried because I haven’t heard from you. Are you making a fool of me this time? Do it quickly --- If you must do it at all.

Maggie’s above comment is a reference to an earlier letter I sent to her when she had stopped writing to me. In it I had asked if she was “making a fool of me.”

Reading the last line of this letter saddened me; Maggie was imagining the worst.

I must be off. I will write more later this week. I guess I’m just running away – afraid.
***

August 15, 2016

I quickly wrote to Maggie letting her know that the reason I had not written for a while was because I was so busy and it had nothing to do with my feelings changing.  I told her that I was still crazy about her and would write whenever I was able. I hated it when my job took so much of my time that I couldn't write anything other than a short letter. I promised Maggie I would at least do that.

In another letter to Maggie, I wrote to her about my thoughts regarding the marital relationship between a man and a woman.

I believe in a very definite relationship between man and woman: not one which is 50/50 either. The man must be the master, a benevolent and understanding master. He must be the one who does the leading – not one who follows… Both the man and the woman must understand their roles and each must act in accordance with them.

I hope you understand what I’m trying to say. I don’t mean to imply that the woman is merely a servant who must always cater to the man. I don’t mean that it’s above the man to do what is considered “woman’s work.” What I do mean is – the woman must realize what is “woman’s work” and what is the woman’s role. I don’t doubt that I’ll often help with the dishes; I’ll often help with the child; and I’ll often cater to wishes. So long, that is, as she realizes that the woman’s work which I am doing is woman’s work. That when I cater to her wishes I am catering because I want to and not necessarily because she wants me to. When she ceases to see “woman’s work” as such and expects me to do it that is when I cease doing it. When she ceases to look upon my catering as an act of love and misconstrues it as acknowledgement of her power over me, that is when I cease catering. I expect to be the man in any man and woman relationship.

(When I read this letter, after finding it fifty years later, I couldn’t believe what my beliefs were in 1968. If I didn’t see this in my own handwriting, I would have denied ever feeling this way. I’m sure at that time I was heavily influenced by my experiences in my family, the neighborhood in which I was born and raised, and the prevailing attitudes regarding the roles of a man and a woman in marriage. I certainly never acted on these beliefs after marrying Maggie).

***

Maggie’s answer may surprise you. When I read it now, I know that she really did believe this – even fifty years ago. I think her assessment of a “leader” is very perceptive.

Yes, the man is the leader. This I believe with all my heart. Leadership is the biggest factor I look for in a man. I’ve found some that I could string along endlessly.  What happens? I lose respect for them and all feelings other than pity. I’ve found some who were leaders (they thought), tyrants (I thought). If it’s one thing I can’t stand is a man who must constantly prove to me and to himself that he’s a man. I know what a man is! You know, the extremist who believes woman is the ground on which a man walks. And that’s not a man at all! I’ve also found those with just the right touch of leadership, but something else is usually missing and (poof) all is lost. So you see, I’m fussy too --- sometimes too much so.

And then Maggie talked about the role of the woman in a marriage. And this blew me away:

A woman must be versatile. She has to be first of all a wife; cooking, keeping house, managing the things her husband puts in her care. She must be a mistress; someone dressed nicely to greet her husband when he comes home, never refusing his passion. She must be a nurse; sympathetic and helpful when her man isn’t feeling well. She must be a friend; friendship in the true sense of the word must never be lost. Although certain things are a man’s worry alone, a man still needs someone to turn to as a friend --- someone there to stand by him right or wrong. In time, she may be a mother too. The only comment I have on that (as I don’t really know how it is to be a mother) is that the man in her life must never be neglected because of children and that’s saying countless things.

(And throughout our entire marriage, Maggie lived these roles - she was a wife, a mistress, a nurse, a friend, and a terrific mother. I know this may sound strange, but Maggie was all of these without being submissive.  I didn’t rule the house and she didn’t bow to my every request. She was a strong woman who loved being all of what she believed a woman should be.  Being a mother and a wife was what she loved most, and our marriage was a true partnership).

***

August 22, 2016

More of My Favorite Excerpts

Today's entry is a little brief. Both my eight year old granddaughter and I celebrated our birthday yesterday evening. Our entire family was at her house - my three children, their spouses and my seven grandchildren. Consequently, since I usually try to write much of my entry the night before I send it, I only have a little time after I returned home. I will try to write again in a few more days.

***

I loved what Maggie said to me in a letter she wrote in late February, 1968. It was these funny, creative, playful comments she would make that set her so far apart from any other girl I knew. What she wrote was simple and in some ways even silly, but it made me laugh:

I miss you, scrawn. You know if you were home I’d be a million times more content and happy. I could cuddle you, and run away from you, and wrestle with you, and laugh with you, and cry with you, and talk with you, and be quiet with you, and walk with you, and ride with you, and work with you, and go to the zoo with you, and shop with you, and sing with you, and eat with you , and (getting monotonous????) sleep with you (Ah Ha, getting better eh!), and fight with you, (for variety only) and love with you, and on and on and on.

***

In a letter that I sent to Maggie about a week later, I told her about a recent conversation I had with a German couple (boyfriend and girlfriend) and was interested in her reaction to their philosophy about marriage. I wasn’t saying that I thought their idea was a good one, but I did find it interesting.

I was talking to a couple of German acquaintances last night (girlfriend and boyfriend) and they brought up an idea which fascinated me and I would like your reaction. They thought that after a couple had been married for a while, they should have separate bedrooms. They reasoned that this would have numerous advantages: the husband would be spared the sight of his wife greased down and pinned up; the wife would be spared the discomfort of a snoring husband; both would have a great deal more privacy when desired; both could face each other in the morning after being fully awakened and much more becoming – and both could spend the evening in the same room when both consented. COMMENTS PLEASE.

***

Maggie wrote back quickly and was very clear in expressing her thoughts about such an arrangement:

Separate bedrooms? Well, I think that if I woke up during the night feeling afraid, I’d want a comforting hand right near me. And if rollers turn my husband off when we’re making love, then I’ll wait until he’s fast asleep before I set my hair. And I’ll eat a Cert before he awakes to my first kiss. And if we need privacy there’s a den, or a long drive, or a lonely walk. No, separate bedrooms may be a great solution to some people’s lull in romance, but not for Miss Maggathie. If my husband loses his interest because of the monotony of it all, I won’t be Maggathie!!  My husband wouldn’t even suggest separate bedrooms (or I’d cry to death).

(I don’t know if you are familiar with “Cert,” but it’s a breath mint.)

***


August 27, 2016


Even at this time in our relationship – a time when I felt that Maggie was the most important person in my life and I could envision myself being in love with her – I continued to be cautious in admitting that I did love her. There was no question that we had come to know each other through our letters over the past two years and there was also no question that she was indeed the person in her letters, yet I remained haunted by the reality that we really hadn’t spent much time with each other. What would happen if, after being discharged from the Army and physically being with Maggie for several months, I discovered that she wasn’t the “right girl” for me. Although I was now more expressive in admitting my feelings for her, I still couldn’t tell her “I love you” – not yet – not until I was certain.

In previous letters, I had explained to Maggie why I couldn’t say those three words – and at some level she accepted my explanation – but there was no question that she seriously doubted that everything would turn out as she hoped it would. In one of her early letters to me, after openly expressing her feelings about her hopes for our relationship, she wrote:

Something keeps telling me I’m playing my cards all wrong, but then love isn’t a card game. Yet, isn’t it strange that I (the female) should be certain of her love and you (the opposite) so uncertain? Somehow I just can’t picture things working out to a point of happily ever after. It just doesn’t figure out right.

And then in another letter, written much later in our correspondence, she freely expressed the confusion she still felt, even though I was now much more open in admitting that she meant everything to me:

I’m not asking for anything, Dennis - just a chance to know you better. Right now I’m sad, happy, frightened and challenged all at the same time. I’m sad because geographical distance makes it impossible to have you here with me; I’m frightened because of the need to have you feel that way about me, and I’m challenged because I have so much to learn. I’m sad because I’m happy and I’m happy because I’m sad. I’m frightened because I’m challenged and I’m challenged because I’m frightened. You’ll understand that.

And in yet another letter, written only a month before I was to be discharged to return to Chicago, she shared her vulnerability when she wrote with such honesty of her fear:

I love you, Dennis. And sometimes even when the hope of finding your love seems to grow dim, I think that perhaps I’m only imagining defeat and that your time to love just hasn’t come yet. then I can go on hoping.

And I love you. And I need your tenderness so very much. I long for your nearness all the day --- and night.
***
September 2, 2016

I apologize for the inconsistency of my writings to you. My days have been very busy lately for a variety of reasons, some related to family obligations and others related to my involvement in community events. After this entry, I hope to post my writings on Tuesdays as I have in the past.

***

In one of her last letters to me, written on 3/20/68, Maggie tells me how she envisions our first meeting when I return to the United States. Since I promised her that she would be the first person I would come to see, Maggie sent me a key to her apartment so I could let myself in – regardless of the time of day:

Sometimes I picture what it will be like if you surprise me when you come to Chicago.

At night – I’d be sleeping soundly and awaken with the touch of strong arms and a gentle kiss.

After work – I’d be rushing up the stairway, open the door, and suddenly be caught up in your arms.

In the evening – I’d be doing something (sewing), suddenly I hear something – turn – and you’re there.

What will happen ---

I’ll rush to your arms and trip on the way knocking you over --- I’m so Klunkie!!

***

Following are my favorite excerpts from Maggie’s last two letters. I will underline her comments that touched me most:

Would you believe I’m depressed? I’ve always known that I’m a demanding --- not demanding --- possessive woman, but now I’m even more certain of the intensity of these feelings. I was thinking of when you’ll be home and how much I’m going to want you near me. I’m afraid things will be terrible until I can understand that you cannot always be as close to me as the next room.

(Throughout our entire marriage Maggie was always most comfortable when I was “as close to me as the next room” and this became even more important in the final months of her life.)

Oh, but I miss you so very much and how I long to be a part of your everyday life. Like tonight – It’s storming and I’m so afraid --- ever since I was hit by lightning last summer. I need you now.

(I could just picture Maggie sitting there during the storm – so frightened. She had been struck by indirect lightning the summer before. While she was in her house, sitting on a metal chair talking on the phone during a severe storm, a bolt of lightning hit so close that it knocked her off the chair and completely across the room. And all the tiles in kitchen, wherever there was wiring, popped off the wall. She survived that strike, but always feared severe storms from that day on).

You don’t know how very much I live for the day when you’ll click into my apartment. Nothing else matters half as much as when I’ll be with you again.

The last two comments are from Maggie’s last letter to me:

Until I see you, I’ll be waiting here thinking of you.

I wonder if I’ll miss writing to you.
***


September 6, 2016


Those of you who have read what I’ve been posting for almost two years now know that Maggie and I became engaged four months after I was discharged from the Army – and you know the story of how that engagement happened. However, because there has been a significant increase in the number of readers of my post, many of whom may not have taken the time to read previous entries, I would like to repeat that story. I do believe it is a touching story and will help you understand why I could never tell Maggie “I love you” in all the letters I sent her. If you already know this, I apologize for telling it again.

If it is new to you, I hope you enjoy it.

***

A couple of months prior to the day I was to be discharged from the Army , my commanding officer informed me that if I added three months to my “tour of duty,”  I would be promoted from First Lieutenant to Captain with a significant increase in pay. I could then take what was called a “European discharge” and remain in Europe for several more months, giving me the opportunity to tour so many beautiful countries. He couldn’t believe me when I refused his offer. Europe was not where I wanted to be. I wanted to get home to Maggie as soon as I could. I returned to Chicago immediately in April, 1968.

***

I had been home for several months and Maggie’s birthday was quickly approaching. I knew she was hoping for an engagement ring on that day and I also knew that she still didn’t fully believe that our relationship could lead to marriage. If I didn’t give her the ring then, I was sure she would conclude that the engagement wasn’t going to happen this year, and maybe never. But to propose to Maggie on her birthday would be my asking her to accept me as my gift to her. And that’s not how I saw it. Wednesday, July 3, 1968, came and went without even a hint of a ring.

I wanted to propose to Maggie on my birthday in August. I was sure she wouldn’t be expecting it and by doing so, I would be asking her to accept my proposal as her gift to me. And she was my gift far more than I was hers.

***

On Wednesday, August 21, 1968, Maggie and I planned to celebrate my birthday at my brother’s new house. I informed her that prior to going there, we had to pick up my parents to drive them to the party. We entered my parents’ house up the back porch stairs that led to the kitchen. As I opened the door, the kitchen looked like it would any other day. Directly in front of and perpendicular to the wall was a gray Formica kitchen table with chrome legs and two gray vinyl upholstered chrome-legged chairs on either side. To the left was a short hallway that led to the front room, and to the right, a walk-in pantry with the always-opened, half-window door. The light gray speckled linoleum floor was worn in familiar places and spotless from almost daily scrubbing, while the walls were a pale yellow from frequent washing.

The house seemed empty and Maggie immediately asked where my parents were. Although I knew they were already at my brother’s house, I told her that they were probably in the front room. Maggie slowly walked down the short hallway, cautiously peering ahead in anticipation of seeing them sitting on the couch. With her back turned to me, I quickly reached into the right pocket of my pants and nervously fumbled for the tiny black felt box. My hands were so shaky; I almost dropped it as it caught on the upper edge of my pocket. I quickly gathered myself and pulled it completely out, almost dropping it again. Hurriedly opening the box to display the diamond ring, I softly whispered, “Maggie.”

Maggie paused and slowly turned her head to my whisper. Upon looking back, she glanced down at my hands. Then her eyes darted from the ring in my right hand, to my face, then back to my hand again. Her face was ashen as she turned fully toward me.

Then I quietly said what I have never said to any woman before, “I love you.”

Maggie knew the full meaning of those three words:

“When I say “I love you,” it will mean I want you for my wife; I want you to be the mother of my children; I want you to stand by my side as long as life permits. It will mean that you are the one who complements me, who makes me whole. When I say “I love you,” it will mean that my life is yours. Everything I do, everything I hope to do, all my wildest dreams, all my fondest desires are for you. When I say “I love you,” it will mean that there is no other and far more important, that there will be no other.”

Maggie continued staring up at me, then down at the ring, then up again. Her hands shook as she quickly brought them to her lips. Her eyes covered half her face and glistened with tears. Suddenly she screamed. She grabbed the ring from my outstretched hand, box and all, and screaming and crying, ran around the kitchen table into the pantry, slamming the door behind her. I waited, expecting Maggie to soon emerge after composing herself. Twenty seconds passed and the door remained shut.

I walked to the pantry door and looked through the window. Maggie was sitting on the floor in the right-hand corner, under the shelves of canned foods, legs pulled tight to her chest, her head buried in her knees—sobbing. As I slowly opened the door, she looked up at me, tears streaming down her face. I gently lifted her to her feet and held her tight in my arms.

We both stand there—trembling.

***

September 13,  2016

More Of My Favorite Excerpts



Maggie had so many qualities that I admired and that I was looking for in the woman I could fall in love with; one of the most important being “the appreciation of the simple pleasures in life.” I had dated several girls who were interested in guys with money and fancy cars who took them to extravagant restaurants and bought them expensive gifts. That wasn’t me. I never got into the material side of life. Sitting in a park on a warm summer evening just talking to each other or walking in downtown Chicago looking at the Christmas decorations was what I preferred  Never cared about getting a job that paid a huge salary and couldn’t care less about carrying a lot of money in my pocket. I never dreamt of owning a big home or going on luxurious vacations. I always believed that those goals took too much of the time and effort I wanted to devote to my wife and children after I was married.

Following are several excerpts from Maggie’s letters in which she shared her feelings about the “simple pleasures in life.” At this point in our relationship I had not mentioned anything about my beliefs. What Maggie wrote was what she felt.


In a letter dated September 27, 1969 she told me about her favorite birthday gift:

My favorite birthday present this past summer was a single, long stemmed rose given to me by our cafeteria maid at work. She is an immigrant from Poland, unable to speak English and making half of what I, a punk, do.  She gave it to me with a smile and tears in her eyes. I love that woman more than anyone at that place. She’s like my mother was.


Then in her October 8, 1967 letter she wrote the following (“Marshall Field” was an exclusive department in downtown Chicago).

I don’t need sparkling diamonds, or a closet full of clothes marked “Marshall Field.” I need someone to love.

Nope, I don’t care much for money. Happiness is living and loving without it.

A couple months later in a letter written around December 18, 1967, while talking about the upcoming Christmas holiday, Maggie said:

When I marry, my husband will have it fairly easy shopping of me. For one thing, I like very personal gifts so he won’t have to worry about sizes and then I don’t expect expensive things. An engraved bracelet for $9.98 would mean more to me that a whole new wardrobe.

A dozen roses for ground hog day, or hot dog day, or any day would mean more than a $50 gift certificate…

I’m not so dumb. I want things that no one can ever take away from me - things given from the heart not the pocket - things that nobody else will ever get - because nobody else will have someone feeling exactly the same about them.

That’s the Maggie I was falling in love with. This simple girl who also enjoyed the simple things life offered.



***

September 20, 2016

Favorite Excerpts from Maggie’s Letters  Regarding Marriage and Family




As I said in my last post, Maggie wanted few material possessions in life. Being a wife and mother was her ultimate goal from the time she was a young girl playing with dolls. She didn’t want a career and had no problem with “wife and mother” defining who she was. During our marriage, when the role of the woman was changing dramatically in the United States, Maggie often questioned why a woman wouldn’t be totally satisfied with being a mother and homemaker. She would often get angry when the feminist movement seemed to belittle woman who were content with being married and staying home to care for their children. Following are some excerpts from Maggie’s letters in which she expressed her feelings very clearly.

***

Letter dated February 24, 1967 (Maggie was 18 years old and had recently dropped out of nursing school because her father moved out and she couldn’t afford the tuition and the expenses of living alone.) She had accepted a job as a secretary and wasn’t content.

No matter what kind of a job I’ll ever have, I’ll never be happy. I could clean house and put up with kids for a lifetime, but that dog-eat-dog, pay-day, rush hour world just isn’t for me.

***
Letter dated September 25, 1967 (Maggie turned 19 in July/67). She shares her thoughts about the meaning of love and the part it plays in a successful marriage:

How foolish was I to consider marriage when I have so little to give to it. Not too long ago, love meant attention and security. Imagine that as a foundation for marriage!

I find it difficult to avoid being a home-body. The love and warmth that marriage can bring would be heaven to me, but I had completely forgotten about the person I’d be sharing this heaven with.

Surely a man wants warmth and love, but now I know that it takes a little more than that to make a marriage work and more important to make a man happy.

***

Letter dated October 8, 1967 (In a letter sent a week letter, Maggie continues to express her feelings about love and marriage. She wrote earlier that she didn’t need a big home or a lot of money because that would probably require her husband working many hours:

I need someone to love. I need to be a wife and that’s not possible when a husband works 16 hours a day.

I want to grow with my husband and, in turn, we two with our children.

Two people bonded by marriage are not automatically “husband and wife.”

***

Maggie Being Maggie

And Maggie always had such a way of expressing her thoughts - so honest and down to earth - that she made me feel that I meant the world to her.

In her letter dated September 27, 1967 she wrote:

For the past week, the days have been sunny and yet, I was rather depressed and somewhat bewildered because I received no word from you. Today, it was cold and rainy, and all the way home from work I was glowing as if I could feel the warmth of your letter sitting there on my stairway. I just knew you’d come through for me! Thank you, Dennis. I’ve missed that love of cold, rainy days when the chill is succumbed by the presence of someone I care for. How much I missed depending on someone who I can trust. Only you could have made me feel this way today.
***

September 27, 2016


I knew of Maggie since she was thirteen years old and I was twenty. Her sister had married my brother and they lived in the upstairs apartment of my parents’ house. Although Maggie would visit her sister sometimes, I seldom spoke to her. When I did it was often a brief “Hi there” as she ran up the back stairs to her sister’s apartment. As the years passed, I began noticing how pretty she was. Yet, she still remained just a “kid” in my eyes – a cute kid. I also knew she had a little crush on me. I was this older guy who was in college and I’m sure she was impressed by that. In spite of that, however, Maggie and I had very little contact with each other and I paid very little attention to her.

When she was in high school and began writing letters to me, I think I was most impressed with her honesty and sense of humor – these were qualities that set her apart from other girls I knew and dated. Following are some excerpts from Maggie’s letters that made me begin looking at her as someone other than “my sister-in-law’s little sister”:

***

Maggie was in her third year of high school when she wrote the following to me.  I never knew a girl who was so honest and was only 17 years old. I began thinking “who is this girl?”

Speaking of shape, I’m on a crash diet! Did you ever have celery for breakfast? It doesn’t work. Oh well, what’s a couple of unwanted pounds here and there… and here and there…and here and there…. I always did want to go out for football!

I haven’t decided if I should go into a career or get married. Should I go out and earn a man’s salary or stay home and take it away from him?

I have more of a maternal instinct and should just find a job till the right crackpot – I mean jackpot comes along.

***

Maggie had recently turned 18 and we had only been writing to each other for a few months when she said the following in several different letters:

…I look in the mirror. Sorry to say that it isn’t very often, though. My eyes can take it, but the mirror can’t

P.S. Hey! Beauty was a horse!!! Well!

(Maggie was responding to my referring to her as the “Beauty of Bridgeport” in one of my letters. Bridgeport was the community in which Maggie and I were born and raised. The “Beauty” she’s referring to is “Black Beauty” which was the name of a movie about a horse.)

***

During the 60’s some families would buy “aluminum Christmas trees to celebrate the holiday. They could be used from year to year and would save the cost of buying a new tree every Christmas.



I put up my skimpy Christmas tree and is it ever bad news. It’s one of the first silver trees that came out with a whole 25 crushed branches. When you look at it, you get the feeling that it doesn’t like you,

***

I had not written to Maggie for quite a while and I loved the way she let me know that she was not happy about that. She could cut you deep with the kindest of words.

Well, dear heart, I won’t ask you to write as I wouldn’t want you to strain yourself, but if you ever get the inspiration, please do.

***

This is just something that made me laugh. She writes as if she’s talking to me – “Well, I better let you go…” then makes her remark about the weather.

Well, I better let you go before I start talking about the weather.  One thing I can say is that we’ve been having a lot of it lately.
***

After moving to her new apartment and living totally on her own for the first time, Maggie is honest about how helpless she feels:

You can’t imagine the challenge I have living alone and on my own. I found out that I can’t hammer a nail, can’t budget, can’t move furniture, can’t paint very well, and can’t have courage when I hear funny noises at night. Let’s face it, “It’s so nice to have a man around the house.”
***

October 4, 2016


I’m sorry, but this is going to be a short entry. These past few days have been very hectic, but I did promise to send something every Tuesday.

***

After telling her several times that I wanted her to send me a picture of herself, she asked me the following question:

Do you really want a picture of me? Haven’t they discovered another means of curing the hiccups in Germany?

When I finally did receive the picture, Maggie had crossed out something written on the back of it. It appeared to be the name of another guy. I didn’t care, I had my picture.

***


The last few letters I wrote to Maggie were very short and were written on the back of note card. I explained to her that I had run out of stationary and kept forgetting to pick some up whenever I was shopping. Her response to me was unexpected. When I opened her letter, a short piece of white string fell to the floor. Maggie began her letter:

Enclosed please find one string to be tied around your index finger (right hand). This is to aid you to remember that stationary for you is vital to me.

She ended that letter with a fairly common comment:

Until I hear from you or you hear from me again, please take care.

And then made the following observation:

P.S. I don’t mean that when I hear from you or when you hear from me you should stop taking care of yourself. What a goofy way to end a letter.

***

I simply love the way Maggie described receiving a small package from me around Christmas time. I told her I was sending her a small gift, but wouldn’t tell her what it was. When she describes receiving it, I felt as if I was in the same room with her:

Stop! My landlady just brought my mail to me (a package from you). I refuse to open it until Christmas!! Thank you for the present but let me save my “real” thank you for when I open it. (It rattles!) (It’s lightweight) (It’s small). I bet it’s a tape!! No, maybe, maybe it’s --- no ---perfume? a picture? a knick-knack? I’ll go crazy!!!!!! No, I refuse to open it until Christmas.

***

A couple more of my favorite excerpts that made me laugh:

Your homecoming is 11 days away, yet I feel the butterflies on my insides already (either that or I’ve got worms!)

Oh, I bought a parakeet and his name is Skootie. He’s real cute and just as stupid.

***

October 11, 2016

Maggie was a beautiful woman who had many guys chasing after her when she was single. She had those classic high cheek bones with hazel eyes that seemed to cover half her face. Her hair was thick and a very deep brown and cascaded over her shoulders. In addition to her beauty, she was a gifted writer, an accomplished pianist (she won first place for classical piano in the State of Illinois when she was in her second and third year of high school), and highly intelligent. Yet, she often doubted herself, especially when it came to our relationship. Perhaps it was because I never “fell all over her or let her walk all over me,” as she once said. But I think it was more than that.

I think Maggie idealized me from the time she was a teenager and we were both in the wedding party of my brother and her sister. She would occasionally see me when visiting her sister or attending family functions and I believe she saw me as that “older” boy who was cute and different from other boys she had known. Many of the guys that Maggie dated while in high school were more interested in things like cars, sports, and having a good time. None of them cared much for education and never went to college. I was different. Although I was also involved in sports, I loved to read, write poems, and appreciated other music besides rock and roll. And – I attended and graduated from college.

After Maggie died, I had lunch with an old friend of hers. When I asked her why she thought Maggie fell in love with me, she answered, “All the guys we used to date when in high school were losers. They may have been good looking and had fancy cars, but that was about it. You – well, you were different. You were older. You graduated from college. You were smart. And you had a good heart. Next to all the other guys, you looked pretty good.” Well, that wasn’t the ringing endorsement I was hoping for, but it helped me understand some of the reasons Maggie had a crush on me. That “crush” was the reason Maggie began writing letters to me - and it was through our letters that we came to really know each other and fall in love.

Maggie openly expressed her doubts about the probability of the two of us becoming a couple.

Following are excerpts from several of Maggie’s letters in which she honestly expressed these doubts.


        Dennis, I’ve always felt unworthiness on my part in regards to our relationship. You’re not just any guy who is exciting, physically attractive, intelligent and fun to be with. You’re something special and it will take more than just “any” girl who is exciting, physically attractive, intelligent etc. to make you happy.

I doubt if I am that someone special. I’m not fishing for compliments, nor am I degrading myself. Perhaps this is all for you to decide, but feeling the way I do will always affect us until (I should say if and when) I am convinced that I could be something special.

        I nearly had a heart attack before reading on after you stated that your letter would be unpleasant. I thought for a moment that you were going to tell me it was all over. I guess that bit of bad news will save itself for another month when I feel things couldn’t get worse.

        What really frightens me now is that I’ll be a different person in your eyes when you see me than in my letters.
It’s one thing to have a guy interested in you and it’s another to let him really get to know you.
I’m almost certain that you’ll be disappointed just as you were with the beauties I’ve watched you pass by.

        What respect could you possibly have for me? I write letters and all I do is feel sorry for myself, or degrade myself! You probably think I’m a real reject.

        If you did realize I was referring to you, than for heaven’s sake please don’t build my hopes up only to send me crashing toward a heart break. (This was Maggie’s response to my telling her that she shouldn’t be anxious about the future).

(Maggie had sent a letter seeming to ask me to make a decision regarding our future together and then wrote): It seems as if I’ve asked you to make a choice, but I’m not sure if that’s what I want. Perhaps if you did make a choice, I’d lose you.

        So many things you’ve said and meant without even spending as much as one evening with me, and still I feel that I need more, much more than that.

        I feel now as if the only way I can truly be happy is to be sheltered and protected and given my own way, petted and never opposed.

        I know it’s a terrible letter, but it’s the way I feel, almost naked because you’ve learned my innermost thoughts.

***

October 18, 2016

Following is the dedication to Maggie that begins my book, “Wouldn’t It Be Something.” I originally wrote the book for my grandchildren so they would get to know their grandmother, since none of them were old enough when she died to recall much about her. Also, Maggie had been sick for several years prior to her death and any memories they might have had would not have been good ones.

What I didn’t realize was that this book would also be a special gift to my children. They knew their mom only as “mom.” Now they could see her as a young woman falling in love.


Dedication in “Wouldn’t It Be Something”


In memory of Mary Margaret (Brown) Depcik, my Maggie, who taught me the power of a smile, the joy of an honest laugh, the value of the simple pleasures of life, the beauty of loving someone without reservations, and the honesty of writing what you feel.
Dedicated to my children, Mike, Jenny, Erica, and Paul who will never forget their mother, for she is a part of each one of them and they are more talented, more humble, and more giving because of her.

And to our six grandchildren (Danny, Michael, Carter, Alex, Olivia and Henry) who were too young to remember what a wonderful grandmother they had, but who will know her through the loving care of their parents.


***

I also wanted to share the entire introduction to my book. Although some of the following was in my early posts on this site, I want to share the rest of it. It not only set the tone for my book, I hope it does the same for some writings I hope to post in the coming weeks.

Introduction to “Wouldn’t It Be Something"

I can’t remember the first time I noticed Mary Brown. I had obviously been in the same room with her a number of times, but I can’t remember noticing her.

She must have been at her mother’s funeral. I know I was there because my brother, Leo, was engaged to Mary Brown’s sister, Patsy, and their wedding was set to happen in three weeks. So, I was there at Mary Brown’s mother’s funeral and I’m sure so was Mary Brown. But I was 20 and she was only 13, just a kid to me—an insignificant kid.

I can’t remember her at my brother’s wedding, just three weeks after the funeral. I was a groomsman and Mary Brown was one of the bridesmaids. I’m certain of that because I have a picture of her and my 12-year-old sister, Nancy, who was also a bridesmaid, sitting at a table smiling into the camera. So, I’m sure she was there. I just can’t remember her.



Thirteen year old Maggie on your right. My twelve year old sister, Nancy, on your left


It wasn’t at a family function. Now that our families were connected because my brother and her sister were married, we must have crossed each other’s paths at holiday get-togethers—maybe Christmas, maybe a Fourth of July picnic. But when I recall those times, Mary Brown doesn’t come to mind.

I vaguely remember Mary Brown visiting her sister, who lived with my brother in the flat above my parents. She was rushing up the back stairs while our dog, Daisy, barked menacingly. She flashed a smile then quickened her pace before Daisy could get any closer. I can’t say I really noticed her. I mean, not in the sense that she stood out in any special way. She was just a cute kid with a nice smile. I was 22 and she was 15. She meant nothing to me.

She wrote some letters to me when I was in Boot Camp and Advanced Infantry Training. I never saved them, except for one. They didn’t mean much to me, my sister-in-law’s kid sister sending some letters to her sister’s brother-in-law who was in the service, just a nice thing to do. I certainly don’t remember the contents of those letters, except for the one I saved. I must have written back, out of courtesy, but I don't remember doing so. I was 24 and Mary Brown was 17, still in high school.

Still, Mary Brown continued to write and I continued to answer, and in the course of writing to each other over three years, everything changed. Mary Brown became far more than just a kid. She became my life.

No, I can’t remember the first time I noticed Mary Brown, but I’ll forever remember the last time I saw her. She was Mary Depcik, my Maggie. She died at our home at 9:50 Sunday morning, November 14, 2010, after 41 years, 2 months, 20 days, 9 hours, and 50 minutes of marriage.

Her life ended.

My life stopped.


***
October 26, 2016

Those of you who have been following my story for some time know how Maggie and I fell in love through the letters we wrote to each other. You’ve seen our relationship grow from Maggie being an “insignificant kid,” to a “pen pal,” to the most important person in my life.  You’ve seen me change from someone who was hesitant to admit that I was in love with Maggie, to someone standing next to her in front of a priest promising to “love and cherish her for as long as we lived – no matter what difficulties we would face. My book, “Wouldn’t It Be Something” ended with a picture of Maggie and me on our wedding day. The caption under this picture read “Our journey is just beginning.”


Maggie and Me Wedding

Maggie and Me Wedding



Many people who have read Maggie’s and my story have encouraged me to write another book. Those who did not know us well wondered what happened after the marriage; those who were a part of our lives throughout our 41 years as husband and wife wanted to know more about our married life and how we faced the many challenges we encountered, including the final few months of Maggie’s life.

I have done a lot of writing since Maggie died. In the beginning it was to help me deal with my loss (Running From Memories, Burning Love, Just Let Me Talk) as well as a number of poems (Missing My Maggie, The Right Answer, Morning Hug, Midnight Thunder and I’ll Be Okay). I have shared these with you in earlier posts. Most of these were written during the first year after Maggie’s death and each writing helped me through something I couldn’t understand at the time. Through my narratives and my poems, I was able to look more deeply into the conflicting feelings that were colliding inside my head and my heart – the anger, the guilt, the fear.

Once I was able to face these feelings and accept the reality of Maggie’s death, I found myself embracing my memories of her and cherishing her presence instead of insulating my heart from the greatest loss I ever experienced. Because of this, I have been able to take pleasure in reminiscing about Maggie’s and my life together, including some of the many challenges we encountered. In doing so, I have been writing a number of short stories to capture specific moments in our life after our marriage. I don’t know if these writings will turn into another book, but it could be the beginning of one.

I have already shared one of my short stories with you (Through Maggie’s Eyes) that was posted a year ago (October 27, 2015). In this short story I recall the time when Maggie and I were trying to find our first apartment. I hope you’ve had a chance to read it.

The following short story is titled What A Day. What A Day. This “moment in time” occurred during Maggie’s and my first year of marriage. I was in graduate school at Loyola University seeking an advanced degree in social work. Maggie worked as a secretary for an insurance company. We had only been married for several months at the time of this story:


***

What A Day, What A Day


I know someone’s out to get me today and I don’t know why: I’ve been going to church every Sunday, I gave a dollar to the beggar on the corner this morning on the way to class, and I held the door open for that blind student. Yet there’s no doubt—someone’s definitely out to get me.

It’s a lousy day; one of those late-November Chicago mornings when it’s not sure if it’s the last gasp of fall or the first whisper of winter. It’s cold, but not biting cold, wet, but not drenching wet, just a bone-chilling drizzly day with overcast gray clouds —leaden clouds that have lain heavy in the sky for the past week proclaiming the sun will never shine again.

And it’s no better inside. Ms. DeSai just distributed the essays we wrote for the Introduction to Public Welfare class. I hate this class; it’s nothing but a complete bore. My stomach’s been churning as though it’s filled with little pebbles since she looked askance at me while distributing the essays. I’m afraid to see my grade, so I slip it into my text book without even looking.  Thank God this is the last class of the day. I’m sick of school, I’m sick of this weather, and I just want to go home. As I begin to exit the front door of Loyola University School of Social Work, the pebbles in my stomach become a lump of cement as I realize I don’t remember where I parked my car. I always have to hunt for a parking space on a side street at least six blocks from Loyola’s downtown campus. Anything closer is either a pay parking lot or a metered street. Maggie and I are living on a very tight budget that doesn’t allow for such extravagances.

While I stand in the doorway, my mind is racing to recall where I left my car. I was running late this morning and just glanced at the street sign without making note of the usual memory markers: a corner store, an odd shaped tree, or a specific building. I can’t even remember the first  letter of the name of the street. While I’m waiting for the heavy drizzle to lighten, I may as well complete today’s agony and look at my grade before I begin wandering around in the cold rain. I slide the paper from my text book and turn to the last page. Yep, there it is, a big red “D,” with an inspiring note from Ms. DeSai “I’m very disappointed in you.” I keep staring at the “D” when it hits me, Oh yeah; I think I parked my car on Deleware Street. Thanks Ms. DeSai.  

I don’t mind the six block walk when it’s sunny and pleasant, but on a day like this, six blocks seems a hell of a lot further —a day when I’m not sure where my car is, and I can’t imagine how I’m going to pass Introduction to Public Welfare, and the mist rests lightly on my clothe before seeping through to my skin, slowly sinking into my bones, shivering my entire body. I’m tired and crabby and I just want this day to end.

As I drive home, traffic is bumper to bumper and the drizzle is partially freezing as my wipers skate across the thin layer of ice on my windshield. The heater on my ’62 VW is useless since it won’t work unless the car is moving fast enough to generate air flow through the engine. I’m cold, I’m wet, traffic is crawling, and I’ve hit about every stop light so far. As I approach the train tracks at 51st and Pulaski the railway lights begin flashing.  Yeah, this is exactly what I need now. I’m tempted to accelerate before the gates descend, but my brain slaps me sensible; the street is slippery and it’s just plain stupid. I grudgingly brake to a stop. My radio hasn’t worked for the past year so I sit there with little else to do but count the box cars. Thirty-two cars pass before the train squeals to a stop and begins thundering in reverse. Oh God. Please NOOO! After a few cars lurch backwards, the train stops again and pitches forward. Another forty-two cars pass before the gates begin to rise. As soon as I calculate that they’ll clear the roof of my car, I race through. I can’t wait to park this damn car and end this day.

The rain stops as I turn the corner onto Kenneth Street. This makes perfect sense, since I know God’s been toying with me all day. It couldn’t have stopped a half-hour ago. No, it had to wait until I was within walking distance of home. As I slowly drive down the street hoping for a parking space somewhere near our apartment, I notice one directly in front of our building. Too late now God. This isn’t going to make up for all the other crap.

As I begin to pull to the curb, I notice Maggie standing on the front porch wearing a jacket too light for this weather and a smile too wide for this miserable day.  Before I can shut off the engine, Maggie is almost skipping down the cement steps from our apartment and hurrying to the curb. She stands on the sidewalk, hands behind her back like a kid at a candy counter—eyes wide open and face aglow.

“What’s with you?” I utter as I exit the car. “You seem awfully happy.”

“Oh, nothing,” she says, as she hurries to the front of the car. “Just glad you’re home.”

I look skeptically at her and try to figure out what’s prompting this behavior. “No, it’s more than that. What’s going on?”

“Oh, Dennis,” Maggie squeals, “I have a surprise for you.” She runs to me before I can step on the sidewalk and wraps her arms around my neck the way a bride of four months does. As she lets go, she hugs my right arm close to her and begins gently pulling me up the steps. When we enter the foyer that leads to our apartment, Maggie stops.

“Dennis! Close your eyes!”

“What?”

“I want you to close your eyes for a while.”

“Why?” “What’s this all about?”

“Just close your eyes, pleeease; just for a minute.”

As I close my eyes, Maggie releases her grip on my right arm and opens the door to our apartment. Turning to me, she implores, “Keep them closed a little longer.”

Facing me, she grabs both my elbows and slowly walks backwards, guiding me inside. After about five steps, she stops. Then placing a hand on each of my shoulders, she gently turns me to my right.

“Not yet.” Her voice dances as she steadies me and then slowly backs away.

After a few seconds, Maggie bubbles, “Okay. Open them!”

Draped across the archway separating the front room from the dining room are twisted streams of blue and pink crepe paper that meet in the middle of a white cardboard sign that largely proclaims in pink and blue letters “WELCOME HOME DADDY.” Dangling from the bottom of the sign is a pair of white knit booties.

I can feel Maggie’s eyes piercing me as I struggle to grasp the reality of what’s happening. She begins jumping up and down, her hands fisted and in rhythm with every bounce — like a child anxious for you to open the gift they’ve given you. Before I can utter a word, she jumps into me, wraps her arms around my neck, stretches to the tips of her toes, and kisses me on the cheek. As she holds tight, her entire body is pulsating. Unable to remain silent any longer, Maggie lets go, steps back and screams the obvious, “I’M PREGNANT.” Her face is sparkling and she’s smiling a smile I’ve never seen before.

Suddenly, it’s a beautiful day. Yes indeed, it is a beautiful day.


***

November 1, 2016

Maggie could not have been happier. Although being married was one of her dreams, I believe being a mother was far more important. Reading her letters made this obvious. Following are some excerpts from several of her letters.

"Actually, I think I have more of a maternal instinct."

(Maggie wrote this in an early letter to me when she was seventeen and still in high school. She was comparing getting a job and earning money with being a “stay at home” mom).  

"You don’t know how I feel to be called 'mommy' "

(Maggie was telling me why she loved being around the babies and young children at St. Vincent’s Orphanage who associated the “white” in her nurse’s uniform with being cared for).

"The closest I ever came to happiness was at St. Vincent’s and I know now I’ll never go back."
"I’ll have my own children someday."

(This was Maggie’s comment after she had to leave the nurses’ training program at the orphanage because she could no longer afford the cost).


***

Being a mother meant everything to Maggie, so becoming pregnant so soon after we were married was a dream come true. She now had the man she loved and would soon be having the baby she always wanted. Although this was going to cause some hardship for us because I was still in graduate school and not working, I knew we would be able to handle whatever came along. Seeing Maggie this happy was all that mattered.

***

Following is a short story that follows the one I posted last week (“What A Day, What A Day”)


Things Happen

“Maggie, it doesn’t mean anything!” I inch closer to her on the couch and put my left arm around her shoulder. She stiffens to my touch.

I try to pull her to me but she resists. “Look,” I tell her, “It just happened. That’s all. Don’t make more out of it than that.”
Maggie continues to sit upright in silence, staring at the floor in front of her – not looking at me – and perhaps no longer hearing me.

I let out a deep sigh as I pull her tight. “Maggie, come on. It’s nothing!”

But that doesn’t console her as she shakes her shoulders free from my arm and leans back to rest her head on the cushions of the couch, looking up now at the ceiling. “No, Dennis, it does mean something. Things like this just don’t happen.” She quickly sits upright again, then, bending over, stares at the floor directly in front of her.

Exasperated at trying to help Maggie understand what I’m telling her, I sit on the edge of the couch, grab both of her shoulders and turn her to face me. “I don’t know what else to say to you.”

Maggie slowly raises her eyes, tears sliding down her cheeks, then turns her head from me.

I get up from the couch and, without looking back, walk to the kitchen, rummage through the “drawer that has everything,” grab what I’m looking for and return to the living room with a roll of tape in my left hand and dragging a kitchen chair with my right. Maggie remains seated, arms limp on her knees and head down. She glances up as I bend over, reach to the floor beneath the “Welcome Home Daddy” sign, and pick up the white booties.

I place the chair beneath the sign and, stepping up, triple tape the booties in the exact spot they once hung. While still on the chair, I hop completely around to face Maggie, catching my balance as I teeter to my left. Stable again, I stretch my arms out to my sides and proclaim “Ta-dah!” for my simple solution to this drama that has been playing itself out for the past twenty minutes. A hint of a smile crosses her face as I step down, sit next to her and again place my arm around her shoulders, gently pulling her toward me. Maggie rests her head on my chest, gives a long sigh and says, “It’s an omen, Dennis.”

Apparently it’s not over.

In utter frustration and in hopes of moving past this senseless superstition, I plead with Maggie, “Look! Let’s get back to where we were before this happened.” She knows from the tone of my voice that my empathy is losing its battle with my patience and agrees to continue the ritual of going through the litany of baby names that neither of us seem to be able to agree upon. But I can tell Maggie isn’t here right now as she continues to take furtive glances at the white booties securely hanging on the sign, believing they will fall again while willing them to stay there.

It’s getting late and, knowing that our thoughts have wandered far from where we are now, we decide to let them get completely lost. For the next hour, we sit silently and separately on the couch, bathed in the dim glow of some mindless television shows until we’re too tired to stay awake any longer.

It’s a restless night as Maggie tosses from side to side. I know where her thoughts are and I don’t want to go there. I can’t put myself where she is. I don’t understand her superstitions: a spoon falling on the floor means company is coming, you can’t put new shoes on the kitchen table for what reason I don’t know, and you’re not allowed to kill a moth in the house because it’s the spirit of a loved one. None of these make sense to me, but these superstitions sometimes chart her course. It’s not rational. Why does she do this to herself? Her mind works differently than mine. That’s what comes from letting feelings rule you. Yet, I love Maggie’s innocence. That’s one of her most endearing charms; so much like a child at times. It’s those moments of naiveté that draw me closer to her. But it’s also those moments that push me away.


***

Two days have passed as I sit at the kitchen table, drinking my morning coffee, reading the Chicago Sun Times, and cursing the Bears for losing nine out of ten games. Why do I bother with the sports section during football season? It’s now twenty minutes before we have to leave so I can drop Maggie off at work and continue on to school, but she’s still in the bathroom primping. She always takes long to get ready, so why does it bother me so much when it happens all the time? I know her day can’t start without a cup of coffee so I sound my morning alarm without looking up from the paper, “Come on, Maggie! Let’s go!”

I hear the bathroom door open.  I’m engrossed in an article about Gale Sayers and continue reading, expecting Maggie to be pouring her coffee and sliding into her chair across from me. It takes a few seconds before I realize that this isn’t happening. Sensing something isn’t quite right, I glance up from my paper and see Maggie standing in the doorway of the kitchen—just standing there in the middle of the door frame, as if the frame is holding her in place and she would fall to the kitchen floor if she moved an inch. Her face is ashen and her eyes are silver with tears. She looks past me in silence as if not seeing me, just looking straight ahead.

“What’s wrong?” I question as I put down my coffee cup. She still doesn’t answer, just stands there - staring. “Maggie, wh…what’s wrong?” I repeat as I begin to rise from the chair. She doesn’t move; she doesn’t speak.  “What is it!?” I ask with growing panic in my voice as I quickly move toward her.

“Dennis… I… I lost it”.

“You lost what?”

“I lost our baby.” Maggie says as tears begin trickling down her cheeks.


***

November 9, 2016

(This is a continuation of my last post).

I rush toward Maggie. Not wanting to believe what I know I just heard. “What do you mean, you lost the baby? What are you talking about?”

“Dennis, I lost it,” Maggie repeats, now sobbing. “I miscarried … in the bathroom … there was so much blood … I know I lost it … I’m so sorry.” She stands there, her hands covering her face and her entire body trembling. Her words slam into me in staccato bursts nearly knocking me off my feet. I don’t know what to do.

My heart is pounding as I gently guide her to a kitchen chair. Maggie almost falls into it, slumps across the table and buries her head in her crossed arms. Her entire body is shaking. I kneel next to her, placing my right arm around her waist and my head on her shoulder, trying to comfort her – trying to pull her closer. Maggie doesn’t move and sits stone rigid.

I’m lost. I don’t know what to say. Desperate to comfort her or perhaps myself, I ask Maggie “How do you know for sure? Just because you had some bleeding doesn’t mean you miscarried.” I have no idea what I’m talking about. I just know I want for that to be true. Maggie remains paralyzed in fear.

After a couple of seconds, she lifts her head slightly, “I knew this would happen. I knew it was an omen. I knew something was going to happen. I just knew it.” Then she buries her head in her arms again.

“I’m calling the doctor,” I quickly interject. “We have to get you to the doctor. He’ll tell you it’s okay. Stop thinking that way! Don’t do this to yourself!”

Maggie sits quietly at the kitchen table while I fumble through our telephone book for the doctor’s number. I can’t remember his name and Maggie’s filing system is of little help. Did she list it under his name, or his hospital, or in a totally separate category of “doctors?” My mind is racing faster than my fingers can flip the pages.

“Maggie! Who’s your doctor?”

I can barely understand her as her answer seeps through her folded arms “Doctor Perez.”

I find him under “P” and dial his number. My hands are shaking and I have to redial two more times.

The receptionist answers and tells me she’ll page the doctor and return my call as quickly as possible. I hang up the phone and kneel by Maggie’s side stroking her hair and caressing her hands, kissing her gently on the cheeks and reassuring her, “It’s going to okay, babe, I promise.”

Why am I promising? I have no idea what I’m talking about. Hell, I couldn’t even remember the doctor’s name, how can I tell her it’s going to be okay. Maggie turns her head above her folded arms just enough to show her eyes and her eyes tell me she doesn’t believe a word I’m saying.

The receptionist calls back in a matter of minutes that seems much longer. “The doctor wants your wife to go to the emergency room. Will you need an ambulance?”

I don’t know how to answer that question. I’ve never been to a doctor except in the Army. How am I supposed to know if she needs an ambulance? But I should. I’m supposed to be her protector and I don’t know how to help her when she needs me most.

“Maggie, the doctor wants us to go to the hospital. Should they call an ambulance?”

When Maggie shakes her head “no,” I tell the receptionist that it’s not necessary and we’ll be there in twenty minutes.

Maggie stares out the window during the entire ride to the hospital. She barely speaks to me, answering my petty questions with “no” or “yes.” Sometimes her answer doesn’t fit the question, but I don’t correct her – I know she’s not hearing me.

When we arrive at the hospital emergency entrance, doctor Perez or his receptionist has already informed the staff that we were coming. Maggie is immediately placed in a wheel chair and I’m instructed to go to the admission desk to complete some paperwork. Before the nurse wheels Maggie away, I hug her and again repeat what I hope is true, “You’re going to be fine. You’ll see.” Maggie just sits stoop shouldered in the wheelchair as she is rushed off.

***

I’ve been with the admissions clerk for thirty minutes, leaning forward on the edge of my chair, knees alternately bouncing in rhythm with my heels while my fingers tap nervously on her desk. I’m ready to leap from the chair because I can’t think of anything other than Maggie being alone in the emergency room while I’m here filling out forms and answering stupid questions. When the hospital feels that my torture has been sufficient, the admission lady tells me “You can see your wife now. She’s in ER - number 14. Go down the hall on the left, turn right at the end and...”

I jump to my feet almost knocking over the chair before she completes her directions and hurry down the hall and through the doors of the emergency room. Expecting to see actual rooms, I’m surprised by rows of curtained spaces as I quickly move through the area. Two uniformed nurses are at their station, one standing and talking on the phone, the other sitting and writing something. I can’t wait to ask where I can find Maggie and continue toward the only three spaces with drawn curtains. The middle one is number 14.  Somewhat hesitantly, I slide the curtain open wide enough to enter, praying that Maggie will be sitting up, smiling.


***
November 15, 2016


I didn’t need the ER Doctor to tell me that Maggie miscarried. I didn’t need the nurse’s comforting hand on my shoulder who whispered, “I’ll leave the two of you alone for a while,” as she exited, drawing the curtain tight behind her. No, Maggie told me everything—without saying a word.

My eyes were drawn to Maggie as she lie motionless; arms limp at her sides almost melting into the bed, her face ashen and her sunken hazel eyes reddened dark by tears. She had a vacant look –lost and hopeless – broken and abandoned. Her lips were quivering and her forehead was deeply furrowed while she stared straight ahead, tears trickling down both cheeks.

Maggie doesn’t see me entering, but turns when she hears my footsteps. Her face has a mournful, almost sheepish look. She opens her eyes wide and tilts her head sideways, looking like a child seeking forgiveness—ashamed or afraid to confess that they have done something wrong. Then she begins crying, “Dennis, forgive me. I’m…I’m so sorry.”  

Rushing to her bedside, I caress her left hand then lean over, kissing her forehead and stroking her hair. “Hey, stop it! You have nothing to be sorry for. It’s gonna be okay, babe. Don’t worry.”

Don’t worry?” Yeah, that’s easy for me to say. I don’t feel Maggie’s anguish. I just learned a couple days ago that I would be a father. I didn’t keep this bursting news a secret for the past two months. I hadn’t been planning for days how to tell me that I was going to be a “daddy.”  Our baby wasn’t growing inside of me

Maggie was born to be a mother. Maybe not from the second she left her mother’s womb—maybe— but if it’s possible for any human to have a motherly instinct before ever experiencing a mother’s touch, then that would be Maggie. If not then, certainly from the moment she began playing with dolls. Having children had always been her dream; getting married followed close behind once she learned the two pretty much went together.

I want to be a father, but it doesn’t consume me the way being a mother consumes Maggie. The tears that are trickling down my cheeks aren’t for the son or daughter I lost. No, they’re for Maggie who almost grasped her lifelong dream only to have it pulled beyond her reach.

We sit quietly for about ten minutes, with Maggie looking blankly into space, furtively glancing at me, then occasionally squeezing my hand- not hard, just enough to let me know that she’s glad I’m still here. I continue softly stroking her hair with my left hand while caressing her fingers with my right. This isn’t a time for words. Maggie tries to smile, but her heart is too full of emptiness to complete it, leaving nothing more than a hapless grin languishing on her face.

“Did the doctor say what happens next?” I finally ask.

“I’m not sure,” Maggie sighs. “All I remember is him telling me I miscarried and that I’ll never be pregnant again.”

I know he didn’t tell Maggie that, but I’m sure that’s what she heard.

I leave her side, slide the curtain open, and ask the first nurse who passes if I can see the doctor. Within minutes he enters the room to answer my questions. “Yes,” he did tell Maggie she miscarried. “No,” he never said anything about future pregnancies.  He has called Dr. Perez to determine if a D&C would be advisable. When Dr. Perez calls back, we’ll know how to proceed.

Thirty minutes later, the ER doctor returns to Maggie’s bedside. He informs us that Dr. Perez is recommending the D&C and that, if we agree, the operation will be done later this afternoon.

“It’s a relatively simple and very safe procedure,” the doctor assures us. “It shouldn’t take longer than an hour. After it’s completed we’ll want you to stay overnight and possibly an additional day for observation.”

I have some idea what a D&C involves and turn to Maggie to see her reaction and get her answer.  She looks through me to the doctor, slowly nodding her approval as her eyes begin to fill with tears again. The finality of the miscarriage can no longer be denied.

For the next two hours, we remain in the ER waiting for an operating room to be available and for a bed to be prepared for admittance. As the minutes crawl, we talk about subjects that are of little interest to either of us; the weather, the last movie we went to, and how Maggie's Nana made spaghetti sauce. We try to remember song lyrics, quiz each other on who played certain movie roles, and wonder whether or not we made a mistake painting our living room blue. But we don’t talk about the future.  Right now that’s the last thing we can talk about.

***

I’m dozing in the waiting room when I faintly hear my name. “Mr. Depcik. Mr. Depcik.” I slowly open my eyes to see a nurse standing directly in front of me. “Mr. Depcik, you can go see your wife now. She’s in room 514 just down the hall on your right. She’s been asking for you.”

I jump to my feet, knocking over the cup of coffee on the little table next to me and sending the magazine on my lap skittering across the floor. Flustered and embarrassed, I keep apologizing as I bend forward to clean the mess I’ve made.

“That’s all right sir. Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of that. Go see your wife.”

I flash the nurse a smile and race down the hall to room 514. The door is partially closed. When I open it, there’s a woman patient in the bed, holding a crying infant. It isn’t Maggie.

Bewildered and not sure I’m in the right room, I step back into the hallway to confirm the number on the door. Seeing that it is 514, I reenter. “I’m sorry. I was told Mary Depcik was in this room.”

The woman looks up from her crying baby, lowers her eyes, droops the corners of her lips, and cocks her head to her right toward a closed curtain that starts at the wall and curves around to the window. I don’t know why it’s closed. Perhaps Maggie’s asleep or receiving care from the nurse. Reluctant to disturb either possibility, I cautiously begin sliding it open. Maggie is sitting slouched, but wide awake, staring down at her hands. When she sees me, she bolts upright, then bursts into tears.

“Oh, Dennis, I can’t stay here! Please get me out of this room.”

***

November 23, 2016


Since Maggie was scheduled to be released from the hospital the following day, neither the nurses nor the doctors were sympathetic to my request to move her to another room. My pleas were answered with the same response, “I’m sorry Mr. Depcik, but it’s hospital policy. All maternity cases must remain in the maternity ward. No exceptions.”

It wasn’t bad enough that I had to return to Maggie’s side with the news that I could do nothing to help her; I also had to tell her that I would have to be leaving her in less than an hour. Visiting hours would be ending and in 1969 any visitor, including family members, had to leave when visiting hours were over. Although Maggie was very distraught, I had no choice but to leave. I promised I would be at her bedside the minute visiting hours began the next morning.

When I entered Maggie’s room upon my return to the hospital the following morning, Dr. Perez was by her bedside, holding Maggie’s hand – and she was smiling. He had told Maggie that it wasn’t uncommon to miscarry on a first pregnancy and assured her that she would not only be getting pregnant again, but that she would have as many children and she wanted. “In fact,” he said, “you’ll probably be coming to me asking for a way to stop getting pregnant.” That, I’m sure, was the reason for Maggie’s smile.

Two months later, Maggie was pregnant again with our first born child, Michael.

***

Following is a short story about the early years after Michael’s birth and the beginning of a difficult journey.

***

A Mother's Instinct


The bedroom door opens a crack as the hallway light seeps through the darkness and bathes the room in a soft glow. As I lift my head slightly off the pillow, Maggie squeezes through the sliver of an opening.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you,” she whispers, as she quickly shuts off the light and eases the door closed behind her.

“That’s all right. I couldn’t sleep anyway. How is he?”

“He’s asleep.”

“That’s good. How are you?”

“Tired. It’s 2:30.”

Maggie goes to the bathroom sink, rinses her face by the the dimness of the night light, then moves quietly to her side of the bed and slides under the blanket. She sits upright with her back against the headboard as I lie next to her. Her eyes are fixed forward; almost piercing through the closed door as she shakes her head from side to side, breathes deeply, then exhales, long and heavy.

“I’m worried. This is happening too often. I…” Maggie stops, turns to me and says, “Never mind, get some sleep. You have to be up in a few hours.”

Still lying there, I try to ease her mind, “Maggie, it could have been something he ate. The flu’s going around. The doctor told us that. Your sister’s kids just got over it.”

“I don’t think so, Dennis. It’s more than that. This shouldn’t be happening this often.”

Sitting upright now, I put my left arm around Maggie’s shoulder, gently pulling her closer. Her body sinks into mine.

“Dennis, I’m so scared. I think there’s something really wrong. I don’t care what the doctors say. There’s something not right about this.”

I know she’s frightened. Even during the pregnancy she worried about everything—any unusual abdominal pain, any unfamiliar kick, any uneasy feeling. Everything was questioned until Mike was born and she could count every toe and every finger and have the doctor assure her, over and over again, that he was a healthy boy.  And from the day we brought Mike home from the hospital, she watched over him so closely; as if she was a sentinel on vigil, to be sure nothing happened to him. Sometimes, when I would get up in the morning, I would find Maggie in Mike’s room, sitting next to the crib, just watching him. Not from fear alone. It really was pure joy for her to simply sit there and gaze at him—seeing him playing with the mobile, discovering his fingers, finding his toes. She was by his side for every milestone. I would barely enter the house after a long day’s work when Maggie would be trumpeting any little achievement Mike made; “He smiled at me today.” Or, “He found his rattle by himself.”  Or, “He looked at me when I called his name.”  Every little thing he did, she was there to see it.

But when Mike began toddling, she worried that he seemed to have difficulty finding a dropped toy only a few feet in front of him; or that he stepped over cracks in the sidewalk as though they were wide gaps; or that he froze at low curbs even when we held his hand. The ophthalmologist praised us for being observant parents, assured us that there was nothing wrong, and then cautioned us not to look for problems that weren’t there.

I pull Maggie tighter to hug the fear from her. I hate seeing her like this—so frightened, so helpless.

I want to tell Maggie that Mike’s going to be okay and that he’ll feel better in the morning, but  I’m not sure I’m believing that myself. God knows I want to. We’ve been to the pediatrician twice this month and he keeps telling us that Mike’s fine and not to worry. And we listen, and we’re quick to take the doctor’s word  because they’re the experts and we want to believe what they’re telling us—that there’s nothing wrong with our son and that our fears are normal anxieties of new parents. They keep assuring us that Mike’s exactly where he’s supposed to be for a two year old. “This is your first child,” they tell us. “It’s hard to see your baby uncomfortable. But everything checks out. Just try to relax.” But I too am afraid. Yet I can’t let Maggie know that because when she sees I have doubts, she only worries more.

Mike’s been throwing up off and on for the past few weeks—projectile vomiting Maggie calls it. The doctors tell us that this is not uncommon, and in her mind Maggie wants to accept this, but it’s never been her mind that’s comforted her, and it’s not doing so now. Maggie trusts her feelings, and her feelings are telling her something quite different than what the doctors are. I know she’s worked in an orphanage and has calmly cared for children with far more serious symptoms—but this is her child.

“Maybe we should see different doctors,” Maggie says. “I hate that they make me feel that they know my child better than me. I know my child. I know something’s wrong.”

“Okay,” I concede, “Maybe you’re right. But there’s not much we can do now. Let’s get some sleep and see how Mike’s doing when he gets up. We’ll talk about it then.” I retreat under the covers to get some rest for the workday ahead.

Maggie continues sitting upright, her back against the headboard, her thoughts with her baby boy.



***


December 5, 2016


I apologize for my delay in posting. The Christmas holiday season is upon us and it will be a very hectic time for the next month. Also, I have begun babysitting one of my grandchildren and will not have the available time I once did. Future posts will be fewer and less timely.

***


When Mike began losing some weight, the doctor explained it as normal. “He’s growing taller and becoming more active. He’s perfectly fine.” Although Maggie wanted to change pediatricians, I was reluctant. What the doctor said made sense to me. Perhaps we were overreacting to Mike’s symptoms. When I mentioned some of Mike’s behavior to co-workers, their response was often comforting, “I wouldn’t worry about it. All kids lose their baby fat and there’s been a lot of stuff going around. He’ll be fine.” And that’s exactly what I wanted to hear. I didn’t want to consider any other possibility that could be worse. God wouldn’t let that happen to Maggie. Not after she lost her first baby.

However, over the next six months Mike continued to lose some weight and have occasional bouts of projectile vomiting with no fever or similar symptoms to indicate he was ill. Getting a different doctor was no longer a matter for discussion. Maggie changed pediatricians and never asked for my opinion.

She was right.

Several months later, on a routine office visit to our new pediatrician, after a physical exam and several reflex tests, we were told to take Mike to the hospital emergency room. The doctor explained that he was concerned about Mike’s reflex reactions as well as his continuing weight loss and felt that additional tests in the hospital were needed.

Mike was hospitalized and received numerous tests for the next four days (MRI’s were not available yet) before a tumor was discovered in his brain. Maggie and I were told that delicate surgery had to be performed and although the tumor was benign, it was slow growing could not be removed – only managed by future surgeries. Mike survived the craniotomy, but was totally blind afterwards. Maggie and I didn’t care about his blindness. Our son was alive and we could deal with the rest.

***


Following is a short story in which I try to capture what turned out to be a not unfamiliar evening at our home.

A Soft Knock


“Whaaat! Why are you poking me? I wasn’t snoring!”

“I think it’s Mike,” Maggie whispers. “I think Mike’s at the door.”

Half awake, I lie there and listen. Nothing. Blinking the sleep from my eyes, I look at the digital clock on the nightstand. It’s 2:33 a.m. A few seconds of silence pass and then I hear a barely audible knock.

“Mom?” Mike calls through the door.

Maggie knew he was there before he even knocked. She sleeps a mother’s sleep and knows when any of her children need her—especially Mike. Sometimes I think she lies in bed next to me all night, just waiting and listening.

Maggie’s halfway to the door before I can I lift myself to one elbow, “What is it, Mike?” I ask.

“I’m sorry, Dad. I’ve got a headache.” His voice is strained.

Maggie has already opened the door and is kneeling next to Mike cupping his face in her hands. “How bad is it, Mike?”

“It hurts a lot, Mom.”

It’s not a simple headache. Headaches for Mike are never simple. Not since age three when his brain tumor was discovered and the doctors told us that although benign and slow growing, it was in such a sensitive part of his brain that they couldn't remove all of it —they could only manage it with future surgeries. Not get rid of it, “manage” it. We were quick to accept that because if Mike would come through this alive, we could handle this. It didn’t even matter that he went blind after surgery. He survived and we could deal with the rest.

Now it’s been four years since then and mornings like this are happening far too often.
Maggie embraces Mike, kisses his forehead, and tells him everything’s going to be just fine. “It’s only a headache, Mike. You need to get back to sleep. I’ll get some aspirin and sit with you until it’s gone. Don’t worry. It’ll go away.”

I watch mother and child in this tender exchange. Yet, I see the concern in Maggie’s eyes as worry creases her forehead. A mother’s caress shouldn’t be tainted with fear. Maggie motions me to come to Mike as she goes downstairs to get the aspirin and water. Before I can usher Mike back to his bed and get him under his blanket, Maggie is in the room.

“Here you go honey.” She gives Mike the aspirin and helps him guide the glass of water to his mouth so he doesn’t spill any from his sitting position.  After a couple of sips, he begins to slide under the blanket while Maggie fluffs his pillow. The moonlight catches Mike’s face as he lays his head down and squints with pain. Maggie caresses his cheek then sits on the edge of his bed stroking his hair. “It’ll be okay, Mike. Don’t worry. It’ll be okay.”

I don’t know if Mike worries the way we do. Maybe all he cares about is that his head is hurting and all he worries about is stopping the pain. Maybe he never wonders why this is happening so often. So long as we can give him something to stop his head from hurting, maybe that’s where his thoughts end. He’s seven years old. How much can he know about the tumor and the shunt and all the potential consequences? At least that’s what I want to believe because it makes it easier for me. Why should a little kid have to worry about death?

I leave Mike’s room and return to our bed. As I sit in the dark, upright against the headboard, waiting for Maggie, my mind drags me to that place I hate to go—that place Maggie and I have been visiting far too frequently now. I know she’s already there, even while she sits with Mike.

The knot in my stomach tightens with every passing minute.  I glance at the clock. It’s been a half hour since Mike woke us. I want to go to see how he is, but I know Maggie is by his side and there’s little I can do. I sit in bed and wait—going in and out of that awful place.

Our bedroom door opens a sliver. As Maggie slides through and closes the door behind her, I turn on the light. Startled that I’m still awake, she whispers, “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were sleeping.”

“How is he?”  

“He’s asleep, but I don’t know for how long.” Her voice is weary and the words almost crawl from her mouth. She walks, bent and heavy, to her side of the bed and joins me sitting against the headboard. Maggie’s eyes are vacant as she stares straight ahead through the closed bedroom door.  

I hate nights like this. I want to slip under my covers, away from this place in my head, and fall asleep until the morning when Mike will be his usual cheerful self. Then the lost sleep won’t matter. I’m hoping that it’s nothing more than a bad headache and that the aspirin will work, and we’ll have our boy back in a few hours— asking for breakfast. And I’ll just be “Dad” sitting across the kitchen table; tousling his hair and watching him eat his cereal.

I turn my head to Maggie and ask the question that has but one answer I want to hear. “Do you think it’s just a headache?” I want her to tell me she’s certain that’s all it is and that Mike was smiling and cheerful before he fell asleep. That’s what I want to hear.

“I don’t know, Dennis. I, I hope so... I don’t know.” There’s such agony in Maggie’s voice – halting and high. “Maybe we should call the doctor, to see what he says? This is the third time this month.”

I’m quick to reply, “You know he’s going to tell us to bring him to the ER, just to be safe. I don’t want to have to go through that again. The last two times we brought him in, it was nothing. Can’t we just wait to see if the headache goes away?”

Maggie turns to me. Her eyes are silver with tears. I know what she’s thinking. We’ve been going to this place so many times we don’t have to say it out loud anymore. Her fears are my fears. What happens if we wait and it is the tumor? Precious moments could be critical.  What if it’s nothing again and we rush him to the ER, thirty miles from home, and they poke and prod him and give him an IV and an MRI ?—all of which Mike hates, but trooper that he is, he never complains. And what if it turns out to be just a bad headache, as it has before, and we put him, and we put us, through this terrible, terrible ordeal for nothing?

Too many “what ifs?”  

“Maybe you’re right,” Maggie sighs. “We’ll wait to see if he feels better.”

Maggie and I sit in bed, hands touching, afraid to move. As if sitting there quietly will make it all go away. Not knowing if what we’re doing is right and so afraid it could be terribly wrong. Maggie inches nearer. I place my left arm around her shoulder and pull her tight. Her body melts into mine. We sit there, saying nothing, hoping the aspirin works, listening and waiting for the next soft knock on the door.

***

January 7, 2017

Christmas and New Years is now over and I have a little more time to share some of my writings. However, my posts will not be as timely as before because I continue to babysit my grandchild several days a week.

The stories I share with you now will not be in chronological sequence. I am currently in the process of working on a second book and am writing about moments I remember. Some of these moments will be related to Maggie’s and my married life while others will recall times in my childhood.

***

The following short story focuses on an average day in Maggie’s and my life with our four children. We had moved to the first home we ever owned after living in one we rented for a little over a year. At the time of our move, Mike and Jenny were already born; our other two children were born after we settled in our new home.


Not Dad’s Day

Today is Mallday.

Mallday is a common occurrence during the blistering heat of summer in the far south suburbs of Chicago. That’s where we bought our first home — in a newly developing subdivision in Country Club Hills. How proud we are to say “Country Club Hills” whenever friends or family ask where we live. However, we don’t feel it’s necessary to admit that the closest edifice to a “country club” is an old dilapidated barn inhabited by squirrels, sparrows and spiders and the nearest “hills” are the mounds of dirt piled high by bull dozers still clearing the land for new construction.

Our subdivision is an island in the middle of a vast expanse of vacant land, adjacent to abandoned farms. It’s six square blocks dotted with flooded foundations and peppered with an occasional house.The sign at the entrance proudly proclaims “The Place To Be.”  Well, it may not be the posh community heralded by its name, but it’s far enough outside the Chicago city limits that we can afford to buy a home here.

There are about fifteen other homes on our block and every family seems interchangeable — each has one to three children, none beyond the age of six; each has a stay-at-home mom and a dad that works 9 to 5; and all struggle, living paycheck to paycheck. So Mallday is an event eagerly anticipated on summer weekends when the scalding sun keeps us prisoners in our homes, reluctant to use the air conditioner that doubles our electric bill.  

At least two Saturdays each summer month, Maggie and I and our four children pile into our sun baked station wagon and drive the twenty suffocating minutes to our oasis — Lincoln Mall. There we wander in cool comfort through the spacious corridors. We rarely buy anything. It’s more of an inexpensive adventure where, for the price of an ice cream cone or soft pretzel, our kids are happy and Maggie and I can travel on our “if only” dream trip, furnishing our new home in our heads.

We’re a curious sight in the mall; a young couple with four children: Erica and Paul in umbrella strollers, one pushed by Maggie the other by me; Jennifer, age five, grasping the belt on Maggie’s coat; and six year old Mike, hanging on to the left side of my jacket, his left arm flailing in front. People part as we approach and heads turn when we pass.

JC Penney is a frequent destination. It’s bright, has the best air conditioning, and is inexpensive. Maggie and I have been through this ritual often enough to know that four young children meandering through a department store is trouble. So, we go our separate ways. Maggie takes the girls wherever little girls and their mother go when shopping at JC Penney and I head off with the boys to the sporting goods section, hoping to indulge myself for a few minutes.

Keeping Paul entertained isn’t a problem since he’s usually asleep ten minutes after we leave the car. But Mike, well, he’s a different story. Mike is blind. Because he wants to feel everything he can’t see, preventing him from touching what he shouldn’t touch is always a challenge. I can only say “Don’t touch that” so often before he shrinks into himself and guilt thunders through me.

Once in sporting goods, I go straight to a circular rack of golf shirts. Knowing Mike likes to feel textures and shapes, I begin thumbing through the S, M, L and XL shirts, selecting a dozen of varying styles and textures as well as those with raised logos and different shaped buttons. I move them to a spot on the rack convenient to Mike, then turn his shoulders and place his right hand on a shirt.

“Mike! Look at how different all these shirts are.”

Mike seems intrigued and slides his hands among the shirts, feeling how one is ribbed in the middle, another elasticized at the waist and sleeves, some are cotton and others are silky. He explores the buttons—some round and plastic, others square and wooden —but seems especially fascinated by the logos, tracing each with his fingers. I’m certain this will fascinate him for a while and begin looking at other shirts on the rack. Within a few minutes, I notice that Mike’s face has lost its sense of discovery.

“Don’t like the shirts, huh Mike?”

“Not really.”

“Okay, bud. Let’s see if there’s something else you might like.”

I scan the area for something that will hold his attention for at least ten minutes. That’s all I want for myself —ten minutes. I can’t let him near the golf club display for fear he’ll knock them over. And I’m pretty sure his interest in touching spikes on golf shoes will wane quickly. Then I notice something just beyond the shoe display.

“Mike! Hang on a minute. I have a surprise for you.” He stands quietly while I rearrange the shirts and ensure that Paul is still asleep in the stroller.

“All right, let’s go, bud.”

Mike grabs my left elbow as I guide him toward a barrel filled with golf balls and stop about a foot away. “I want you to feel something, Mike. It’s a big wooden barrel.”

Since I can’t recall if he’s ever felt a barrel, I take his right hand and slowly extend it, placing it on the rim. As Mike touches it, I walk him around the circumference so he can visualize its size. He uses both hands to slide across the rim and then, in almost rhythmic swirls, brushes his hands across the outside of the barrel, top to bottom.

“Wait until you see what’s inside, Mike. There’s a bunch of little balls in here.”

I guide his right hand over the edge of the barrel that rises to the middle of his chest and slowly lower it to the golf balls. Mike resists slightly, but as he touches the balls a quizzical look crosses his face. He tilts his head to the left and smiles in my direction.

“They are little. Why are they so small?”

“They’re golf balls, Mike. Do you notice anything different about them?”

He picks up one golf ball, rolls it around in both hands, lightly touching it with the tips of his fingers, then brings it to his face and rolls it against his cheeks. “It feels funny; like it has little holes in it.”

“Those are dimples, Mike. That’s how all golf balls are.”

Mike doesn’t need further explanation and spends the next twenty seconds simply feeling the dimples.

“Hey Mike,” I whisper. “These balls are all different colors.”

I don’t know why I tell him this. I know he can’t feel colors, but I’m not sure what remains in his memory from before he went blind three years ago. Maybe he can recall. Anyway, I just think he should know.

Mike cradles a ball in his hand and asks, “What color is this one, dad?”

“That one’s yellow.”

Picking up another, he asks “How about this one?”

“Pink, Mike.”

This happens several times as I help Mike identify the white, orange, yellow and pink balls. He carefully caresses each one now, bringing it to his ears and then to his upper lip, as if these senses are helping him differentiate the colors he cannot see. As he’s doing this, I pick up two balls and tap them together next to his left ear.

“Hear that Mike. That’s a cool sound, ain’t it?”  

Mike is captivated.  He takes both balls from my hands and begins clicking them together, first near his left ear, then his right. He doesn’t say anything, just continues the clicking. When he tires of the two he has in his hands, he throws them back in the barrel and picks up two more. Realizing that he likes the sound of the balls bouncing in the barrel, he begins alternating his new discovery — clicking and throwing, clicking and throwing.

Mike’s in his glory. Now I’m free to move among the racks of 50% off shirts, occasionally looking back to be sure that Mike’s still entertained. After a few minutes, I move to the display of discounted golf clubs. I lift the seven iron from the Titleist set and indulge myself in my fantasy of buying clubs I can’t afford. I take several practice swings when I hear a distant, timid voice,

“Dad?”

I pause, and hearing nothing, I continue my practice swings. The timid voice becomes a desperate shout, “Dad! Dad! Help!!”

It’s Mike.

I glance in Mike’s direction and see him struggling with a leaning barrel — his scrawny legs buckling beneath him and his arms bent into his tiny body. “Dad!!” he yells again as the barrel begins to clearly win this battle. I quickly run to Mike and pull him to my side as the barrel crashes to the tile floor. Golf balls are bouncing everywhere — a stippled stream of white, yellow pink and orange, rushing a hundred feet down the aisles, crashing in every direction —banging off walls, display counters, and store clerks.

I stand there, frozen, holding Mike close. Clerks and customers are dodging the cascade of balls while glaring through me.

“HE’S BLIND! HE’S BLIND!! HE WAS ONLY PLAYING!” I shout, as I frantically begin chasing and gathering the balls. Mike stands there frightened and confused. The clerks and customers turn their heads to him. Their faces morph from anger to concern as they rush to my aid, scurrying after the bouncing balls.

They have pity in their eyes now — pity for the little blind boy and perhaps some for the poor old dad with a baby still sleeping in the stroller.

***

January 7, 2017

Christmas and New Years is now over and I have a little more time to share some of my writings. However, my posts will not be as timely as before because I continue to babysit my grandchild several days a week.

The stories I share with you now will not be in chronological sequence. I am currently in the process of working on a second book and am writing about moments I remember. Some of these moments will be related to Maggie’s and my married life while others will recall times in my childhood.

***

The following short story focuses on an average day in Maggie’s and my life with our four children. We had moved to the first home we ever owned after living in one we rented for a little over a year. At the time of our move, Mike and Jenny were already born; our other two children were born after we settled in our new home.

Attach “Not Dad’s Day”

*****

January 30, 2017


It’s been almost a month since my last post. Much of that time was spent in family obligations and events as well as my own illness. Regarding the latter, I had a relatively mild case of the flu that lasted two weeks. Every time I felt it had ended, a low grade fever would return. And in addition to my babysitting duties, I’ve become heavily involved in three of my grandchildren’s basketball interests. I usually attend four to six basketball games each week, watching and cheering my 15 year old, my 12 year old, and my 7 year old grandsons. And I love it.

I mentioned before that some of the stories I will share with you will not be about Maggie’s and my life together, but rather about moments I remember from the neighborhood in which Maggie and I grew up. Since Maggie and I came from the same community (our houses being a little more than 400 feet apart) she and I experienced the same influences. We were both born and raised in the same neighborhood in Chicago – Bridgeport.

In the early 1900’s the Chicago Stock Yards was the hub of the meatpacking industry of the United States.  Consequently, poor immigrants from many European countries came here seeking a better life. Because they needed to live near their workplace, they formed neighborhoods of specific ethnic groups - Polish, Italians, Lithuanians, Germans etc. Bridgeport was one of those neighborhoods established immediately south of the Stock Yards.

Bridgeport was ethnically diverse, but also quite segregated, and stayed that way for many years. Blacks were not allowed and Italians lived primarily east of Halsted Street (which ran through the middle of Bridgeport). West of Halsted, where Polish, Irish, and Lithuanians. It wasn’t a rigid segregation, except for Blacks, and occasionally Italians would live west of Halsted or vice versa. In fact, the maternal side of Maggie’s family was Italian and her grandparents; four uncles and many cousins lived in the same apartment building west of Halsted.

In the 1960’s, African Americans were not welcomed in Bridgeport at all. It was dangerous for any black person to even to walk through the neighborhood, let alone try to live there. In fact, I remember when a black family tried to move into a home, only to have the windows broken and the house set on fire. Thankfully, that has changed now and such bitter segregation doesn’t exist anymore.  But in the 1960’s, when Maggie and I lived a block apart, it was a different time.

****
Following is an experience I recall:



Threatened

Bosley P.G. is one of those narrow inner city parks nestled between two parallel streets to give parents a place to go with their children and to keep older kids out of trouble. It doesn’t have much: four swings, a slide, monkey bars, a maypole, two holes in the ground for horseshoe pits, an outdoor basketball court with chain nets, and a baseball field of unusual dimensions. It has black asphalt, brown dirt, and gray gravel, but not much green—except for the scrawny trees that line the third base side of the baseball field, the few bony bushes growing along the chain-link fence, and the weeds sprouting through the cracks of the asphalt basketball court. Bosley’s a small park. Actually it’s considered a “playground, which is what the “P.G.” stands for, but all the guys call it a “park”—real guys wouldn’t be caught dead in a “playground.” It isn’t pretty, but it sure beats playing in the streets or hanging out on the corner all day.

***

On this hot, muggy summer afternoon when a gentle wind is tickling the leaves and the sun is baking the asphalt, three black children, a girl around twelve and two boys about four, cross the street from Benton House to Bosley. Benton House is a community settlement program that aids struggling families throughout Chicago. The children are not from this neighborhood and are apparently too young to know that they don’t belong here—not in Bridgeport. But they’re here, in Bosley, swinging gently under the blazing sun to catch a little breeze.

Soon, they’re not alone. Three neighborhood teens, fifteen or sixteen years old, seem to come from nowhere. They do nothing more than stand and stare. Within seconds, the three becomes six, nearly encircling the swings and the black children on them—all just standing and staring.

A red haired teen, a head taller than the others, steps from the circle toward the children. He stops in front and just short of the girl,         

“Whata ya doin here?”

The girl doesn’t answer, just keeps swinging slowly, her eyes cast down. The two young boys look anxiously at each other, then at the girl who’s probably their sister.

“I SAID, WHATA YA DOIN HERE?”

The girl twitches and her body tenses as she raises her eyes toward Red.

“Nuttin. Just playin .”

“Well ya ain’t sposed to be here! This ain’t yer park!”

The girl looks down and drags her feet on the ground, stirring clouds of dust as she slows her swing. She seems to know she should be leaving.

“I said ya ain’t sposed to be here! That means get da hell out! We don’t want your germs all over our swings!”

The girl stiffens her legs to stop her swing, slowly gets off the seat, and turns towards her two brothers sitting motionless next to her. Their eyes are wide and begin to fill with tears as they glance at their sister.

One of the teens picks up a hand full of dirt and throws it at the girl’s head, some of it spraying onto the boys. She bends her head and shakes it vigorously from side to side while brushing the dirt from her hair with both hands.

“Yer dirty!” says Red laughing. “Get otta our park!”

At that command, two more teens scoop up handfuls of dirt and rub it on the heads of the boys. As they start to cry, the girl embraces each brother and eases him from his swing to the ground. Holding hands, they begin slowly walking away.

When the three children quicken their pace to exit the park, several of the teens spit at them while the others continue throwing handfuls of dirt.

“GET OTTA HERE AND STAY OUT!” Red shouts.

As dirt rains down on the fleeing children, they run across the street to the entrance of Benton House and hurry through the front door.

The Bridgeport teens scatter.

***

Loocius has been working in Bridgeport for about ten years now. He rides the 31st street bus from east of Halsted—beyond the Italian neighborhood and beyond the Dan Ryan Expressway that some say was built as a barrier to keep his kind out. Loocious is black.

The bus stops in front of Flanagan’s Liquor Store next to The Shack, the hamburger joint where the neighborhood punks hang out. They stand on the corner eating their hamburgers, holding their grease soaked bags of French fries, and occasionally guzzling their bottles of ice cold Coke. Some lean against the pale cinder block building, smoking and flicking their butts into the street, trying to look as tough as they can. Others playfully punch and wrestle each other, stopping occasionally to gesture and curse at the passing cars.

Loocious steps carefully from the front of the bus—one slow step at a time. He’s an old man, probably in his 70’s, dressed in a clean but rumpled shirt and baggy pants and wearing a tattered gray flat cap that he’s probably owned for many years. His hair is tightly curled and gray. He’s about 5 feet 6 inches tall, maybe taller; but he’s always stooped at the shoulders so you really can’t tell. He has a light gray beard, more of a stubble, as if he didn’t have time to shave. As the door closes and the bus departs, Loocious waits for the light to change before crossing the street. Even when there are no cars coming from either direction—he waits. When the light turns green, he walks as if his feet are sticking to tar, moving slowly and deliberately. His head is down as he looks only at his shoes and three feet in front.

One of The Shack teens notices Loocious crossing the street.

“Hey Loocious, looks like it might rain today.”

Loocious turns his head slightly towards the teen, nods almost imperceptibly, smiles, tips his cap, says nothing, then goes back to looking at his shoes and the three feet in front until he reaches the other side. He shuffles to the building just off the corner of 31st and Morgan and enters the door next to an empty storefront. The door opens to a darkened flight of wooden stairs that lead to his dimly lit shop in the basement—below the storefront that’s been empty for five years.

Loocious—he shines shoes and sharpens ice skates, and he’s not supposed to be in Bridgeport—certainly not here, across from The Shack where all the neighborhood punks hang out. The same punks that just last week threw the three black kids out of Bosley park—filled their hair with dirt, laughed at them, spit at them and chased them out because they didn’t belong. But here’s Loocious; he’s here five days a week—across from the thugs who tell him it “looks like it might rain,” and leave him alone. For them, this seems okay. Somehow it makes sense that Loocious could be here five days a week at the bottom of the darkened stairs in his little dim shop—because all he does is shine shoes and sharpen ice skates.

In Bridgeport, sometimes you have to know where you belong—and sometimes you have to know how you belong there.


***

February 19, 2017

In my last post, I briefly mentioned the Stock Yards and its impact on Chicago, making it one of the great hubs of the United States.  The American poet, Carl Sandburg, memorialized our great city in his poem, “Chicago,” in which he identified its many faces – the power, the beauty and the ugliness that was there during the early and mid-1900’s. Any child living during the days when the Stock Yards was booming took great pride in that poem and the images it created. It was so popular throughout the United States that it was among the many poems taught in school. And if you lived in Chicago, you not only read the poem in the early grades, you actually went on a field trip to the Stock Yard to personally experience its magnificence. Busloads of Chicago children, some as young as ten years old, accompanied by their teachers, were “treated” to an all day tour of that part of Chicago that made it the “hog butcher for the world.”

Field Trip

Today was going to be hot and humid with strong winds from the south. You didn’t have to hear a weather report the night before or open the window; you just needed to breathe. The smell of the Chicago Stock Yards crept into every corner of your house—the putrid odor of animal feces and decaying meat drying your nostrils and burning your throat. Even if the windows were closed tight, the smell would find the cracks and slither through until it encircled your throat and squeezed you in its stink, choking you awake. It didn’t happen often, at least not so often that you grew accustomed to it, but it happened enough that on those days when it did, you wished you lived somewhere else.

This was Bridgeport; just north of the Chicago stock yards - a pig smell away on a hot humid summer day when the winds were blowing strong from the south.


The forecast for the day was “mostly sunny with no rain in sight” and the good nuns of St. Mary of Perpetual Help Grammar School were in a benevolent mood. The end of the school year was fast approaching and the entire fifth and sixth grade was to be rewarded with a field trip to the Chicago Stockyards. Both grades had been reading Carl Sandburg’s poem, “Chicago,” and Sister Mary Regina and Sister Mary Alberta were eager to show us why our fair city was called “Hog Butcher for the World.” We couldn’t visualize Sandburg’s “City of Big Shoulders”; cities didn’t have shoulders. Nor could we urban kids picture his “Stacker of Wheat.” But “Hog Butcher” ah yes, that made sense to us. And in just a short bus ride south on Halsted, we would understand — and we would never forget.

A half mile from the entrance to the stockyards, I could feel an approaching rumble vibrating inside my ears and tickling my stomach. It was an incessant rolling sound that I felt before I heard; a great echo bouncing off the buildings; a soft, undulating wave that washed over my entire body. Every kid on the bus began to stir.  

“Cows!” Jimmy Bukowski yelled, as he ran down the aisle of the bus. “Those are cows! Where are they?”

“Jimmy Bukowski, sit down!” Sister Mary Regina yelled, as she grabbed his arm and ushered him back to his seat. “You’ll see them soon enough. Now sit quietly until we get there!”

Jimmy sat, but not quietly. Actually he sort of hovered over his seat, twisting from side to side, jerking his head to peer out the windows, sliding to the edge of seat, then back again. He didn’t yell out anymore, but his fidgeting was just as distracting.

Within a matter of minutes the entire fifth and sixth grade classes were standing on a platform overlooking a sight I’m sure none of us had seen before. At least that’s what I gathered from the awestruck faces surrounding me. We simply stood there, held hostage by the sight before us, reluctant to move forward for fear we might never see anything like this again.  Thousands of cattle stretched beyond my eyes horizon, looking like a stagnant brown, white and black pool with occasional bubbles breaking the surface as one cow or another raised its head. Thousands of them packed so tightly in wooden pens that they couldn’t turn, just waddle from side to side and front to back, barely moving.

“Okay,” our guide said, “We need to move on to the first station. Walk ahead until I tell you to stop.”

Within a couple hundred feet we were overlooking a small group of men covered in mud, pushing and poking a long line of cattle toward a narrow opening, and shocking them with electric prods when they didn’t move quickly enough. Yet, the cows simply inched forward, forcing each other toward a four foot wide wooden corridor that squeezed them like sausage being stuffed into its casing, funneling them into a long, narrow wood framed passageway. The cattle were pressed so tight that they looked two headed – one head in front, the other in back; a chain of two-headed cows stumbling, but never falling – too tightly sandwiched between the cow in front and the one behind.

At the third station we could see the long line of cattle stop when the first one reached the end of the wood-slatted corridor. Gates immediately shut in front and behind, enclosing each cow in its own space with no room to move – forcing each to stand upright. Bellowing and banging against the sides, stomping and kicking, they desperately tried to jump over the top of their pens. After several futile minutes, they tired and stood placidly in their prisons.

A row of men waited on a wooden platform a few feet above, one hovering over each penned in cow, and each holding a sledgehammer. Before the cow could gather enough strength to once again try to escape, a sledgehammer came crashing on its skull. A sickening sound filled the air— the same sound as when Bobby Welczek dropped the watermelon from his second floor bedroom window, splattering it on the concrete alley behind his house—sort of a squishy thud. Thud, thud, thud across the entire platform as each man wielded death with every muscle in his body— a constant, sickening sound of metal mallets crushing skulls. Sometimes a stronger cow would have to be bludgeoned again. Still conscious, its front legs would buckle momentarily as if kneeling in prayer. But when it began to rise, another crushing blow silenced it.

When a cow seemed unconscious, or at least not conscious enough to struggle, a lever was pulled, tilting and opening the side of its pen and sending the stunned carcass tumbling to the platform below. There another worker would clasp one hind leg in a chain and pull another lever, hoisting the struggling cow into the air where it dangled from an overhead conveyor slowly moving it to the next station to be skinned, gutted, and quartered.

Joyce Shipior and Judy Shupinski began to cry. Billy Kepki started cheering. Jimmy Bukowski threw up.

***

Sister Regina and Sister Alberta helped usher us to the next station. There, a long line of squealing pigs hung with one hind foot tethered to an overhead conveyor. They were no more than two feet apart, jerking side to side, banging into each other, thrusting back and forth as hard as they could. The squealing echoed throughout the cavernous room, bouncing off walls, then off the floor, then off the kid next to me—that incessant squealing.  It was as if the pigs knew what awaited them near the end of the overhead conveyor.

And there he stood. I don’t know what his official title was, maybe “pig slayer,” maybe it actually was “hog butcher.” But there he stood at the end of the conveyor, on a concrete floor, straddling a drain. He wore a rubber apron draped around his neck and tied at the waist that reached to the top of his boots. The apron was either black, heavily speckled with red, or red with patches of black. It was hard to tell the original color. His boots, tugged almost to his knees, seemed to be reddish, black. He stood there calmly, patiently, as if waiting for a bus.

The conveyor inched forward. The pigs bounced off each other, still jerking back and forth, still twisting side to side, determined to free themselves—to slip from the conveyor and run. Their squeals pierced the hot, stagnant air jabbing into my ears until I covered them with my hands to deaden the sound. Their shrill cry for help was ignored. It was soon apparent this journey would continue as the tethered pigs slowly inched toward their fate.

The man in the black or red apron just stood there calmly, saying nothing. As the first screeching, lurching pig reached the quiet man, he seemed to caress its head in his left hand and turn it gently from his body. Then, with the deftness and precision of a highly skilled surgeon, with a quick, fluid upward thrust of his knife, he slit the pig’s throat. The blood gushed like a full blast faucet, splattering over the floor, seeping down the drain, splashing onto his boots, spattering the once black apron.

The pig soon stopped squealing, soon stopped struggling, and limply, lifelessly, continued its journey on the overhead conveyor. There were others behind—waiting.

***

March 19, 2017


I want to tell you a little more about Bridgeport, the neighborhood where both Maggie and I were born and raised. As I said before, it was a blue collar community whose residents were hard working people. Very few men worked in offices or had professions; most labored in factories or on loading docks. Many were plumbers, electricians, carpenters or drove trucks for a living. If you were lucky enough to know the right politician, you might become a fireman, policeman or garbage man. Women, on the other hand, were seldom in the work force and were expected to stay home to take care of the house and children (This did begin to change during World War II when women entered the workforce because most men where in the military). Because most men in Bridgeport did not have jobs that paid well, they often worked long hours to make enough money to live from pay check to paycheck. When they did have some time away from their jobs to relax, they often spent it in a tavern with their hands wrapped around a large glass of beer. Taverns were every place.

Bridgeport was also very Catholic. Because many of its residents came from Poland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania and other Catholic European countries, each nationality seemed to think it had to build its own church so it could minister to its own people. Not only was it necessary to have an Irish Catholic Church on a particular block, but within the next few blocks there was also two Polish Catholic churches and one Lithuanian.

This always seemed somewhat strange to me – having so many churches and taverns so close to each other; each seeming to do just the opposite of what the other was doing. It was as if God and the Devil were doing battle – or as if Bridgeport had a split personality. Following is my observation of what seemed to happening in Bridgeport.


Bridgeport Is Schizophrenic

Bridgeport is schizophrenic. It doesn’t know if it’s a haven for saints or sinners. A short walk from my house in any direction reveals the obvious – there’s a battle going on, a battle between God and the devil, a battle for the souls of the poor European immigrants who settled here. It isn’t a raging battle, not one with daily clashes, not one with blood flowing in the streets, but it’s a battle none the less, and everywhere you look you can see the fortresses that house the embattled souls.

There’s a Catholic church on almost every other block – six within a seven block radius: St. Mary of Perpetual Help, St. Bridgett, St. Barbara, Immaculate Conception, St. George, and St. Gabrielle. And each has its own school. God has staked His claim - “These are my people.”

Yet, the devil is not intimidated. Almost every block in Bridgeport has a tavern – sometimes on the corner, sometimes in the middle of the block – sometimes in both places. There’s Curley’s, The Gin Mill, Fanukins, Johnnie K’s, Ziggy’s, Spike and Pickles, Matches, Johnny Wall’s, Monty’s, and a host of others - some with no names, just a place with a liquor sign in the window and a wooden bar inside. The devil’s definitely challenging God and needs twice as many places to have any hope of winning.

God’s sanctuaries are opulent. They’re large edifices with massive domes and stained glass windows that cast rainbows across the mirrored marble floors and the rows and rows of parishioners sitting reverently rigid in varnished oak pews. The deeply inhaled fragrance of fresh-cut flowers and the sweet scent of incense wafts through the air as the booming sound of the pipe organ and cherubic voices of the choir echo throughout the church. The priest bellows from the pulpit about the sins of man and the glory of God. It’s a setting for the greatest gift of all – receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ as you humbly kneel at the communion rail.

The devil’s dens are different. They’re dimly lit, narrow caverns with dingy, paint peeling ceilings and broken bladed fans droning slowly overhead. Blinking yellow, blue, and red neon beer signs flicker across patrons slumped low on ripped vinyl stools. The rancid smell of stale beer permeates every corner as men sing in cacophonous groups to records blaring from the flashing juke box. The bartender berates a drunk for throwing up on the bar then brusquely throws him out the back door; merely another day for the patrons bellying up to the bar for another shot of whiskey or a pint of draft beer.

The tug of war between the devil and God for the souls of this humble community is a relatively close battle.  The colossal sizes of the churches are suitable for large crowds. Services are full on Sundays, well attended on Good Fridays and special novenas, and overflowing on Christmas and Easter. However, there are 365 days in a year and Sundays and Catholic holidays account for only a small portion of them. Taverns are open six days a week, and though no single tavern can match the capacity of any church, each draws a respectable crowd every night. So, all in all, the average attendance at churches and taverns in any given week is fairly equal.

Sometimes both can take credit for capturing a wayward soul.  You can barely walk a block in any direction without bumping into someone staggering from a bar – sometimes stumbling to the nearest church to pray for forgiveness. On Christmas Eve, young men wobble from the local tavern to attend midnight mass; often sitting in the back pews for a hasty exit should the evening’s libations require it. If they make it through the mass, after drinking most of the night, you can chalk one up for God and the devil — a virtual tie.

***

April 9, 2017

I recently wrote a short narrative about some vivid memories I have about my early childhood. From birth to nine years old, I lived on Carpenter Street in the community of Bridgeport, along with my parents and my two older brothers (one of them two years older than me and the other eight years older).  My father worked on the loading docks of a railroad company while my mother stayed home to do what most mothers did back then: take care of the children, do laundry, keep the house clean, and cook meals. This was long before the feminist movement that had a major impact on women’s rights and ambitions.

Being a “stay at home” mother was not only accepted, it was expected and often desired. The man had his clear role, and the woman had hers. It’s just the way it was in Bridgeport and not too many people questioned it. Marriage at an early age was not uncommon for a woman – usually being wed shortly after graduating from high school – and often times, before then. Once married, the wife soon became pregnant – something the Catholic Church promoted, preaching that the purpose of sex was procreation, not pleasure. However, having children at such a early age created challenges for many young mothers that they never expected – challenges they often didn’t know how to handle.

SPARE THE ROD

She wasn’t a bad mom. She never really beat me. I mean, not in the sense that I would call it a beating.

She wasn’t very cuddly, but then again, in the early 1940’s, most mothers in our neighborhood weren’t. Not where most mothers and fathers were first generation immigrants, born to parents who lived hard lives and came here for new beginnings. Her father abandoned the family when she was a child and her mother was an invalid - bed ridden even before she came to America.
My mother barely finished grammar school and at age fifteen went to work as a housekeeper for the director of a local cemetery and his family - coming home only on weekends. What minimal pay she received was given to her mother to help pay bills. And that’s the way it was, not just for our family but for many new Americans chasing a dream or escaping a nightmare.

She married when she was nineteen. Maybe she loved my dad. Maybe she just needed to be taken care of. But she knew her role. Being a good wife and mother meant keeping the house neat, keeping your husband and children in clean clothes, cooking daily meals, making do with what you had, and ensuring the kids were well behaved. And that was it. She could control most of what was expected of her – cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and making do with what she had. These were things she had done her entire life. But keeping her kids well behaved was something with which she was not familiar. She believed that being a good mother meant that your kids always listened, did as they were told, and never questioned their parents. By these standards, we were not “good kids.”

No, I wouldn’t say my mother beat me. Sometimes, when screaming at me didn’t work, she’d hit me across my legs with a razor strop that she folded over for accuracy. It wasn’t often and was seldom planned - more of a reflex, a quick response to something I did that upset her.  Suddenly, she would grab the razor strop from the hook behind her bedroom door and start swinging while I scurried to escape somewhere in the four room house. I couldn’t get very far, but it didn’t matter. Her aim wasn’t very good and since I was usually running from her, her swats were only glancing blows. But when she did connect - boy it stung.

No, the razor strop wasn’t her most effective tool for disciplining me or my brothers. I could run away from that. And if I did get hit, it only stung for a while – then it was over. For me the pain was gone; for her, the job was done. What frightened me far more were her other methods for getting us to behave, or to say we were sorry, or to promise to never do something again. These were not spontaneous reactions and they left deeper marks than bruises.

Sometimes she would throw me in her bedroom closet then shut the door and brace her entire body against it so it couldn’t be budged from within. As I pounded on the door, begging to escape the dark, she would whisper, “The green eyes are going to get you. Look out for the green eyes.” I wasn’t sure what the “green eyes” were, but I had read enough comic books to know that green eyes staring at someone in the dark didn’t bode well.  After sufficient pounding and promises to never do again what I had done to upset her, she’d open the door, give me a big hug and tell me how much she loved me.

But she only did this once to my older brother, Tom. After throwing him in the closet she fully expected him to be screaming in fear and begging forgiveness. But when time passed and this didn’t happen, she slowly opened the door - only to find Tom sitting on a basket of laundry, arms folded and a defiant scowl on his face. Getting the razor strop from the hook on the door, she yanked Tom out, threw him over her lap, and struck him several times. Though Tom never cried or apologized, both my mom and he walked away feeling they had won.

Another occasional form of discipline was threating to burn my hand on the gas range. She would drag me to the unlit gas burner while I fought to escape her grip.  As I struggled, legs bent and feet sliding across the linoleum floor, she would pull me with one hand while turning on the gas burner and lighting a match with the other. The smell of the sulfur and the gas fumes stiffened my legs even more as I pulled harder to escape.  At the initial burst of flame she would pull my hand closer as I yanked and tried to fall to the floor to free myself. While screaming, “Tell me you’ll behave! Tell me!” she would grab my arm with both hands yanking it up and ever closer to the flame until I could feel the heat. As I would cry out, “I’ll listen! I’ll listen! I promise I’ll never do it again!” she would pull my hand just a little closer, let go, and turn off the gas. While I would be sitting on the floor sobbing, she would fall to her knees, gently pick me up, and caress me in her arms, stroking my hair until I stopped crying. Job done.

I believe my oldest brother, Leo, was the only one who experienced “the pillow.” As a preteen, keeping control of him required more desperate measures from my mother. Sometimes, like most adolescents, he would “mouth off” to her. She didn’t say anything right then, but would wait until he was resting - lying on the couch or across his bed. Then quickly she would straddle his body, kneeling on his arms and sitting on his legs so he couldn’t resist, and place a pillow over his head. Grasping both ends of the pillow, she would continue to push down until he could barely breathe.  As he struggled to free himself, thrashing from side to side, she would relax her grip still keeping the pillow over his head and shouting “You won’t talk to me like that again, will you?” She would then lift the pillow briefly to hear his answer, then again press it tight against his head before he could utter a word. Then lifting it slowly once more, she would yell “Say you won’t talk to me like that again. Say it!” Then after Leo swore what she wanted to hear, she would push the pillow down one more time to make sure the message was clearly received

So, no – my mother never beat us. And I have no doubt that she loved us dearly. She just didn’t know any other way.


****
May 9, 2017

I would like to continue with some memories about my childhood in Bridgeport. Following are two short stories that hopefully will give you a flavor of what it was like for me living in this simple, blue collar neighborhood on the near south side of Chicago in the mid-50’s.

In my first story, “Sweet and Sour,” I recall the local candy store that was no more than 100 yards from my house. Bridgeport had many such stores, sometimes no further than a couple blocks apart, that were privately owned by residents who were too old to continue working more strenuous jobs, but still needed to have a steady, modest income. It would sometimes be obvious that the owner of one of these neighborhood candy stores wasn’t doing it for the love of the job nor their fondness for children.

***

SWEET and SOUR

Al shouldn’t own this store. The sign says he does, but he shouldn’t.

Al’s Candy Store —that’s what’s painted on the window in red, outlined in yellow, with three little blue balloons and trailing strings floating above the word “Candy.” It’s an open invitation to all children. But, there should be a law that says even if you don’t like kids; if you’re going to own a candy store, you should at least be able to tolerate them. There’s something about candy that screams “kids” and someone who owns a store that sells it shouldn’t hate children.

Al’s Candy Store sits on the southwest corner of Bonfield and Lyman in the heart of Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood. It’s on the bottom floor of a three story red brick tenement with several apartments above. There’s a small wooden bench in front – not much of a bench, just a plank of wood between two blocks of concrete with barely enough room for three children. But the size doesn’t matter, because Al never wants kids sitting there anyway.  “Don’t be hanging around here. This ain’t a bus stop,” is his response as soon as two or more kids sit there longer than five minutes.  

It isn’t an attractive corner for a candy store. The only warm colors in sight are from Al’s sign on the window. Approaching it from the other side of the block, you have to cross a pitted asphalt street then a cracked concrete sidewalk that runs to the bottom of two crumbling cement stairs that lead to a pitted dull gray door, once black.

The inside is immaculate; something expected in a neighborhood where mothers wash the curbs in front of their homes at the beginning of every spring. The wood floors are cinnamon brown except at the glass candy case where they’re scuffed white by the feet of children giddy with excitement. The walls are a pale yellow and the ceiling a dull cream, cracked and peeling in spots – a repair job saved for the winter months when business slows. Two ceiling fans sputter overhead, barely able to push the air away from their blades let alone comfort the patrons wilting below, sweat building into droplets racing past cheeks and down necks until they’re wiped away with a quick swipe of a hand.  

When you enter, the sweet aroma takes your senses hostage. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the glass encased counter that stretches the length of the store. And when you inhale, the smell of sugar waters your mouth with every breath taken. There’s candy from one end of the counter to the other; Hershey, Zagnut, and Almond Joy bars are mixed between Mary Janes, Nik L Nips, Bulls Eyes, Slo Pokes and every treat a kid could imagine; all just lying there - waiting. You can hear the candy beckoning you. And if it wasn’t for the glass encasing this treasure chest just inches away, you would gladly oblige their siren call.

But craving is not the sole determinant of choice.  No, that’s tempered by the amount of change jingling in your pocket —candy too quickly consumed leaves you with nothing more than fleeting contentment. Slo-Poke is always a good choice. A three inch piece of flattened caramel on a stick lasts a long time; a good bargain for five cents.

As you sidestep down the counter, stopping at your favorite candy and pressing your fingers and nose to the glass, out of the corner of your eye you can glimpse him standing there.  He seems 110 years old; stoop shouldered, thin and wrinkled, with a scowl permanently etched on his face beneath his furrowed brow. He never really looks at you; he cuts into you through those tiny slits that hide the color of his eyes. His voice is gravelly as if his throat is coated with sand.

“Don’t touch the counter! You’re getting it greasy! Whataya want?”

“I’m not sure. I’m just lookin.”

“Well, hurry up! I ain’t got all day. How much you buyin?”

“I gotta quarter.” Then, backing away from the counter, “ Uh…uh…uh… I’ll have one Slo-Poke and …uh… uh…”

Before the next choice is made, Al drops the Slo-Poke in a small brown paper bag and starts his running tally, “Okay, you got twenty cents left. What else?”

“Uh… I’ll have three Mary Janes?”

“Okay, fourteen cents more. What else?”

While doing this, his darting eyes follow any kids who wander to other sections of the store. “Whataya lookin for over there,” he shouts as they near the rubber balls and pinwheels. “Don’t touch nuttin!”

If curiosity defeats Al’s warnings, with balls and pinwheels being touched anyway, Al’s quick with his next edict. “Alright, I told you not to touch that stuff! Go outside and wait for your friends! I don’t want more than two kids in here at a time.”

And we listen. We listen because we are children of mothers who wash the curbs in front of their homes at the start of every spring. We listen because this is Al’s candy store and he owns it – even though he shouldn’t.


***

The second short story is about how important a nick name was for me. When I was only 13 years old it seemed that all the kids in my neighborhood had a nickname – well maybe not all, but certainly all the cool kids. It may sound silly, but to be called by something other than your “given” name set you apart from all the other kids. If your name was “Bob,” you were no different than any other “Bob” in the neighborhood. But, if you were called “Moon” – even if no one knew why or what it meant - that distinguished you from all the other “Bobs.”

“What’s In A Name?”

“Hosenose.”

One would think a thirteen year old kid would hate being called that. Tom Clefkis didn’t seem to mind. He was the smartest kid on Bonfield Street, but that wasn’t going to win him any friends in this neighborhood. Hell, he barely knew which end of a baseball bat to hold. His nose was one of those Roman shaped ones that seemed to start in the middle of his forehead and jutted out to just above his upper lip. So, we called him Hosenose. He almost seemed to enjoy this distinction that set him apart from all the other guys. In fact if a new kid in the neighborhood called him “Tom,” he would defiantly utter, “The name’s Hosenose!”

I always thought there was something mysterious about a nickname. It could define you in one or two words and it could make you a part of a group or an outcast. Hosenose couldn’t play any sport. He just sat there on the sidelines watching; couldn’t even pitch horseshoes. Yet, he was one of us because he seemed to be almost proud of his name and that, in and of itself, was just so cool.

I so badly wanted a nickname when I was growing up. It seemed as if everybody had one but me. Deep down I knew that wasn’t true, but my desire to be called something other than my Christian name was so intense that all I could see was what wasn’t, rather than what was.

There was “Corncob” who had a problem with acne and had these funny little bumps all over his face. He seldom hung out with us because he had to help with his dad’s business - the little white push cart on the corner of 32nd and Aberdeen. Their entire family took shifts selling hot dogs and tamales eight months of the year until too many of their customers hibernated from winter’s freeze. I never even knew Corncob’s real name. Maybe he was named after his father who owned that little white pushcart for over twenty years - “Mike’s” painted on the side in faded red letters. It really didn’t matter; he was just Corncob to us, the son of the guy who sold the best hot dogs in Bridgeport.

“Crazy Jake” was, well, just crazy. He was about 17 and four years older than me when I knew of him. He was broad, muscular, often drunk, and always angry. The last memory I have of him was in the middle of December, when the temperature was below freezing and snowflakes were swirling in the blustering Chicago wind. Crazy Jake stood shirtless in the middle of Archer Avenue, a major thoroughfare through Bridgeport, holding a fifty gallon garbage can high above his head, staggering from one lane to the next and screaming threats at each approaching car that swerved around him. After several minutes, he finally smashed the garbage can onto the windshield of an empty parked car, then simply stood there laughing. He could have been drunk, or just crazy; it didn’t matter. I wasn’t about to stick around to find out what happened next.

“DP Wally,” was a recent immigrant from Poland. He had just been expelled from Kelly High School during his freshman year when he and his posse of dropouts and truants decided to take over Bosley Park, a fenced in playground on Bonfield Street that held our baseball field and basketball court.  DP Wally and some of his thugs stood at Bosley’s main entrance, informing whoever tried to enter, that “the park was closed today” - punctuating his edict by flashing his zip gun from under his jacket. Word quickly spread to the Jolly Rogers, a local “social club,” who arrived with two screeching carloads of bat and chain wielding “club members.” The last time I saw DP Wally, he was running east down 31st Street with a host of Jolly Rogers rapidly gaining ground.

Some nicknames were given because of athletic prowess, like Tim Bady who was called “Puma” because of his cat-like smooth, quiet, quickness on the basketball court. Others had no obvious connection to anything specific. There was “Mutt,” basically a nice guy, but a bit of a bully; “Pixie” who was tall and thin, but a hell of a fighter who didn’t mind the name; and “Yardbird” who had the honorable distinction of two nicknames, also being called “Shribbles.”

Even some of the neighborhood girls had nicknames: “Nickle Nips” who always seemed to have those little wax bottles filled with flavored syrup that she sucked dry every day; “Yokohama Yogi” who was as large as a bear and could crush anyone, girl or guy, who called her that, but never did because she enjoyed the notoriety; and “Miss Mountains” who got her’s for obvious reasons.

What was there about a nickname that made me crave having one during most of my childhood? Why was the obsession so strong that it brought me to a point where I began carrying pockets full of peanuts in a shell, constantly eating them in front of my friends, hoping they would make the connection?  I was so desperate for one that I would have accepted something as demeaning as “Peanuts.”

I would have welcomed any nickname, absolutely any that would have instantly set me apart. Well, almost any– not “Hosenose.”


****

June 2, 2017


I don’t know whether or not I should be apologizing. I’m assuming I’ve been doing something wrong for quite some time with the link on which I’m sending my stories. In the beginning I was receiving a number of comments from some of you who have been reading my posts - and I enjoyed responding to them. However, for quite some time now I have not received any. For a while I thought there were problems with the link, as I was being told that revisions were being made. But it’s been many months now and nothing has changed. I will continue to explore the reason for this. It is very possible that I’m simply not using the revised link correctly.

I only want you to know that if you are trying to correspond with me and are getting no answer, I’m not ignoring you; I simply don’t know how to view your response.

***

I would like to return to sharing some of my short stories about my family. You know from earlier short stories (A Mother’s Instinct, A Soft Knock, and Not Dad’s Day), that our son, Michael – our first born child, had surgery for a benign brain tumor at age 3 that resulted in his becoming totally blind.  Because the tumor could never be completely removed and required several more surgeries to “manage” it, Maggie and I were faced with many years of medical and personal challenges.

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, when Mike was a young child he was in intensive care for multiple days before it was determined that he had a tumor on his optic nerves that necessitated immediate surgery. Although it was discovered that the tumor was benign and slow growing, which was good news, it was impossible to remove it completely, and in the process of minimizing it, Mike totally lost his vision. It may be difficult to believe, but the fact that Mike was now completely blind didn’t devastate Maggie and me as much as you might think. Our son was alive and that was our major concern. We could deal with the blindness.

I remember that when I returned to work, after taking a five day medical leave, my co-workers were very supportive and offered many words of encouragement. Much of what was said comforted me and I always shared those comments with Maggie when I returned home. However, one co-worker made a comment that I kept to myself. It was as if this person didn’t know what to say, but felt compelled to say something, - anything - hoping to ease the pain I was feeling. Her comment was, “Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise.” This co-worker was a former nun who was now a social worker and I’m sure she believed all crises were somehow a blessing from God – but that’s not the way I saw Mike’s blindness, not at that point. It was many years before I realized how right she was.

Mike was the oldest of our four children and, other than being blind and having a slow growing brain tumor that required considerable medical treatments, his life was very normal. I know that sounds strange, but Mike dealt with his problems as though they didn’t exist.

He was quite intelligent and worked hard to learn the skills necessitated by his loss of vision (braille, cane mobility, discovering the world through his other senses etc.). He went to our local schools with all the other neighborhood children, graduated high school at 17, and then went to a technical college in a neighboring state.

When Mike’s tumor was discovered at age 3, Maggie and I were told that, although it was benign and slow growing, the procedures to manage it would eventually be exhausted and, unless there were new medical discoveries, we couldn’t expect Mike to live into his teen years. Well, the doctors were wrong – at least about how long Mike would survive the tumor.

There were no medical break-throughs and Mike’s tumor became more and more difficult to manage. During the course of his treatment, a single shunt was implanted in his brain to help with the flow of fluid. Eventually, after many years of additional surgical interventions, it became necessary to implant a second shunt on the other side of his brain. There seemed to be minimal improvement after this procedure and the doctors appeared to be running out of options. Mike was now 22 years old and his headaches were becoming more serious and more frequent.

Following is a short story that captures a turning point in Maggie’s and my struggles with Mike’s tumor:

Nothing Natural About It

Natural. That’s what’s written on Mike’s death certificate under “Manner of Death”— Natural. I know it simply means that Mike didn’t die from anything out of the ordinary; and I would have been far more upset if it had read ordinary. You see, Mike was in no way ordinary, not in death and not in life.

Natural. It sounds so peaceful. For me, a natural death conjures up a certain vision; a nice, quiet, eventless death. I picture a child lying still in his bed, his chest rising and falling in short, rhythmic intervals. Both parents are standing at his side, holding hands and gazing down as a hapless smile creases their face. They take turns softly kissing him on his forehead. His eyes close slowly; a soft exhale, and he’s gone—a natural death. Or maybe a mother sits alone on the edge of her dying child’s bed, where she has sat the entire day. The sound of birds chirping outside beckons her to the window. She watches for a few seconds as two golden finches flit from branch to branch in playful courtship — just a few seconds. She turns back to her son. His eyes are closed; a hint of a smile on his lips. She moves nearer, bends over ever so slightly and gently strokes his hair. Is he sleeping? No, he’s gone— so peaceful, so beautiful, so comforting — so full of crap.

Is that really how anyone dies except in the movies?

That’s certainly not how Mike died; no, not at all. Oh, he died at home in his own bed with all of us by his side, and I guess that could be classified as natural.  But it wasn’t like in the movies —nor was it what the doctor told us:

“He’ll get weaker, lose his appetite, sleep more, and gradually slip into a coma. I can’t tell you when it will happen, but it will be as if he fell asleep. Then, after perhaps a couple days, it’s hard to predict how long, he’ll pass away.”

So we learned from this and laughed at the Hollywood endings, smug in our knowledge that we knew what a sham this was—what a fairy tail.

&&&

It’s 4:00 a.m. Easter Sunday morning. A nurse asks Maggie and me to follow her to a “quieter location” in the cavernous atrium at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Hospital. We’ve been here with Mike since midnight and he’s been getting a battery of tests for several hours now. As we turn to follow the nurse, Maggie looks at me. Her eyes begin to tear as she raises both hands to her lips.  Her face turns ashen and she slowly shakes her head from side to side. We both know that this is not a good sign. If everything was all right the doctor would have told us himself, right here in the middle of the atrium. We wouldn’t be being asked to go where only bad news is given.

We knew eighteen years ago that this day would come, yet it’s hard to believe that it may be here now. When Mike’s brain tumor was diagnosed at age three, we were told that although it was benign and slow growing, it couldn’t be removed. It could only be managed through shunts and periodic surgeries. We were told then that Mike probably wouldn’t live through his teen years. But Maggie and I found hope in the belief that doctors don’t know everything and that there are new breakthroughs in medical science every day. And maybe, just maybe, Mike could beat this. So, for eighteen years we did what the doctors told us to do. And Mike went through those multiple medical procedures. And we grasped tight to any little sign that his life was becoming more normal. And we prayed that the doctors were wrong.  But, it looks now that maybe we were.

“The doctor will be with you shortly.”

Maggie and I sit in our assigned dimly lit corner far from the center of the atrium. We’re both exhausted from the physical and emotional stress of a couple sleepless nights and the long drive to the hospital with Mike lying restless in pain on the back seat.  I’m not a nail biter, but I soon realize that that’s exactly what I’m doing. I don’t know what else to do or say, so I simply stare at my shoes, then up at the ceiling, then occasionally glance at Maggie who is rocking slowly on the edge of the couch, quickly rising to walk around the oval glass table in front of us, and darting her head behind her whenever she hears footsteps.

About ten minutes pass when two doctors in long white lab coats approach us. Both Maggie and I stiffen and bolt up to greet them. Neither is familiar to us. Dr. Sortino introduces himself as the “on call” neurosurgeon; the accompanying doctor is a resident. After shaking our hands and asking us to have a seat, both doctors sit across from us. Teetering on the edge of the couch, Maggie slips her hand in mine and squeezes. The resident shifts in his seat, looks at Maggie and me, and then quickly glances away when my eyes meet his. Dr. Sortino leans forward, folds his hands between his knees, looks directly at us, and in slow, measured words begins telling us what I’m sure we won’t want to hear,

“Mr. and Mrs. Depcik, we’ve completed the CT scan and the MRI on Michael, as well as several other tests. We’ve contacted the Chief Neurosurgeon and shared the results with him.”

Maggie squeezes my hand tighter as we slide closer to each other. My left leg begins to shake, though I don’t think anyone notices but me.

Dr. Sortino continues, “I’m so sorry. There’s nothing more we can do for Michael...”

I don’t know why this angers me, but it does. Why are you calling him Michael? His name is Mike. You don’t even know his name. How can you possibly tell me you can’t do anything else for him?

“The protein in his cranial fluids continues blocking his shunts and we’re unable to prevent that from happening, so weeee…” The rest of his comments are a fading hum—my mind remains stuck on “nothing more we can do.”

I turn to Maggie who sits rigid, but calm, and seemingly unafraid —as if she knew what we would hear.

“So it’s over?” I ask.

And I don’t know what else to say because I’m not sure what I’m feeling. The day that Maggie and I always feared would come, is now here. All those stomach churning sleepless nights, all those excruciating headaches, all those panicked drives to the emergency room, all those elusive dreams—they’re over now.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Depcik. The shunts are useless, and without them it’s only a matter of time.”

Doctor Sortino sits back, takes a deep breath, and then leans forward again. “There is another option. Not one we would recommend, but one you should know about. We could surgically implant a cranial reservoir that you would have to drain multiple times a day. However, an infection is inevitable and would be very painful. But it could extend Michael’s life for several months.”

Maggie and I sit silently, looking at each other and knowing what the other is thinking.  Dr. Sortino’s eyes move slowly between the two of us, briefly fixing his gaze on me and then on Maggie—as if he’s expecting an answer now.  After several seconds, Maggie looks directly at Dr. Sortino,  

“This isn’t our decision to make.”


***

July 4, 2017



Yesterday was Maggie’s birthday. She would have been 69 years old. It’s now been almost seven years since she died and my memories of her remain strong. I still miss her every day, but the pain no longer overrides the joy. Thoughts of her now bring far more pleasure than sorrow.

Maggie had a poetic verse that she always kept in a frame in our family room. I believe the source is “anonymous,” but it always gave me comfort after Maggie died. I can’t recall if I shared it with you in earlier posts. If I did, I apologize. I recall it now because it speaks so perfectly to how I feel:

“A butterfly lights beside us, like a sunbeam.

And for a brief moment,

Its glory and beauty belong to our world.

But then it flies on again,

And though we wish it could have stayed,

We feel so blessed to have seen it.”


One of my daughters and her two sons were here yesterday to celebrate Maggie’s birthday. Every year since Maggie died, the four of us go to a steam near my house and place four blue carnations (Maggie’s favorite flower and color) in the water and watch them float out of sight. I love it.

***


I did want to return to my last post and continue with what happened after the doctors told Maggie and me that our son, Mike, had limited choices to extend his life. I also wanted to point out that although Mike was now 22 years old and enrolled in a post high school training program for the blind in a neighboring state, he was not functioning at his age level. The repeated surgeries and radiation treatments to his brain throughout his life did affect him. Although 22, he was probably functioning more as a 13 or 14 year old.

***


There were no longer any realistic hopes that Mike would survive his current condition. Both shunts would continue to clog, making it impossible for his body to drain the fluid from his brain. The cranial reservoir could only prolong his life for a matter of months before an infection would definitely occur and, according to the doctors, would cause Mike significant pain.

As born and raised Catholics, Maggie and I were always taught that all life is sacred and one should never give up on the possibility that God could intervene. In fact, from the time I was ten years old and all through high school, I wanted to become a priest; that’s how steeped in Catholicism I was. However, Maggie and I had already decided that this idea of holding on, hoping and praying for a miracle, didn’t make much sense. Maybe that’s giving up or maybe it’s just facing reality. Anyway, it wasn’t our decision to make; it was Mike’s. And we would honor whatever he chose.

The 45 minute ride home from the hospital was quiet. Mike was asleep in the back seat of the car, exhausted from all the tests he endured.  Maggie and I remained in a daze. We were lost in our thoughts and weren’t sure how soundly Mike was sleeping. He hadn’t been told about the results of the testing and seemed too tired to ask any questions about the results. We didn't want him to find out half asleep, speeding down a highway. So, we all rode home without a word spoken – Mike slept, Maggie stared out the window, and I simply focused on the traffic surrounding me.

After we arrived home, Mike went straight to bed and was asleep within a few minutes. Maggie and I went to the kitchen, where she made a pot of coffee and poured a cup for each of us. We sat at the kitchen table staring straight ahead, hesitant to begin the conversation neither of us wanted to have. A long time seemed to pass, although it was probably only a couple minutes, when Maggie placed her hand on mine. Then, turning her head to me, she clasped both of my hands and with quivering lips, broke the silence, “How do we tell him?”

I didn’t know how to answer that. It was such a simple question, yet I didn’t want to think about it. “You’re dying Mike. And there’s nothing more we can do.” That’s the stupid answer that kept racing through my mind. How do you tell your son that it’s over; that your mom and I are helpless, and that you have to decide how your life will end?

I turned my head from Maggie’s eyes, afraid of the emptiness I might see. Staring down at the table, I muttered, “I don’t know. Maggie, I don’t know what to say to him. I’m not sure that I can tell him the truth - that he’s going to die soon. I…I don’t know that I can be that honest.  I’m afraid.”

Maggie squeezed my hands tighter, “Do you think he already knows?” I mean, don’t you think that at some level he knows that it’s different this time. This past year’s been terrible. His headaches have been more frequent and far more severe.”

I slowly pulled my hands to my face and burying them in my palms I mumbled, “Maybe you’re right. But if he doesn’t, this is going to scare the hell out of him. I don’t want his final days filled with fear. Maybe we can give him a little hope? I don’t mean lie to him. Just not tell him that he’s definitely going to die.”

Maggie agreed and we spent the next few minutes agonizing over the details: What exactly should be said? Who should be the one to tell Mike? When and where should this happen? When do we tell our other children and what part should they play in this? And so many other questions.

This was one of the most difficult conversations Maggie and I ever had with each other and we didn’t necessarily agree on the fine points of all the issues. However, we both agreed that we would wait at least one more day.

Mike had gone through enough in the past 48 hours.

***

August 6, 2017


I apologize for the relative brevity of this post. I’ve been on long vacation in Florida with my son and his family and recently returned. I’ve been doing a lot of catching up – emails, bills etc. Also, these recent posts are not from previous writings and are being developed in the moment. In essence, they are the beginning drafts of my story and are taking longer to create.

***


Mike slept soundly all night. Not so for Maggie and me. We knew we had to talk to him soon and decided that we would do so shortly after breakfast. All the kids were sitting in the family room watching one of Mike’s favorite T.V.shows. Jenny, Erica and Paul were on the couch while Mike was in his recliner with his feet propped up.  Maggie and I had originally considered breaking the news with everyone in the room at the same time, but decided against it—Mike should be the first to know.


“Hey guys, why don’t you go upstairs for a while. Mom and I need to talk to Mike.”



A pained look darted between Jenny, Erica and Paul as they slowly rose from the couch and exited the room. They were old enough to realize what the“talk” was going to be about.  


Pulling the lever on the side of his recliner, Mike sat up. He nervously moved his hands up and down his thighs while he stiffened his back and leaned forward. I sat beside him on the arm of the couch while Maggie sat on the floor at Mike’s feet.


How do I tell my son that he’s dying? No, how do I tell him that he’ll be dead—maybe in a couple weeks, maybe in a couple days. “Dying” implies time and with time there’s hope– and there is no hope anymore. Dr. Sortino’s words kept echoing through my head “There’s nothing more we can do for Michael...”


“Mike, I …uh. Well, mom and I…uh...Well, we need to talk to you about the results of hospital tests.”


Mike’s back stiffened even more. His hands stopped.  I think he knew what was coming.


Damn, this is so hard. I’m a trained professional with a master’s degree in social work who for over 20 years has been helping families and individuals face their most difficult problems. I’ve told parents in similar situations that they needed to be honest and that at some level their child already knew they were dying.  Not facing that reality was only more confusing and more stressful for everyone in the months or days that remained. I would tell them that they could be missing some very precious moments with their child, moments that they would eventually treasure forever. Yeah. That’s what I would tell them —and that’s what I believed.


I wanted to be completely honest with Mike. I wanted to tell him exactly what the doctors told Maggie and me – that there was no question that he was going to die. No false hopes. I didn’t want to minimize anything. I wanted to tell the truth and then Maggie and I would hug him tight, tell him we loved him and let him know that we would be there for him and we would get through these final days together as a family. Then I would call Jenny, Erica and Paul back to the room and tell them what they probably already knew. And we would all hug Mike and begin the end.


But I’m a coward. When it came time for me to be totally honest with my son, I couldn’t do it.


As he sat directly in front of me, I froze. The words I wanted to speak ran as fast as they could to a much more comfortable place in my mind. I began struggling with how to soften the reality. Looking at my son, our first born, I couldn’t tell him that his life would end soon and that the only unknown was how much longer he would live. I couldn’t be that final. So I sat there and clinically explained what the doctors told us about the failure of his shunts. And when he asked me what that meant, I chickened out again and told him that he “could possibly die.”  I knew there was no possibly about it, but I couldn’t tell him that. And when he asked if there were other options, I again clinically described the cranial reservoir,the daily ritual of draining it multiple times, the eventual infection, accompanying pain, and the possibility that it might not work.


“No!” Mike was quick to answer. “I don’t want to do that last thing. What’ll happen if we don’t do anything?”


I hesitated. At least be honest with this. “Well Mike, it’s possible that you could go into a coma.” Again, that word possible. There was no question that he would go into a coma.


Mike sat silently for several seconds then calmly said, “Okay, we’ll just see what happens.”


In the following few days, Mike spent much of his time in the recliner either listening to his favorite T.V. shows or sleeping. When awake, he continued to interact with Maggie and me as well as his brother and sisters. But, when he was asleep, we were all apprehensive. Was he sleeping or was he in a coma? Should we try to wake him or wait to see if he gets up? Rather than disturb a sound sleep, we always waited.


One evening, as we were preparing for dinner, Mike laid silent on his recliner, eyes closed. The usual sounds and smells of dinner were happening in the kitchen: pots and pans were clanking, knives and forks were clinking against the dishes on the table, and the aroma of Maggie’s pasta permeated the room. Mike remained motionless on his recliner, eyes still closed. This was unusual. Mike loved to eat and the fact that he wasn’t reacting caused all of us to pause. Was he in the coma or was he simply sleeping? We convinced ourselves of the latter and decided to let him sleep, thinking he could eat later. However, Maggie’s glance indicated that she and I were wondering the same thing - was he in the coma?


As we began eating, Mike shouted from the family room, “Hey!! I ain’t dead yet!”

So much for wondering if Mike knew.


Two days later Mike did go into a coma that lasted three days before he passed away.



****

September 6, 2017

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I will be sharing written narratives that capture moments at different times in Maggie’s and my life together. In the narrative in this post and the several that will follow, I want to capture some of the more difficult times Maggie and I shared during the last couple years of her life.

I don’t recall how specific I had been in earlier posts about Maggie’s cancer. I know I mentioned it at least briefly, but I do want to share more details before I post the new narrative.

In 1997, at 49 years old, Maggie was diagnosed with malignant lung cancer that metastasized to her brain. The probability of survival was less than 10%. Feeling she had few options, Maggie decided to treat the cancer aggressively. Consequently, she had chemotherapy, radiation to her brain, and had her left lung removed. Although the process was difficult, painful and long, Maggie beat the odds. She lived for 13 more years in total remission and was considered a “miracle” by her oncologist. Maggie beat the cancer, but it was the cancer that killed her.

Over the course of those 13 years, Maggie experienced a gradual loss of her cognitive functioning and her motor skills and, in the last five years of her life, sought alternative forms of treatment, including acupuncture and homeopathic treatments. None of these improved her functioning, but may have slowed the deterioration.

Following is a brief narrative that captures a pivotal moment in Maggie’s and my life:


The Fall


A thud.

Nothing more … just a thud.

No scream. No short outburst preceding it.

Just a dull, heavy thud that stirred my stomach and catapulted me off the couch, running toward the foyer.

***

“Am I dragging my foot?” Maggie whispers as she walks slightly ahead of me while we inch our way down the crowded aisles of Walmart.

“What’d you say?” I ask, as her question nudges me back from wondering why Walmart has to clog the center of every aisle with merchandise so no more than two customers can squeeze by on either side.

Maggie slowly turns her head to me as she whispers louder, but only enough for me to hear, “Am I dragging my left foot? Watch me, because it feels like I am.”

For several months now Maggie’s been worrying that her fine motor skills are diminishing. Something the radiology intern told her seven years ago before she agreed to the heavy doses of radiation that would stop the cancer from spreading in her brain.

***

“Everything’s going to be fine.” the intern said. “There have been so many advances in radiology over the years. Although the doses will be strong, the treatments will be pinpointed only to the area needing it.”

Maggie’s eyes widened as she squeezed my hand. She hated x-rays; absolutely abhorred the idea of radiation going into her body; didn’t even like it when the dentist suggested x-rays at her annual exams. And she always questioned his assurance, “It’s a very low dosage and not the least bit harmful.” That never made sense to her. How could radiation be shot into your head and not cause at least some damage. But Maggie had no choice this time. The cancer had metastasized from her lung to her brain and she insisted on fighting it aggressively. She had no choice, but she had questions … lots of them – questions about every detail of the procedure; how many treatments, how high will the dosage be, how can they be sure they’re pinpointing the radiation, and what could happen years from now? That was one of her biggest concerns. “If this works, what’s the chance of long term damage?” she asked the intern.  She hoped his answer would be comforting and I’m sure he thought it was.

“Oh, you needn’t worry” he told Maggie. “Years from now you may lose some fine motor skills.” Then to ease her mind he added, “But that shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re a concert pianist.” He had no idea what he just said.

Maggie squeezed my hand tighter and I could feel a slight tremble.

No, Maggie wasn’t a concert pianist, but her piano felt for her. Through it she found joy when all was going well, and in it she sought refuge when everything seemed to be crumbling around her. The kids and I knew how Maggie felt, simply by the music she chose to play.

Maggie cried when the intern left the room. She didn’t sob. It was a quiet cry; one that said she knew she could do nothing else. That if she was going to beat this cancer, she would have to fight it as hard as she could - no matter what the consequences. And I could do little to comfort her, but hold her hand, softly stroke her hair, and tell her we would get through this together.

***

It’s really crowded at Walmart and a couple people cross between Maggie and me while I try to observe her. As soon as they pass, I watch Maggie walk five or six steps.  I do notice a slight hesitation in the movement of her left foot. I wouldn’t call it a drag though, more of a brief delay before her left foot catches up with her right.

“Just a little,” I casually state.

Maggie stops in mid-stride and quickly turns her head, “It is? Really? How bad?”

Seeing her pained expression, I quickly respond, “I mean … I mean just a trifle. It’s barely noticeable.” When t