The flight was only 11/2 hours to (the city) but ... the bus took 3 long hours to this stupid base. Time goes so slow the night is lonely because I'm afraid to think about you. It might be against regulation.
Weather changes rapidly here, sunshine one minute, hailstones, snow, sleet the next. I'm sorry I can't concentrate my thoughts on you but every minute I live is for you sweetheart. ...
The day is coming along faster with each forgotten kiss. ... You've never known me to talk or write this way but loneliness is making me almost cry. See you soon and please write the very first chance you get. I need you ...
In the next letter, kiss it a bit and send me all your love. … Still love me as much when I get home. My teasing days are over.
He signed his name and added this at the end:
I hate this place.
I've been thinking of that envelope riding in that funnel cloud, plucked up into the air after it smashed into Washington, the tornado carrying all sorts of things with it, dipping to kill, then up again, finally dropping the stuff as it moved to the northeast.
Bills and bikes, catalogs, sticks of wood that were once someone's home, family photographs, smashed picture frames, stuffed animals, human artifacts sucked up into the sky, each hard bit like a saw blade in those tremendous circular winds.
And, also of course, the love letter.
How it wasn't shredded to pulp in that tornado is something I can't explain.
But the reason people keep letters is explainable. They remind us of who we were before the world changed us.
A friend told me that at his parents' home in River Forest, his dad found a box of such letters walled off behind the plaster in a garage, along with photographs of a woman from the 1940s.
Another friend told me that when there was a death in the family, she went home to go through the stuff of a life, and found a long-forgotten box that belonged to her, holding love letters from when she was a young girl.
"I keep all my letters too, from the time I was about 16," said Anne Ortman. "He'd write almost every day. Sometimes he'd just fold the paper and slip it into our mailbox without posting it."
I asked: What were those letters like?
"What happened in school that day, how his classes went, that he missed me, and mostly, what was in his heart," she said.
Does your husband, Bob, know that after all these years, you still keep the letters?
"He knows about the letters," Anne said. "He's the one who wrote them."