I was at my parent’s house last month when my Mother passed away, and I was looking through her things. No I wasn’t snooping, I’m a very visual and tactile person. I need to mourn my Mother’s passing by seeing her things, touching them, remembering her with them, and smelling them.
I didn’t get to do that when my Dad died last year. I flew from NY to Arizona to see him just a week or so before he passed while he was in hospice and my Mother decided that we had all come to see him before he passed and that was enough, so no service was held. But I didn’tdo any proper mourning or grieving, I needed to see that he wasn’t there. I wanted to trade stories with my Mother and siblings, see his things, touch his things, realize he was gone. But I finally got to do that when I went last month.
Anyway, in looking through my Mother’s dresser drawers, I saw a piece of paper folded up. I just kind of opened it up, saw that it was a letter from my Mother to my Father dated February 1948, when they were dating and still in college at Penn State. I read a line or two but felt I was invading…. somebody’s privacy. So I folded up the letter and put it back.
However after I shut the drawer, my sister came in and I told her I was just looking at stuff and was getting sad and nostalgic and all that. And she asked, “Did you read the letter?” And I told her I saw it but put it back. She told me to go ahead and read it as my Mother was constantly showing it to her after my Father died and telling her to read it. So, eventually I picked it up again.
Apparently my Mother found the letter in my Dad’s things… after all those years, he had saved it. I’m guessing the reason my Mother wanted my sister to read it was because she wanted her to know how much she loved my Father. Now, to us this is odd because our Mother was a tough, strong, feisty Irish woman that never gave in to mush. She always acted annoyed by my Father when we were growing up, probably because there were 6 kids running around and he was a big factor in that, if you know what I mean. I mean, she was loving to us but we never saw any mush between my parents.
So I read the letter. Still only part of it, after a while I felt uncomfortable like I had walked in on them having sex or something. Not that there was anything like that in the letter… the letter was so 1940’s innocent you would have thought it was a cliche’ out of a movie. It was full of “Dearest”s, “Darling”s, and “beloved”s. My Mother was talking about how much she loved him and thought she would die without him (I guess he had gone back home to NY for break or something), how she couldn’t bear to be apart for a minute. She also said she agreed to marry him sooner rather than later.
I have to admit, I felt a little uneasy. The way I was brought up (by this same woman as a matter of fact) and what feminism teaches us in this day and age… it made me think “What a needy, clingy broad this is”. Which my whole life I never thought that once about my Mother. She was as independent as they come. As the kids got older, she made sure her needs were met… no there were no spa days and vacations, it was going to exercise class, and continuing ed classes, workshops on gardening, working with special needs kids, reading every single book known to mankind, book clubs, lectures, etc. But this letter… my first reaction was not to find it romantic, my first reaction was negative, like oh God get a life. And yea, I felt bad about that. That’s just how I was raised. Ironic, eh?
So I thought it through. Is being that much in love with someone a good thing or bad thing? I mean it was a different era, women were bred to be wives and mothers back then. Although my Mother was an undergrad at Penn State at the time, I think she was actually going for an education and not just her MRS degree.
Society has become so complicated. Women are supposed to be all things to all people. Successful career women as well as wife and mother. We are made to feel ashamed of wanting or needing a man. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s just me? But maybe it was easier when men and women had very simple well-defined roles. A woman was devoted to her man, and a guy just provided, and maybe treated her like a princess, time and money permitting. Is it bad to be in love? Is it wrong to put all your eggs in one basket with a mate? My parents lasted 65 years together. I think my parents got back to the real reason they were together after all of us had grown… they loved each other and were best friends. And yes there was deep love and romance there, but of course kids see a different side. So why were my parents never excited when any of us found a mate? They discouraged being “dependent” on someone. Yet they were both so desperately in love?
I’m probably more confused than when I started this post. Maybe I made everything up. Maybe I’m confusing things. Maybe that letter was a fluke, a young girl in the beginning of a relationship. But then why would she be so proud of it 65 years later? Why poo poo me swooning over a guy, when she was nuts over my Dad? Maybe just a Mother being protective? But who’s right? Is that kind of love romantic and wonderful or obsessive, needy, and unhealthy. I’m totally confused…