My youngest sister found a small packet of letters, I sent to Mum in 1986 when I was in the Coast Guard, among her things. She
threatened promised to send them to me. They arrived yesterday. I opened the first one with more than a little trepidation. There are things I prefer not to recall, unfortunate flashbacks of the hedonist I used to be. I made a lot of mistakes, some of them intentional. Other people, the recipients of benevolent forgiveness, are allowed their transgressions. The lofty principles I aspire to leave me vulnerable to scathing self-criticism. I have been thoughtlessly selfish on occasion. Those are the times that have resided within lo these many years. The letters are evidence of who I used to be. They reveal a person who was generous and amusing along with being sarcastic, impetuous, and miscast.
I’ve correctly assumed that I’ve always been somewhat political. There are vague references to heated debates regarding Wretched Ronnie Reagan and his promotion of an imperialist America. I remember commenting acerbically when an alert was raised in the threat of Libyan attack and I was stationed on Lake Michigan, “Yeah, I’ll be on the lookout for camels swimming across the lake.” I’d written to Mum opining that the strategic space defense initiative, “Star Wars”, was the alien that swallowed the treasury.
I’d put money in an account that she was a signer on and requested a disbursement in one letter. In the following missive, I told her to buy a present for herself with the balance left in the account. I wrote that I was “sick of men or at least the selection, and I use the term generously, that we have here in the back forty”. She planned to visit me at one point. I wrote enthusiastically of her advent, “I’ve been making lists- people I want Mum to meet, things Mum might like to see, places Mum might like to eat, items I should buy so Mum can feel pampered… I feel intellectually isolated here. No one has the sense of humor we have; people aren’t interested in the same things. It will be such a relief to have you visit.” I was rooting for the Mets in the series and wrote “Mets go!!!” on an envelope flap. My return address on another envelope reflects my discontent- 591 Thayer Street, beautiful desolate City/Town MI.
I happened to mention a couple of things she could have lived without knowing. “Luckily, no one got popped for urinalysis. Chief told us if we had, we’d all be OUT. No more drugs for me.” Apparently my friends were a bit more frugal than I- “The people I work with can’t think of anything to do but get drunk. Most of them are incredibly CHEAP!!! I don’t have anything against partying (an understatement) but I am sick of going to the cheapest bars all the time.” (Even at 24, I had standards.) We were a bunch of McHale’s Navy delinquents. We worked well together and had outstanding inspections, the showcase of our group, but our leisure performances were commensurate with our work achievements.
Yesterday, when I received the letters I was happy to know that I was a better person than I recall having been. When I woke up this morning I thought- “Mum was going through her own stuff. Gramp had died. Brian (my brother) was among the missing for the first time. She had worries, I shouldn’t have told her I was lonely.” Maybe I shouldn’t have but in the telling I was really saying, “I love you, I miss you, no one else is nearly as interesting as you are.”