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Friday, March 8, 2013

A Night of Respite

As I gazed out the window, I noticed the cold days of winter were here.   I could see snowdrifts more than five feet high.

I sipped my hot cocoa.

Susan was checking in on me right about now.  “What is it?” I asked.

“I don’t want to trouble you,” she responded, “But, it is my job to make sure you are taken care of.”

I responded all was well and asked, “Could you please hand me my picture?”

Graciously, she handed it to me.  “Why do you look at this picture every night?” she asked with honest curiosity.

She had never asked before, so I had never told her.  I simply stated, “I don’t want to bother you about a boring story from an old man.”

Yet she pleaded, “No, it’s no bother.  I would like to know.”

I took another sip of hot cocoa and began sharing the story with her.

“I was barely in my twenties,” I began.  It seemed like a trite exercise, yet I continued.  “It was during the war.  My battalion was stationed in Italy to keep the peace.”

Susan listened attentively as I continued to share with her the story.

“It must have been in early 1943.  I had met a girl; a girl from the USO.  It was a gathering meant to boost the morale of the soldiers.”

The story continued.  I mentioned to her the music of the day and the party.  “Me and my friends enjoyed the peace that could be found at such an event.”

“The USO girl that I met at the dance was named Harmony,” I continued. 

Susan listened.

“It was the first night I had met her, but the warmth that I felt as we danced touched me deep.  Our battalion, after a brief respite from heavy combat, would be back on the front lines in less than two weeks.  I danced with her slowly while we listened to a selection of the most moving lyrical ballads of my day.”

The story and the memories also caused my own affectations to surface.  “My friends and I were going to be sent to the German front in less than two weeks.  Harmony promised to write me letters so I would have somebody to talk to.  At least, it would help me overcome the emptiness of heart also accompanied by the war.”

“We held each other closely as we danced.  The pain and the loneliness of the war almost vanished as I was struck by a feeling close to love.  She was a beautiful blonde in her early twenties.  At the time, I had no wife or kids.  Her letters would be all I had to accompany me on the long, lonely nights.  Before the evening was over, as was customary, the photographer took a picture of her and I standing close.”

Susan continued to listen to the story, captivated by the sentimentality.  “Here it is.  It was almost seventy years ago.”  I showed her the picture.  She, with sympathy, gave it back to me.”

“Me and my battalion moved to the front lines of battle in Germany.  I never saw her again,” I told Susan, awkward about sharing such a personal memory.   

“I got one letter from her.  I was in Germany fighting during the bloody last days of the war in Europe.  In the letter she said that she had to go home to America.  I sent her letter after letter, but never got a response.”

Susan looked upon the photo with new-found interest.

“When the war ended and I got back to the states I got married.  I had kept that memory hidden for more than fifty years.  If I were to be asked ‘What is the one thing you could change in your life?’ My answer would be to wish the night would not have ended.  Now, that memory is the only thing, looking back, that makes my life feel incomplete.”

I handed the photo back to Susan and she placed it on my night table.  I took another sip of hot cocoa as I prepared myself for a night of sleep.  The snowdrifts were over five feet high and I faced the prospect of a cold night.  I once again, buried the memory along with the picture deep within my soul.


Ronnie Dauber said...

A wonderful depiction of the value of memories. Great story.

Elisabeth Zguta said...

Very nice Daron

Jeanette Andersen said...

Good job Daron. Nice.

Gustave Moke said...

I am very much moved by the particularity of this story. Usually,good memories are always made when family and friends gather around the table for conversation and delicious food or something of the kind, but in this story, it was the magical moment of two strangers who found solace to each-other company. The magic of the story is an undying memory.

Arlee Bird said...

Nice story. I think it might be improved if you removed some of the interjected descriptions such as The story continued. I mentioned to her the music of the day and the party. and Susan listened.. I'm not sure the parts like that necessarily add to or further the action of the story that is being told by the man and may serve more as a distraction to the reader.

Otherwise, this is a poignant vignette of one generation reaching out to another. Well done.

An A to Z Co-Host
Tossing It Out

Connye Griffin said...

I think the cold, snowy night an apt image for the old man's lonely nights.

Anonymous said...

This is so well written, it made me nearly crying... it is such a special memory and a very special blog post as well!! Great job!!