Letters Home

Letters Home

by Jean Harper

I found a letter from my sister in our mailbox,
a business-size envelope, just like the ones
she sent to me in the years after Dad died. 

Those envelopes contained long financial statements,
impersonal checks, sometimes a spreadsheet noting
who should get what and from where it would come. 

She left out a lot. The weekly checks she wrote to
herself: stipends for running errands for Dad.  Is it
petty of me to say she earned $50 an hour?  She did.

And me: I took Dad’s dog tags, the bits of DNA his 
skin left behind from years of wear in World War II. 
And I took my father’s war letters home. Four years of 

letters.  Hundreds of them. I’ve never told anyone this.
Now, I know what my father was thinking in 1942, 43,
44, and 1945.  He was thinking about music – Jazz 

and Blues and Opera. He was thinking about B-17s
and silent gliders towed behind enemy lines.  He was
thinking about ice cream and cookies from home

and the drear of C-Rats. He was always hungry during
the war.  Send food, he wrote.  I don’t tell my sister any
of this. We have not spoken for a very long time. 

In his letters home, my father was thinking about the
war, sometimes, but when he did, the censor’s knife
removed those thoughts.  Once, he was thinking about 

the crow he and his buddies captured, the crow whose
tongue they slit, believing the wound would enable the
bird to speak.  After D-Day, my father thought about

the dead.  The dead he saw, the dead he spaded into body
bags, the dead he met again in his dreams. And that crow
that would also die, never having said a word.

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