MY PROMISE

little-dandi

This is me angry. And young.

Why oh why did I promise my dad that I wouldn’t open that Army trunk? I dusted it. I sat on it. I ran my fingers over the lettering. Yep. Definitely my dad’s Army trunk. And I’d promised him I wouldn’t open it until my mom left this earth to join him in heaven.

For the last 5 years of her life, Mom came to live with us in Ohio. She and Dad had lived in Hamilton, Missouri for over 5 decades in the same house, with the same friends. By an act of her will and her faith, she didn’t look back, except to stay in touch with friends. Instead, she settled in and started a new life in Ohio. And the trunk? Neither of us mentioned it. Never ever. She must have known I had it because she was there when we cleaned out the house, including the attic. And she knew I was reading everything I could about WWII.

One day as we were playing cards I tried to nail a date in 1944, when a certain battle caused the nurses to evacuate. Mom’s recollection didn’t align, and I was getting frustrated. So was she. “That can’t be right,” I said. “F.D.R. was still alive.” Mom slapped down her cards and said, “Well, Dandi, just look in the letters!” A silence fell so hard I could feel it as we stared at each other for what felt like hours. The elephant in the room was standing on the table. After more cold minutes passed, Mom said sweetly, “Anything else?”

As soon as our game ended, guess what I did. Yep. I opened that trunk.

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6 Responses to “MY PROMISE”

  1. Nancy Martin Says:

    wow…..all I can say for now. Sometimes WWII folks just didn’t want to talk war. And I knew your mama pretty well..as well as the Eberhart demeanor…so it pretty much fits her statement.

    • dandimackall Says:

      There were definite conversations that would get shut down. She still ached for “her boys,” most of them 18, who were amputees. They’d get dear john letters and cry. But her last years with us were pure gold. She told stories I’d never heard. Love you, Nancy

  2. Malgorzata H Stiff Says:

    Dandi, you sure know how to write a story! II WW was the background I grew up with, as you know. War movies often on TV that my dad loved to watch, my mother crying about memories, neither was talkative when the subject was mentioned. Even today, my aunt (74) who was 8 or 9 at the time, will not talk about it. Her mother survived 1 year of Auschwits and her father was killed during Warsaw uprising, not far from where she has lived all her life. I never went to visit any conc.camps, cannot read books or watch movies about those times. Too painful.

    • dandimackall Says:

      Gosia, thank you for writing me. I love staying in touch. I do remember your background of watching war movies with your dad. Makes me so sad to think of your aunt and so many like her. Writing this novel and reading all those letters, I learned many things I never knew. My parents didn’t talk about the horrors of war to me, or not too often. So in the letters, I eavesdropped on their communications and learned that both of them cared for survivors from the camps. Some had walked for miles and miles, like skeletons carrying skeletons. They were indeed survivors.

  3. Kay Norfleet Says:

    Mostly, I just remember how much fun they were. Your Dad with his dry sense of humor and your Mom with her way of plain talking. That was the Helen and Franklin. How their patients must have enjoyed having their services.
    Of course, there was always that goose, or was it a duck? that really didn’t like me too much. But those were Hamilton days.
    Love, Kay

    • dandimackall Says:

      Kay, thanks for the memory. I love “plain talking,” and definitely dry sense of humor. You were their first child, in a way. They mention you often in some of the early letters. We all thought of you as so sophisticated.

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