I had discovered two medium-sized boxes of letters, pictures and memorabilia in my father’s office after he passed away in 2003. As I copied the original letters – to protect them and work with copies only – I discovered all these people that I thought I knew… but they were much younger. My grandfather was in his 60’s but here I was reading about his childhood, teenage challenges, falling in love and having young children. This man I was reading about was a stranger to me. I knew my Grandpa, an old man who was quick to point out any mistakes I made, poor grades in certain subjects and even send back letters I had written to him corrected with red pencil !!!
I didn’t see much of my father because he was trying to support his wife and four children. Sometimes he would make it home for dinner but more often than not, if he did, he had to go back to work after supper. It was a special treat when he cane in to say good night – usually with a few words of Spanish. I knew when I was older that he had gone to South America and that’s why he knew some Spanish words, but I really didn’t know or understand why. Now I was reading these letters and understood that he and his closest brother had both gone to Venezuela to work for an oil company to send money home to help support their younger brothers and sister. Their mother had passed away and Grandpa was deep in debt.
I was flabbergasted and fascinated. I wondered if it was just because they were letters written by my family members or if other people would find them interesting. I transcribed three months of letters and loaned them to various people, some I knew well and others I didn’t, some were older and some were much younger than me, all had a variety of family backgrounds, very few having family who had been in this country for one hundred years or more. I wanted the TRUTH. Would they be interested in reading more of these stories?
I heard two responses several times.
1. “I loved reading the letters because I felt I was really getting to know the writers. We are loosing the ability to write.”
2. “Yes, these are stories about your family, but they really are stories about every other family that lived through the years of World War II.”
So, I had an answer. People might be interested in reading more of these stories, but I had no idea how to do it!!!