Mail was a military mom’s best friend

Mailboxes and Memorial Day might seem like two things that don’t have any connection, especially since there’s no mail delivery on the Monday holiday.

But when I started reading some letters my grandmother had written to my dad while he was serving in the Army during World War II, I realized how spoiled we are in a world where instant news — personal and otherwise — is constantly at our disposal.

Like many people, I find myself looking down at my phone with great frequency, attentive to its alerts that bring a constant onslaught of news, pictures, videos, updates, messages and more.

Instant knowledge. Instant gratification.

We don’t really have to wait and wonder or anticipate and angst over what’s happening. The information is right there, “right fast.”

But during the early 1940s, my grandmother could look no further than the local post office to keep in touch with sons in the service through her faithful correspondence, handwritten letters that generally began with “Dearest Wendell” and ultimately ended with “oodles of love — Mother” or “I love you oh so very much — Mother.”

I’m imagining that a post office or a mailbox or the friendly face of a postal employee were a mother’s best friend then, pretty important elements of the day to a parent intent on communicating love, encouragement, advice and the news of family, friends and home.

And waiting to hear back that all was well.

I’m imagining that delivery time, that mail call so to speak, must have been a high point of the day, an adrenaline rush of sorts to a homesick serviceman or a mother awaiting words on the home front.

On Memorial Day 2014, I’d written a column about having found more than 200 letters my dad and grandmother wrote to each other when he was in the Army as part of a railroad battalion in North Africa and Italy.

What a find that was in the family homestead, a piece of personal history to be savored for sure.

In more recent months, I came across a straggler batch of letters, ones grandma had written to dad when he was in basic training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

In one letter she writes, “This isn’t a letter, Wendell, it’s a reminder that I’m thinking about you, as I am most every waking moment.”

In another one penned on “Sabbath Eve, Jan. 17, 1943,” grandma laments that she’d only had one letter last week from dad to her three written. “I want so much to hear from you. Am always so disappointed when no mail comes out the window from you.”

It was that line that made me realize how such a little thing as a letter must have meant the difference between a good day or a bad one, a happy day or a sad one for grandma.

“Must go now dear — will write tomorrow eve as is my custom” were the endings to many of her letters. “Am always anxious to hear from you.”

To those who have served and paid the ultimate price, I thank you this Memorial Day.

And to those mothers who wrote, God bless you.

(Kiaski, a resident of Richmond, is a staff columnist and community editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)

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