Saturday, December 08, 2007

What I've Been Up To

Apart from trying to recover from a severe case of erythrodermia, I have been pondering issues of Life, Death, and Family, especially as related to the last two months of my recently-deceased brother's life.

Because Pablofisherman was a lifelong bachelor, and because our other brother had passed away in 1998, I was the person closest to him at the end. It was a privilege to be entrusted with his care, although it was a tough job. I was able to do most of the case management remotely thanks to the Internets, but our in-person visits were all too few. At least at the end I was able to be with him when it really counted.

Because he was a WWII Navy vet, after a memorial service at a local venue, he was honored with a military burial at the Riverside National Cemetery, complete with full honor guard, live buglers and a 15-gun salute! One very precious memory of that day was when the chaplain for the Disabled War Veterans Memorial Team conducting the ceremony greeted me upon arrival with "Shalom!" He said he'd been with the U.S. Army in 1947 in Palestine and was studying Hebrew now so he could read the Bible in Hebrew. At the conclusion of the service, when this 80-something-year-old Hispanic-American limped over with the ritually-folded flag and knelt in front of me to present it to me "on behalf of a grateful Nation," I was truly overwhelmed.

During Paul's last weeks, I was pruning the boxes of his most important documents and came upon two shoeboxes full of letters. They were the 225 letters he had written home from the Navy from the day he enlisted in March, 1943, at age 17(!) until the day he was discharged in April, 1946. Sitting by his bedside as he dozed peacefully, I started to read these letters. When he was wakeful, I read them out loud to him, but eventually he was dozing most of the time, so I read the most of first 50 to myself. I haven't read the rest yet, but I selected letter number 25 to read at his memorial service. Here it is, typos and all:
April 18, 1943
11:00 A.M.

Dear Folks,

Received your letters and I am glad you liked the picture. The finished ones should be ready next week. Tell Ralph that the white shoulder stripe signifies a seaman.

I got my copy of the insurance policy and I am sending it along. You will notice that everything is one line lower than it should be. That is because it is a carbon copy, and I guess the typist was careless.

So Stan [a neighbor] is going into the army soon? Well, I can just see him carrying a pack for 20 miles. They'll probably have to carry him after a mile or so.

This morning at synagogue, I met two fellows I want to school with. They are in another camp though, and I won't be able to visit them, but I was glad to see them anyway. I heard from George K. this week and he seems pretty enthusiastic about enlisting, so I may be seeing him soon too.

Speaking of synagogue, I've been there more since I came here than I have in four years previous. So it looks like the Navy not only makes men, but it is making a good Jew out of me too.

All the other boys have gone to church and there are just the three Jewish boys and other guards. The place seems funny, so quiet and deserted.

That is about all there is too write about so I will close with

Love to all,
Paul

So what I've been up to since I got home is a blog containing all the letters. When it reaches a critical mass, I'll supply you with the link.

8 comments:

Shari said...

This post just brings tears to my
eyes. Thank you SO MUCH,
SavtaDotty.

Your fan... Shari

Anonymous said...

This will be a wonderful tribute to your brother, Savtadotty.
Thanks for sharing this.
Claude from Blogging in Paris

Udge said...

What a wonderful idea!

j-jen said...

I'm almost afraid to leave a comment for having Google eat it. But here goes:

What a wonderful tribute to your dear brother. Can't wait to read it. (and just read that I've just said what Claude said. :)

sparrow said...

Thanks for sharing such a personal part of your life. We don't know each other, but I feel privileged to have been given a glimpse of your life and your brothers. I look forward to reading other snippets, if you feel it is right to share them. Hugs from a Kiwi

Bert said...

This sounds like good material for a book, Savta Dotty. Beautiful posting.

Savtadotty said...

Thank you, fans!

Lioness said...

Such a gorgeous thing. It's so important isn't it, to see them live on through their handwriting.