Sunday, May 26, 2019

Who knows if we shall meet again

Unsure how to overcome the distance between my son and me, I wonder at the apparent ease with which my father seemed to communicate with me, starting at the time when I was drafted to the Army, nearly thirty years ago. 
At the time, this ease surprised me, because back home, talking to the old man had become next to impossible. He had been growing hard of hearing and—even worse—refusing, in his own stubborn manner, to admit it. 
“Can’t you raise your voice?” he would ask. “Why d’you keep whispering like that? What’s the matter, you afraid to speak out?” 
And when I repeated my words, louder this time, he would respond by cupping his ear and blurting out at the top of his voice, “Eh?”
But then, once the conversation was transferred to paper, it started flowing. I found myself waiting eagerly for his letters and care packages, but would never admit it to him, which is something that today, I regret.
In 1940, the idea of the United States getting involved in WWII was unpopular, yet it became real overnight, when Congress passed the Selective Service Act. A year later, in October 1941, I became one of the lucky recruits. To me, it felt like an opportunity for adventure. 
I boarded a Long Island train, and when it pulled with a whistle into the large brick station at the induction center, I was eager to begin my three months basic training. It was intensive: march, drill, read manuals, tend to your rifle. The instructor was all muscle, and the first thing he said was, “I’m your mother, father, and uncle, and you’d better respect me. Anybody who doesn’t believe me, step out!” 
I didn’t believe him, but stayed in line. So did the others. 
“The Marine Corps,” he said, “is one of the most elite fighting forces in the world.”
More or less in unison, we said, “Yes, sir.” 
“We serve on U.S. Navy ships, protect naval bases, guard U.S. embassies, and provide an ever-ready quick strike force. You know why?”
Not one of us dared to ask, “Why, sir?”
So he went on to say, “To protect U.S. interests anywhere in the world. That’s your mission. And as for mine, you know what that is?”
“No, sir.”
“To beat you into shape.” 
“Yes, Sir.” 
After that, we had to get our uniform tailored. Your blouse had to be form fitting and your pants should not be hanging. I was issued my new uniform and equipment, which made me wish, “If my dad could see me now!”
Meanwhile, my father rushed one care package after another to me. Looking now at the shoebox where I stored all of his letters, it’s easy to figure out what connected them, what connected us. 
Knowing my fascination with the stars, and especially with movie stars and with performers of both classical and popular music, he sent me a constant stream of news and magazine clippings. Among other things there was a tape of a song titled I’ll be Dreaming You. Being bashful at the time, I had no girlfriend at the barracks, nor did I have one left behind—but even so, the lyrics evoked a painful longing as if I had one, as if I recalled the sweetness of her lips: 

The magic of your kiss. your eyes
And now like then, the bells do ring
Was it the spell of sunrise
Or the scent of spring?
The fading tremor of the train
Who knows if we shall meet again

Ms. Poznansky's characters are well developed, excellent plots and this is a truly outstanding collection of 3 novels. Most highly recommended 
~Serenity, TOP 100 REVIEWER

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