Friday, March 22, 2013

The War Years -- Chapter Two-A

*Look for a new posting every Tuesday and Friday*

I thought I would offer a bit of explanation as to how the team of "Amanda and Dad" went about writing the James Neville and Catherine books that has led us to be providing our readers with a "Chapter 2-A" today.

When we finally started on the war letter stash the letters were spread out on the dining room table in my house in Cumming, Georgia.  I've previously mentioned that the letters were sorted by date and letter writer before the reading process began.  Notes were taken on every letter on a blank over sized desk type calendar; one calendar sheet for his letters and one for hers.

After a couple of months worth of letters were read I actually started the writing process and quickly realized that the chapters would be defined by where James Neville was stationed; what "Camp" he was in.  I often called Amanda and read interesting letters to her over the phone and we shared the early misery felt by James Neville and the loneliness and fatigue of Catherine.  I finished writing Chapter One in about two weeks since it only contained about three or four weeks of letters. and then e-mailed it to Amanda so that she could see the form and style I was using.

Chapter Two took longer as he was in Abilene for over three months.  Writing was becoming more challenging as decisions about what to include became more difficult.  As basic training in Texas drew to a close and he boarded a train to begin his "Tech School" training I was able to put a period on Chapter Two and send it off to Amanda for her editing.  At the same time I was able to give Amanda a box containing all the letters through August 10, 1944 along with the daily notes I had made.

Catherine and Duke in college
While I proceeded to read letters written during the latter half of August and continuing into December that would become Chapter Three of our Saga, Amanda was enjoying her first actual encounter with the 1944 version of her Grandmother and a Grandfather she really had no memory of.  She became hooked immediately.  Soon we talked and Amanda convinced me that we needed to include more of Catherine's letters or at least more excerpts of Catherine's letters to provide people with a clearer appreciation of mother's "poetic" writing style.

After making several changes to "my" Chapters One and Two, Amanda introduced the idea that several letters that were exchanged in July deserved special treatment.  So, Amanda put together what became known as Chapter Two-A.  We include it at this time for your reading pleasure.

James Neville and Catherine,
The War Years – 1944-1946

Chapter Two – A
“Should I not come home…”

There is a particularly powerful exchange between James Neville and Catherine that deserves special attention.  On July 18, 1944, he writes to her on a subject that had remained unspoken about up to this point, what should happen if he does not return from the war. “Should I not come home, all I would ever expect of you is just to remember that I loved you. Whatever you decided to do or live would be strictly right and proper from any standpoint. I love you. Now don’t let these last few paragraphs in this letter worry and upset you. If I were miserable and did not expect to return I could not write them. They are things that should be said by any soldier at some time when he has courage to say them. I know of many persons who ruined their lives because they lived in the past. I shall never mention these things again, so let me say them now once and for all. … I would not want my children’s life darkened by a mourning mother.” 

When she receives the letter with this very serious subject matter, she writes a long and powerful letter that exemplifies not only her deep and abiding love for her husband, but also her character, her faith, and her continued ability to say just the right thing, in just the right way.  Her letter is re-printed here almost in its entirety, with just a few paragraphs removed where she strayed from the larger subject at hand. 

“Darling, I love you,

I got back to the P.O. early today, right on the stroke of 12 noon. Your letter was waiting for me.  I opened it and read the first few lines, as I always do just to see how you were feeling.  I knew almost before I had read a line or two that it was a happy letter. It made me happy too.  I came in the house humming aloud. Myrtle wanted to know if someone had sprinkled stardust on me. I felt as if they had.  All your letters are dear to me and I feel I couldn’t live without them, but one like this one today is perfect.  It “sends me” as the youngsters say today. So full of humor and news and understanding, so very dear. I love you so much. 

The paragraph or two about our going on here if you should not come back slipped up on me and caught me by surprise.  I had hardly wiped aside the tears of laughter at some foolishness before other tears were there. You are right though in feeling that something should be said on the subject while it can still be said sanely and without hysteria. I should lie, and you would know it, if I said the idea never occurred to me that you would not return. I do push it out, though, immediately it comes, or rather, it is pushed out by my faith and real belief, my “feeling” as we call it, that you will come back to us. If I should be wrong, tho, you may know that we’ll go on here just as we are now – working and missing you and loving you. We cannot live in the past, you are right about that. And whatever the future should bring, we must face it with courage and accept whatever happiness is there. I should not be a mourner and inflict greater unhappiness on our children, but I should be very, very lonely, with a deep longing that nothing could ever fill.  You must remember that if you are ever tempted to carelessness that might keep you from coming back to us. I love you. You know how much, and how much we need you.

Read the rest of Chapter Two-A here....


Jimmy LeDuke (I'd love to hear from you...feel free to comment below, or click HERE to send me an e-mail.)


1 comment:

  1. Awesome. This is such a great testament to the wonderful woman Bubba is!