Something Cool


Sheryl Keiper


Sheryl Keiper-9d840d76


“Do you want to see something really cool?” I said to the new owners of my parents’ house.

“Sure,” they responded. The young couple seemed adorable. They were so energetically genuine and full of hope in purchasing the house that my parents had lived in for  53 years.

I then proceeded to open a 1940’s old, black, tattered suitcase with two worn leather-trimmed snaps. It was my deceased mother’s original suitcase that she used to travel by train to visit my Dad at his training camp in NC during World War II.  I unfolded a treasure trove of bundles of worn letters with red shiny ribbons holding them together tied in the most perfect bows I had ever seen.

I carefully unfolded a Western Union brown telegram envelope. Trimmed in a red bar on the back of the envelope were the words from the Western Union shipping service: “You describe it… we will buy it and see that it is delivered on time. Selected telegram included with each order.”

Wow. My eyeballs were popping! This certainly wasn’t a two-day Amazon prime promise of delivery. The telegram was dated March 29, 1942. It was addressed to my mother, “Estella.”

It was sent from Petersburg, Virginia and it succinctly read “leaving tomorrow.  Destination unknown. Will write as soon as possible…” Love, Victor.

The impact of this newly discovered telegram hit me hard in my heart. I realized, staring at the purple print message, how fearful my father must have felt. He was a mere 23 year old private in the US Army at the height of World War II. How fearless the “greatest generation” must have been! And here was the physical telegram from my father–so objective, yet frighteningly so in its simplicity.

I tried to imagine my father’s thoughts on this date–his fears, his dreams, his goals. He had obviously fallen in love with my mother and was appropriately anxious.  I read a previous letter he wrote to her from Camp Lee, Virginia on American Red Cross stationery. This letter was dated March 17, 1942 only a week prior to the telegram stating he was going to the war zone.

In that letter he said “most of the boys looked at your picture and said you were beautiful and attractive. And half of them wanted to know how I rated such a good looking girl.”

So much for Dad’s confidence as he was probably one of the best-looking Italian men that God created. He was tall and slim with a mass of black hair and dazzling white teeth and huge, brown soulful eyes. Only he couldn’t personally see his charm.

As I folded the letter and the telegram carefully, I was overcome with mixed emotions. I apologized to the sweet, young couple for my moment of sentimentality in taking up their time as I handed them the keys to my parents’ house.

As they thanked me for the keys, we did a group hug and I noticed the young woman had a tear running down her cheek. As I turned and wished them luck, I noticed that the young man’s eyes were moist, too. So were mine as a walked away from my childhood home and the memories of courage and love preserved in these missives of the “greatest generation” of all time….