Dear Rod

Don’t worry, I still love you.  However, I want to be sure we are doing the right thing when we get married after you return from Viet Nam.  So, if it’s okay with you, I’d like to date some of the guys who have been asking me out.

Or words to that effect.  I sure wasn’t the first GI to get one of those “Dear John” letters.  I know I wasn’t the last.  Nevertheless, when you’re the one who gets such a note from home, it makes you feel like you really are alone.

Some of that aloneness is self-imposed by wondering what the heck is going on without a way to get an immediate answer.  After being written and sent to me, it took another week for my first response to get back home, then yet one more week for a reply.  Those three weeks were a long time.  Further iterations dragged out the process and conversation.  The information, the attitudes, and the feelings – from both parties – quickly become out of date.  Sometimes a statement, a tone, or a glimpse of body language needs an immediate reaction to steer the course of a conversation, the course of a relationship, and the course of the future of two and more lives.

In terms of tectonic plates, a three week period is a nano-moment.  Not so with people coping with eighty year lifespans.  Reactions, responses and replies too often come too long after the moment that prompted them.  So many thoughts and deeds intervene with the conversation.  It’s almost like a monologue in an echo chamber.

One of those echoes becomes a question asked of oneself:  well, how do I feel about all that was, is, and may come to be?  Soon, the thoughts can evolve from salvage and restoration.  A charming old house has value only if the timbers are strong.  A house of cards held together with varnish remains a house of cards.  Sometimes, it does all come back together.  Usually not. Even when reconstituted, it’s a different relationship.

One’s pause to confirm created another’s moment to reflect.  Who was I, really?  The same of her, really.  Even more so, who were we as one?  Years later, I learned an expression I’ve often used ever since:  there’s never time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over.  It’s an idea I wish I’d been aware of earlier; it applied so very well here.

My time of reflection gave me great pause as to the questions of who was she, was I, and were we?  Perhaps she had changed; perhaps I just finally took the time to see.  Independent of that, I know I had changed.  Thus, we had changed.  My reaction that had started as feelings of confusion and abandonment became those of enlightenment and confidence.

Time and space are powerful factors in thought.

This was not entirely an intellectual or philosophical evolutionary process though.  No doubt some of that enlightenment came through the guidance of my/our Senior Advisor on the hallway floor outside his room in the St. George Hotel.  At least that’s what he says.  Based on Bill’s only hinted at description of the night, I must have poured out my heart and guts, but, thankfully, that gut part was only figurative though it certainly could have been otherwise.  Apparently it was an all-nighter.

I’ve known my dear friend Bill for well over forty years.  During this time, that night has come up on two or three occasions.  Briefly, but it’s happened.  Never by Bill; only by me.  A few words; a few sentences.  I’ve always feared pursuing a full conversation about what I said and did.  He’s always showed the grace not to give an unsolicited accounting.  He wears the Senior Advisor mantle well.

At this moment and at this point as I write, I intended to project what I might have said that night; what I might have done.  In fact, I wrote several estimates of my words and my actions there on the floor outside his room.  After two days of reflection I’ve chosen to hit delete on my thoughts.  There; done!

What my booze-clouded mind blocked me from retaining that night and my dear friend has sagely refrained from reminding me should, it seems, remain locked in the back of my mind and behind his lips, as it has over these four decades, and counting.  He’s my Senior Advisor.  Who the hell am I not to heed to him?

People often wish for a chance to get a “do over.”  Then in Saigon and later back in the United States I had my opportunity.  I chose to do it differently rather than do it again.  Though one can never know what might have been, one can certainly imagine it.  My time of reflection had enlightened me to a different perspective on her, her thoughts and her actions.  As it had on my own.  It’s through that reflection that I am so thankful events took the course they did.  For her.  For me.

It was best that there was to be no us.

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