30 November 2009

A Long Distance Merry Christmas from Grandpa

I must admit that the Christmas Season hasn't caught on with me yet. We had a great Advent service at church this week. I hear Christmas carols every time I turn on the car radio--and I don't turn them off as I did before Thanksgiving.

Today I even took my mandolin out in the hall at school, but all I could play was "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." Is that even a Christmas song? It certainly didn't feel that way.

I have been busy with Christmas things--picking out gifts, preparing Christmas cards. That's all on pace (or ahead of pace). One project I took up was scanning in my Grandpa's war letters. Between December of 1941 and September of 1943, he sent my Grandma hundreds of letters and telegrams, sometimes twice a day. She saved every one.

Tonight I was scanning letters from their first Christmas apart. I found this handwritten letter, and I just want to share it. Those of you who knew Grandpa and loved him like I do, will quickly recognize him and miss him all the more (he died three years ago).

Modoc, Cal.
Christmas Eve --'41

My dearest Elinor,

This is a little note to tell you that I still love you very much and that I will be home tonight. It was impossible for me to make any arrangements to come during the daytime. I will be lucky if I get in much earlier than we did the last time. The boy that drove the car in is Liutenant Binkley, the new medical officer. He knows Dybby quite well from the Hollywood Hospital.

I hope you are having a better X-mas Eve than we are. We are having another terrific sandstorm here, with the tent practically being blown away. Since you are not with me, it makes little difference what the weather is. We did have 3 wonderful days together, and will have many more.

I was glad to get Lt. Binkley to drive the car in tonight, because of the danger of the car freezing up out here. I will have a few hours in the morning to rush up to March Field again to transact some very necessary business.

I hope you had a pleasant and grand time on X-mas Eve and day. I am sorry that world events prevented our being together this year. Better luck next year, Babe!

Well, Elinor, be nice. I will be home tonight (Christmas night). Hope you are well and happy.----

Mucho Love o -----------Al

Those of you who don't know him will recognize in his spirit a little glimmer of Christmas. I know that when I lived far away from Tennessee, how fond I was of the song, "I'll Be Home for Christmas." Perhaps we will all realize how fortunate we are, thanks to the effort--ages ago--of men like Lieutenant Albert G. Dittes.

A few notes.
1. From the tone of the letter, Grandpa will come down to Glendale (where Grandma lived) on Christmas Day. I checked on the maps. Modoc is almost 700 miles away from Glendale, up in the northeastern corner of California, near the borders of Oregon and Nevada. That must have been quite a trip in the days before interstate highways.
2. I'll check with Grandma about the details of this visit. If you want to see why Grandpa was so lovesick, just look at her!
3. I got these letters before Grandpa passed away, and I remember asking him, "Why did you tell Grandma, 'Be nice!' Did you think she every wouldn't?" Grandpa just gave me a funny grin, and I realized that he couldn't help teasing her--even from hundreds of miles away.

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