The Love Letters
by Kelly F. Barr
Callie sat in an old wooden rocking chair in her grandmother’s attic. Gran had passed away six months ago and left her house, and everything in it, to Callie, who had just graduated from college three months ago. She had a lot of great memories in this house, though she’d never been in the attic before. On the floor in front of her was an old trunk – black with a metal lock. She gripped the lid and tried to lift it, but it didn’t budge.
It must be locked. Where could the key be? Callie scanned the room. A few feet away stood a little table with a drawer. Callie stood and stepped over to the table. She pulled the drawer out. Inside was an old Bible with a black leather cover. Callie picked it up and opened it to the first page – a page showing ownership of the Bible to Grace Randall Witherspoon, her grandmother. She flipped some pages and, in the Book of Psalms, found an old black and white photograph of a handsome man in an army uniform. Callie picked up the photo for a closer look. The man in the photo didn’t look anything like Grandpa Jasper Witherspoon. Callie turned the photo over and, on the back, in block letters, was the name Galen Edward Haskins and the year 1939. She’d never heard that name before. She lowered her hand to place the photo back into the Bible and saw a key.
Callie picked up the key and studied it. It looked large enough to fit the trunk’s lock. She put the photo back in the Bible, returned the Bible to the drawer, and took the key to the trunk. She placed the key into the lock and turned. She heard a click, and leaving the key in the lock, attempted to lift the lid. This time, there was no resistance. She tipped the lid until it stood open, and a puff of dust cascaded down the lid, causing Callie to sneeze. Inside, the first thing Callie saw was a beautiful peach colored gown. She lifted it from the trunk and held it up. Tiny flowers were embroidered all over the bodice. The skirt was silk with a layer of peach colored lace over it. The top of the bodice had short puffy sleeves. Callie imagined the sleeves were to be worn off the shoulders, leaving the woman’s shoulders and neck fully exposed. Had Gran worn this for a special occasion?
Callie laid the dress aside and began to sort through the rest of the items in the trunk. There was a jewelry box with some beautiful pieces of jewelry, including a pearl necklace and a cameo pin. There was a pair of silk white gloves that Callie imagined had once been worn with the gown. Next, she lifted out three books with locks and keys – diaries. She unlocked and opened the first one and immediately recognized her grandmother’s script. She closed it and put the books aside to read later. The last thing Callie lifted from the trunk was a wooden box. When she opened it, she found several yellowed envelopes. They were addressed to Grace Randall, her grandmother’s maiden name.
Callie gently withdrew a piece of paper from the first envelope and unfolded it. It appeared to be a letter written in the same block print she had seen on the back of the photo of Galen Edward Haskins. She read:
MY DEAREST GRACE,
I’VE ALWAYS KNOWN WAR IS UGLY, BUT THIS WAR IS HIDEOUS. I HAVE SEEN THINGS THAT WILL HAUNT ME FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. I CANNOT GIVE YOU ANY DETAILS NOR WOULD I WANT TO. PLEASE PRAY THAT I WILL BE ABLE TO DO MY DUTY, BUT ABOVE ALL PRAY THAT THIS WAR WILL END SOON AND THAT WE WILL BE SENT HOME.
THE ONLY THING THAT GIVES ME ANY JOY AND HOPE IS KNOWING THAT YOU ARE WAITING FOR ME AT HOME. I MISS YOU TERRIBLY. I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY HEART.
Callie blinked and looked at the signature again. It still read GALEN. How could that be? Gran had married Jasper Witherspoon, not Galen Haskins. Gran had never spoken of Galen.
Callie replaced the items back in the trunk, except for the diaries and the box of letters. She took those down to the main floor of the house and placed them on her bedside table to read later. Her curiosity was piqued. What had gone on between Gran and Galen Haskins? Had Grandpa known about Galen?
Callie spent the next evening reading the rest of the letters from Galen. Her heart was heavy for him as each letter expressed his longing for the end of the war and his return to Gran. The last letter expressed how Galen didn’t know how much more of this war he could handle, but he praised God that his unit had been able to make a rescue. He hoped they would make more rescues. This letter ended like all the rest: I MISS YOU TERRIBLY. I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY HEART. YOURS TRULY, GALEN.
That letter was dated October 15, 1942. Why was that the last letter? What had happened to Galen or was it, what had happened to his relationship with Gran?
The next night Callie began searching through Gran’s diaries for mention of Galen. Only the first two entries mentioned him. One was dated January 20, 1944. Received word today that Galen and his unit were captured and taken to a POW camp in Germany not long after the rescue they made On October 15th. Gran wrote: I fear I may never hear from Galen again. Why do men have to go to war?
The next diary entry was dated May 8, 1945, and Gran had written: Germany surrendered today. Lists of the names of POWs released to the U.S. were published in newspapers. Galen’s name is not on any of the lists. Now I must learn how to go on without him.