Sometimes, Love Needs a T-Shirt

My Aunt Daisy was married to my Uncle Claude for like a thousand years. Claude passed away before she did, and when Daisy went to join him, all we had left of her was contained in two medium-sized cardboard boxes. Wigs. Old copies of Watchtower magazines. Houseshoes. A bag of really creepy dolls. And there was also a bundle of mail, and hidden between old utility statements and Christmas cards from people who didn’t know she was a Witness (or just didn’t know what else to do during the holidays) was a letter written on narrow, frilled blue stationary folded neatly inside a perfectly square envelope of the same shade.

The postmark on it was October 16, 1958, in Cincinatti, OH, Aunt Daisy’s home town. It was from a Mr. Barry (or Parry) Tatum (probably Barry) who had loose, sweeping handwriting that leaned pleadingly to the right. The letter was addressed to a Mrs. (or Miss—one salutation had been written, then the other written on top of it) Daisy Hart, which I assume was her maiden name. It wasn’t my uncle’s.

My mother and I were going through Daisy’s things when the letter caught my eye. I opened it carefully and squinted, trying to navigate the thicket of wildly crossed Ts and too-long commas. The first thing I noticed was that the date written in the upper right-hand corner was the same as the postmark—October 16th. It had been mailed the very day it was written. Must have been urgent.

Hi, he started,
I am sorry that things turned out the way they did, I realise (sic) now I treated you so unkind. I can’t say that our love was blind, I wanted to prove something to myself and it turn the other way on me, you were the one person I had met and loved that I didn’t want any thing to happen to…

“It’s a love letter!” I squealed, louder than I’d meant to. “..And it’s not from Uncle Claude!” My mother rushed over to see what I was talking about and kind of snatched the letter from my hands, face all lit up and smiling all foolish.

“Don’t judge!” she said, instantly defensive. “He could have been her long lost love!”
Looking back on the letter’s discovery, I’m surprised by how unscandalized we both were by the whole thing. Uncle Claude was (and still is) my mom’s favorite uncle, and my family is fiercely protective of flesh, of property, of honor (and of food, but that’s another story for another time). From her, I would have expected “How could she do that to Uncle Claude, keeping some love letter from another man around the whole time she was married?!” But no. It was instant understanding, protectiveness; defense, not of coveting or secrets, but of love and its complexity.

I kind of looked at her with a secret smile for awhile. That little light tiptoeing through her pores was directly connected to some story unaware of how old it is, some memory that doesn’t know it should probably quiet down after all these years. She was so cute. Maybe she’s got a letter or two stashed somewhere? I didn’t ask or pester, probably because I have my own stubborn recollections loitering in my brain, ready to riot at the slightest urging.

I get it. It’s like buying a t-shirt at an amusement park. The pressed rose stashed in your grandmother’s bible, the little plush bear in a dog costume in the shoebox under your bed, Aunt Daisy’ 53 year old letter—they all say, “Hey, remember that time we got on that crazy ride together and trusted our lives to some unseen force and were sent hurling way, way, high up in the atmosphere and we were scared and thrilled and terrified and alive and thought we were gonna die but we didn’t? And remember how proud and brave we were when it was done? Let’s buy something we can hold to remember; maybe the day will rush through our fingers..”

And doesn’t love deserve a t-shirt?
What is it but a crazy ride?

It seems Barry or Parry and Daisy had quite a ride.

…After I lost you Daisy I really can’t get myself adjusted to what I really want. Darling I know that it’s impossible for you to forgive me for what I done to you but I’m begging you to please try. You are the one person I’ll always love no matter what happens but I know I can never have you again. From all my heart, Daisy Darling, God bless you and keep you and guide you…

I wonder what rushed through Aunt Daisy’s fingers when she held that letter 20, 30 years after marrying my uncle. A day that she and Barry/Parry spent walking by a stream. The sound of his heart thumping in the fiery red of his contrition, splashed against the blue pages. Or confirmation that in choosing my Uncle, she made the right choice. Whatever she felt, I have pledged to protect it, filing the letter among my own keepsakes and

A crazy ride, indeed.

***

Tracy, known to the internets as Brokey McPoverty, is from Louisville, KY. A former English major and a writer since age 8, most people are only familiar with her humor writing via brokeymcpoverty.wordpress.com, but says her first love is prose/literary fiction and would love to be published in either some day.

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