Returning Home

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Dear Robert,
Even though you’re returning home, I wanted to write this letter and send it to you. It will be impossible to see you when you arrive, so I have made arrangements to have my letter hand-delivered.

There are so many things that I wanted to tell you and thank you for, but these few will have to do, I am sorry to say.

military-funeralTo begin with, I want to say how proud I am of you and all the things you have accomplished. While you were living at our house and going to college, we had so many memorable times together. I especially recall the time you took me skating. It was my first time on skates, and I was falling all over the place.

It’s amazing that I won a free admission ticket for winning that hokey-pokey contest. The judge thought I was putting my right foot in and “shaking it all about,” when actually I was desperately trying to not fall down and make a fool out of myself. I must have looked silly wearing those white skates. Remember how we got to the session late and they were the only pair left in my size? You had your own skates that were black and shiny and perfect.

The ten-speed bike you let me use while you were away was also special to me. Even though it was way too high for me, I always felt proud riding it around the neighborhood. I was afraid to tell you in my letters that I’d crashed it and put a big scratch on the top bar. I was hoping you wouldn’t notice, but it doesn’t matter anymore.

There is something else I did that I want to confess. Sometimes, while you were away, I went into your room downstairs. One night, in particular, I got curious and went through the duffel bag you left behind after your last visit home. I should not have done that and feel ashamed now. But, even though I invaded your privacy, I did not reveal the secret that you guarded so closely. I understand now, more than ever, the importance of your plan to let us think that you were assigned to a safer area.

I need to tell you that the things we did together and the places we went were very important to me. It always seemed that everybody else in my life was either too busy or too angry to take me places the way you did. The memories of these good times will remain with me forever.

A package arrived from your mother the other day. It was a mosaic plaque she said you wanted me to have one day. I think it’s an incredible piece of art.

She told me it was a present to you from the people you were helping. It is a soldier on a gallant-looking, white armored horse, with the word “valor” inscribed on top. Soon I will get the foreign inscription translated. I will always treasure it; thank you for thinking of me and leaving me this precious gift.

For a while, I thought you had forgotten about me, and I feared that was why my letters went unanswered for so long. Every once in a while, your mother would call and ask us to send you supplies that you asked for, especially books since you’d written that you had a lot of free time on your hands and reading was a way to kill it. She told me that you often would
pass along your greetings to me and ask her how I was doing. I always felt better when I heard that. She said that being stationed at headquarters was boring and routine, but that, thank God, you were there, bored and reading paperbacks, instead of where the fighting was. If your mother had suspected otherwise, I am sure that she would have been sick with worry. You did the right thing concealing the truth for so long; it was very courageous.

When I can finally bring myself to remove your possessions from your room, I would like to keep some of the pictures I found of you in your lieutenant’s uniform. I am going to show my friends what my cousin looked like and tell them he was a great friend of mine and a very brave soldier. I am so very proud of you and am going to miss you terribly.

I must finish this letter now because I have to send it to Major Burns at the base in Coronado, California. Your mother told me to send it to him and he would make sure that it stayed with you. The Major said that he would place this letter in your uniform breast pocket, above your heart, and beneath your medals. I know it will be with you forever.

Your cousin,
Michael

3 Responses to "Returning Home"

  1. Mary Eaton  Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 17:04

    Dear Mike,
    I suddenly feel as though the water works can’t be shut off. It is with a warm heart and much gratitude to you, that i thank you for sharing this letter for all to read and enjoy…. Thanks, Mary

    Reply
  2. Bobby  Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 22:32

    How can one come so close to putting the feelings of those who have lost so much with the compassion and care that I can only If it were right to do or say put in a similar category as Merton’s poem…For My Brother Missing In Action …….thanks Mike for we are truly all bothers.

    Reply
  3. Jerry Bolton  Monday, May 24, 2010 at 3:50

    Expertly written short story. At first, and for about halfway through the story I gave no thought that Robert was dead. But the writer kept mentioning his “safe” duty and I finally saw the light. As I said, this was a very well composed short story, one I thoroughly enjoyed.

    Reply

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