Papa Jay married Mema in the preacher’s living room. He was on leave, and they had decided to go ahead with it, so Mema ran out to buy a dress and some flowers. Papa wore his uniform. Aunt Margarete baked a pecan pie to serve afterward, and Papa still talks about how good it was. A week later, he was boarding a train bound for California, then a plane over the Pacific.
Papa lived on the Air Force base in Korea, which was pennies poor, the huts slapped together of corrugated tin.
“See, back then, we didn’t have computers,” he’ll remind me, so he sent letters home by airmail.
I imagine Mema at their little house in Madison, Illinois, waiting those long weeks for the post to arrive. A few days after the wedding, she had gone back to work, commuting across the river from Madison to St. Louis.
When Papa came home from Korea, he was stationed at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas. They lived in a shabby apartment and propped up their broken bed on orange crates, and Mema remembers crying over the desolation of it all.
“It was hard,” she said, but never that it was bad. In all his poking and joking, I’ve never heard Papa wish away the time he spent serving his duty.
The war came between them, as it did so many soldiers and brides, and I have to wonder if that’s why those folks are still side-by-side today— if the war helped seal their love, like gold refined by fire. A piece of him stayed in Madison, and a part of her flew the sea, and so true love must be patient. It must write letters and wait for letters. It must go back to work in the meantime. It must bear the long days, believe God in the lonely nights, hope for the soldiers to come home, endure the ocean separating them, and only when it has stood the fires of war will it come out brazened.
“Love never ends.”
~ 1 Corinthians 13:8
3 thoughts on “A Wartime Love”
Oh Bethany, this one brought tears filling my eyes and sweet but hard memories of those days as a Navy wife. Watching your loved one slowly slip from sight as the ship pulls away (or on a plane as you Mema and Papa Jay experienced) from shore is like nothing you can explain unless you are there. But equally as exciting is watch it v e r y slowly slide right into shore after a 6 or 7 month deployment. Yes letters were like gold and in our case cassette tapes with our voices were shared. Very little phone communication due to the expense. I look forward, if it be God’s will, to celebrate 68 years of marriage of care and love on one another as your Grandparents do! We will have 50 years n October and Wow…that is just about as special! Thank you for the way you shared this precious story of their love!
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i love the picture of the ship coming back into port! i’m so glad this story reminded you of your own, and congratulations on almost-fifty years! 🤎
This was beautifully written. There is something very special to me about old and wartime love, and you managed to capture it in this piece. Thank you for sharing, Bethany ❤
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