Veterans Day Friday reminded me of it, brought him and her and them to my mind and took me back to the late 1960s and being a little boy who knew something was going on but just didn’t know what.
Because Aunt Daisy was unsure how long it took a letter to get to Southeast Asia, she mailed one just about every other day, an endless stream of news from Carolina, from home.
And so, there were two things a 19-year-old Jimmy Bass, who’d always bought me milkshakes at the Dairy Maid, could count on in Vietnam: getting shot at by people he didn’t know, and getting letters from Aunt Daisy. She gave me carbon copies of most every one.
Why they decided you needed to be flying a helicopter I do not know, but your daddy tells me you’ve been doing good at it. That’s saying something as I know Newton Bass is hard to please. Before you were born, him and my Hank vowed they had to taste every bottle of whiskey in a store before they could decide which one they wanted to drink for the night. They thought for the longest time that me and your mother felt that was a good excuse. I never thought either of them would quit drinking, but they did, and if you don’t believe in miracles, you should after knowing that. Which is why I expect to see you walking up our driveway any day now.
Of course I don’t know exactly where you are over there, and even if I did I couldn’t pronounce the name of the town. While you’re over there, why not talk the locals on our side into naming places that make sense, like Sunrise or Rock City or Dillon. If I lived over there I couldn’t tell anybody my address because I wouldn’t know how to say it. They’re either too short on consonants and long on vowels or the other way around. Fix that, Jimmy? It’ll give you something to do and me something to take credit for.
Nothing much to report here. We’re still trying to get a preacher. We’ve had all the success of a boy mouse in a roomful of girl cats so far. Last week Farmer started talking in the middle of preaching, without meaning to. Him and the Scrap Iron Quartet sung a couple hymns, then about halfway through our substitute preacher’s talk, here Farmer went. I know it don’t surprise you to hear he was sleeping in church as that’s what he always does when he’s not singing. Don’t know what he does better, snore or sing. But by god he’s always there, ain’t he. So he’d plowed ’til church time as always, then about halfway through the sermon Farmer, deep in slumber and obviously dreaming, hollers out real loud like, “Whoa! Whoa!” None of us paid it much mind but it shook the visiting preacher up pretty good.
Maggie is getting prettier every day. I think she’s in her room writing you a letter right now. We talk about you all the time and hope you get our letters every week. If you can keep from wrecking that plane they’re idiot enough to let you fly, I might let you drive the Falcon again when you get home. Just got the oil changed.
Even after his momma and Mr. Newt got word Jimmy was MIA, Aunt Daisy kept writing. In fact, she wrote more. She didn’t give up. Neither did Jimmy. So she was the least surprised person in town the day the knock came on her door, and standing there, milkshakes in both hands and a duffle bag on his shoulder, stood Jimmy, threadbare and scarred, but smiling. And home.
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