Postcards from the Heart

Postcards from the Heart
July 23
00:00 2015
By Robin Hurdle

As a small child, I saw my grandfather as my own personal superhero; someone who was there in a flash to rescue me any time I needed him.

He was also a wise man.

He helped me through the problems I faced as a teenager and as a young adult.

My grandfather was a man of great moral strength, self-discipline, and fortitude.

Much of what I learned about family came from watching how my grandfather lived his life.

He was always ready to help someone who had fallen on hard times.

He was a simple man who loved his family.

To understand how I learned to see him in a more defined light, I will need to refer to a time in the past.

The year is 1944, and the United States is in the middle of World War II.

Somewhere in the Italian countryside a man hides in a barn and scribbles a note of his love to his family back home.

Although he has many titles—devoted husband, loving father to two small children, brother to eight siblings—for the next two years he will be called a foot soldier.

He endures the harsh climate, with the cold rain and mud, while forced to view the ravages of war and smell the stench of death.

Many days, he will go hungry, having very little to eat.

His strength comes from the letters sent by his family – the smell of his wife’s perfume on her letters keeps his spirits up as he keeps moving—one more day, one more step—closer to home.

My perspective of my grandfather changed many years after he passed away when I tried to salvage a time-worn scrapbook of postcards of scenic pictures of Italy that he had sent home while he fought in the war.

Unfortunately, black construction paper was stuck to the backs of the postcards.

I hoped that as I removed those cards from the album, that perhaps they would contain messages on the back.

As I worked my way through the old scrapbook, I was discouraged by the growing stack of blank postcards.

However, I did find a postcard that I truly loved of a famous bridge in Italy, so I decided that I would keep this one for myself.

As I removed it from the book, a small part of the black paper came loose, revealing the beginning of a letter to my father from my grandfather.

My dad couldn’t have been more than seven or eight years old at the time it was written.

I could hardly believe I had found a lost treasure, long forgotten and pasted to the musty pages of a dilapidated memory book!

The words came from beyond the grave, more than fifty years after they were written.

For many hours I carefully steamed the pages to loosen the rock-hard glue and black paper which covered the lost messages.

I cleaned each postcard as if I were working on a painting from one of the masters.

When I finished, I had a wonderful collection of my grandfather’s postcards to his family.

I could read his words, “Love Forever, Your Father.”

As I pondered the word “forever,” I wondered if it was a sign from a man facing the possibility of not returning home.

Over and over, I would read the postcards, closing my eyes and seeing him clearly, shining brown eyes and smelling of Old Spice.

These letters made me see my grandfather as more than the Paw-Paw who held me on his lap and sang “You are My Sunshine,” or walked me to church on Sunday.

I saw him as a man longing to return to his family and fearful of never again being able to hold his two small children or kiss his wife.

I saw him as a real human, not a superhero, but someone who felt pain, had sorrows, and faced his fears. His words touched me and changed me forever.

He remained strong and courageous through many hardships during his life, but with everything he endured, he remained gentle and kind to everyone he met.

Maybe the experience of living for two years on the frontlines of war forced him to face his mortality and made him value more highly freedom, life and family.

I pray that my children (and someday my grandchildren) will see in me the same values that I saw in him.

Each day I try to live my life in a way that honors his memory.


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