As I gazed out the window, I noticed the cold days of winter were here. I could see snowdrifts more than five feet high.
I sipped my hot cocoa.
Susan was checking in on me right about now. “What is it?” I asked.
“I don’t want to trouble you,” she responded, “But, it is my job to make sure you are taken care of.”
I responded all was well and asked, “Could you please hand me my picture?”
Graciously, she handed it to me. “Why do you look at this picture every night?” she asked with honest curiosity.
She had never asked before, so I had never told her. I simply stated, “I don’t want to bother you about a boring story from an old man.”
Yet she pleaded, “No, it’s no bother. I would like to know.”
I took another sip of hot cocoa and began sharing the story with her.
“I was barely in my twenties,” I began. It seemed like a trite exercise, yet I continued. “It was during the war. My battalion was stationed in Italy to keep the peace.”
Susan listened attentively as I continued to share with her the story.
“It must have been in early 1943. I had met a girl; a girl from the USO. It was a gathering meant to boost the morale of the soldiers.”
The story continued. I mentioned to her the music of the day and the party. “Me and my friends enjoyed the peace that could be found at such an event.”
“The USO girl that I met at the dance was named Harmony,” I continued.
“It was the first night I had met her, but the warmth that I felt as we danced touched me deep. Our battalion, after a brief respite from heavy combat, would be back on the front lines in less than two weeks. I danced with her slowly while we listened to a selection of the most moving lyrical ballads of my day.”
The story and the memories also caused my own affectations to surface. “My friends and I were going to be sent to the German front in less than two weeks. Harmony promised to write me letters so I would have somebody to talk to. At least, it would help me overcome the emptiness of heart also accompanied by the war.”
“We held each other closely as we danced. The pain and the loneliness of the war almost vanished as I was struck by a feeling close to love. She was a beautiful blonde in her early twenties. At the time, I had no wife or kids. Her letters would be all I had to accompany me on the long, lonely nights. Before the evening was over, as was customary, the photographer took a picture of her and I standing close.”
Susan continued to listen to the story, captivated by the sentimentality. “Here it is. It was almost seventy years ago.” I showed her the picture. She, with sympathy, gave it back to me.”
“Me and my battalion moved to the front lines of battle in Germany. I never saw her again,” I told Susan, awkward about sharing such a personal memory.
“I got one letter from her. I was in Germany fighting during the bloody last days of the war in Europe. In the letter she said that she had to go home to America. I sent her letter after letter, but never got a response.”
Susan looked upon the photo with new-found interest.
“When the war ended and I got back to the states I got married. I had kept that memory hidden for more than fifty years. If I were to be asked ‘What is the one thing you could change in your life?’ My answer would be to wish the night would not have ended. Now, that memory is the only thing, looking back, that makes my life feel incomplete.”