Letter to Kathleen after my Dad died - 1976
(I have been going through my letters to my sister, which her daughter brought to me a few weeks ago. Most of them are very ordinary and boring, but these two might be of some interest. If an explanation is needed I will put that in italics.)
August 8, 1976
I really do fly home tomorrow. (My dad died on August 1 and I had been in Bismarck for
three weeks. Home for this year was Christchurch, New Zealand.
(Kathleen and her husband had been there for a week until the day before Dad
died. He was her step-father.)
I had such a pathetic letter from Philip. Andrea had hives, Jonathan was refusing to go to school, Philip hadn't made the beds or washed dishes or ironed, etc. and he sounded so depressed. But it was written two weeks ago.
I spent Friday and Saturday morning with Sister Rose Alma (our aunt who was a nun. She was dying of cancer). She looks ill and coughs painfully. I doubt she'll survive much longer. She has lots of pain
and constant headaches and can't sleep and is so tired she needs to rest every few hours. She thinks Rose (her sister and another of our aunts) is senile - and told me some of the things she did.
"She hides the candy and if she offered me a piece, she'd cut it in three and then complain that I took the best part. She accused me of sneaking the strawberries that she'd frozen and forgot. She was very upset that I wanted to go to confession at the parish house and decided I must have committed some horrible sin - probably I'd been kissing the priest. She prepares clothes for me to sew but bastes them all wrong and insists they are to be sewn as they are and if anyone resists she refuses to wear the clothes." I told Sister that she seemed fine to us when we visited her a few weeks ago.
(Kathy and Neal and I made a round of the relatives in far away
places during the week they were there, as Dad seemed to be better at
But Sister said, "She always was like that when people came - but before and after she would be terrible. I went on a retreat and told her I wouldn't come back to stay with her." She replied and Sister let me try to decipher the letter. It was cold and formal and very funny except not to Sister. It was signed, Sincerely Yours, Rose Szarkowski
I think Grace and Judy have straightened out their differences. (Judy is my other sister and she was unwilling to pretend that Grace was her mother, and call her by that name, which really upset Grace.)
I've done a lot of talking with Grace about how we never told our Mom or Dad that we loved them, so we felt it would somehow be disloyal to say it to her. She made me cry when she told me that Dad resented Philip for not making more money and felt I'd married him because I was desperate. I can't imagine anyone not liking Philip
August 10, 1976
Los Angeles 6.25 p.m.
How about this - two letters in one week. I'm sitting here in this dirty noisy lounge at the airport trying to kill time for another three hours so this may be a long letter. I had a good flight thus far - but talk about time consuming. I've been on the way for nearly 12 hours and I'm only a small fraction of the way. (Bismarck has no long distance direct flights, so I would have had to go to Billings and then Denver, and finally to Los Angeles.)
Grace is sending you a few of Dad's things. We decided that his clothes probably wouldn't fit or be your style, Neal, so you will get something else. Larry (Judy's husband) got all the socks and
Philip got all the handkerchiefs, and Dave (cousin) got all the suits - they fit him beautifully.
You know what I missed? Hugging Neal goodbye. I got a nice kiss from Bob (Marilyn's husband) and I'd been looking forward to one from Neal. Shucks. You can probably tell that it's about time I got back to my husband.
Dad left Grace about $7,500 in insurance and willed everything to her. She'll keep on working (anesthetist) She's only 58. (Dad was 65 when he died.) I think she gets Dad's retirement check for 10 years.
I told Sister that I couldn't tell Grace I loved her because I'd never said it to Mom. She said, "Then you can't expect to go to heaven because you're supposed to love everybody of else you don't love
God." So when I left today I said, "We love you", and Grace said "thank you." How anticlimactic. It wasn't so hard after all. She is thinking of saving for a trip to England again. I'm sure she'll cope quite well.
I was going to call you but found out how much it cost to phone a friend who lives only 20 miles away. So you're getting this letter instead. I changed all my American money into New Zealand dollars except for $2.50 and I need to be able to buy a drink before we leave. I've had more alcohol in the last three weeks than in three months usually. But it was to be sociable - you know how it is.
I'd had such a hard time trundling back and forth with my luggage when I came three weeks ago that I rented a cart this time. I hadn't even seen them last time which shows how tired I was because they're all over the place and only cost $1. But I tipped it over twice in the road going down and up curbs. I'm not a very good driver. Grace never trusted me with her car after my earlier mistake when I picked up Judy at the airport and started driving back on the wrong side of the road.
Not very many bra-less ladies in the airport Neal. You asked me to count for you. I'll let you know Philip's reaction to my new halter top. (bought for me by Neal - Never worn.)
The plane just arrived from London. That will go out in two hour's time. I sympathize with the people getting off. That's a real long flight non-stop and then customs and luggage checks and then a long
wait here for those going on to New Zealand.
In 24 hours I'll be home I hope my kids remember me and will speak to me after deserting them for so long. But it was a nice rest that I needed even if I did get up at 6 every morning.
Post script. The trip back was okay. The kids and Philip were very pleased to see me, and liked the presents I bought them.
Rose, the senile aunt died later that year, and Sister Rose Alma, the next year. I didn't go for either funeral. Marilyn my cousin is still alive, but she has inherited the senility of our family genes. Neal, Kathleen's husband died about 25 years ago, Judy died 20 years ago, Philip, 10 years ago and Kathleen died 3 years ago. Grace is still alive, still hoping that I will call her Mother and declare that I love her - and she will be 102 this year.