They were in her basement, along with everything else that had not been thrown out since she and Roy built the house in 1955 for their young family to grow up in. It was the house that my husband was born into and the house that we shared with his mom while we saved up to buy our own first home.
It was a big job, cleaning the house after Doris had gone on to be with Roy again. Among the things to throw away we found this treasure, these love letters with their yellowed edges written in Roy's flowing handwriting.
Roy had beautiful handwriting. I had studied the photo albums Roy put together which were now laying inside the coffee table. I'd seen his flowing script on little bits of paper stuck next to the old photos, now turning yellow with age. He was proud of his family's photos. He was careful to label the photos with flourish.
I didn't know Roy well. He was living in the nursing home when I met him. I wish I had known him when he was healthier. He was artistic, I'm sure we would have gotten along. He was generous and fun. He got angry. He was complicated.
Roy got sick when my husband was in middle school. A muscle disease made his mind disease noticeable, unavoidable. Middle school is hard enough without a manic-depressive father and a mother who relied on you too much for her emotional support. Hard enough without doctors who misdiagnosed, counselors who didn't counsel well or your birthday wishes spurned.
We haven't read Roy's letters to Doris yet. The first time I had opened one of the letters was just recently to photograph a letter for the photoaday journal. While holding the letter I admired his handwriting. "My Darling Doris," he wrote. "I miss you."
I think I have put off reading them for so long because it seemed a little sad to me to read the beginning of the story whose end I already know. The thought of reading his expressions of young love, while knowing some of what happened after he got sick, was similar to how I felt about listening to a singer-songwriter sing of flying.
Every so often I would pass the box of letters in the basement and dismiss the thought of reading them yet. Maybe I was afraid those letters would make me feel some emotions I didn't want to feel. Emotions I wasn't ready to feel.
But this time, as I pulled out the box of letters to take a photograph, I was interested in what Roy had to say to Doris. Perhaps my willingness to read Roy's story and glimpse into their young love story has something to do with what my husband and I have walked through together these past two years and continue to walk through. Together. I now know that my own love story is a happy one.
Our story is a part of their story. Their's is part of ours. Their legacy, our own, our kids'. On and on it goes. Twists and turns, ups and downs, sickness and health, better and worse. Forgiveness. Redemption.
I am looking forward, now, to reading what Roy said to Doris when he was in the South Pacific and she eagerly awaited the letters with the military postmark and the beautifully written mailing address. I wonder what went through her head as she opened the letter and read,