Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day 1985

As you can well imagine, today is one of those days that tweaks a heart that is trying to heal from the loss of a life partner. I wasn't really sure how to commemorate the day or deal with the feelings that were bubbling up. Then I remembered the two boxes of letters I kept from my tour in South Korea. We had been married just short of two years when I left for this unaccompanied assignment, and Bill and I wrote to each other everyday I was gone. One box is filled with the letters I wrote, and the other are letters to me from Bill and the children. I was pretty sure there would be something there to help me fight off the darkness and feel warm and loved.

Here is the letter I wrote to Bill on Valentine's Day, 1985. To set this up a little: We were in the middle of the application process for Berinda to be naturalized as a US citizen, and Bill was working through the courts to adopt Berinda and Josh. We were working on getting the right paperwork to the right people and I was feeling the loss of control. I spent that Valentine's Day on a tour of the DMZ.

Hello Darling,
Before I forget again, as I did yesterday, the address for the Korean  Embassy in Houston is enclosed. I do think we can wait until we find out about the adoption/naturalization before you run out to Houston for a Korean passport.
The pictures you had made for Berinda's naturalization have already been done. They had to go in with the original application. No biggie. I'm glad you were thinking ahead though. I trust you wouldn't make any more mistakes than I would have!
 You know -- I think that's just it isn't it? If I'm making the mistakes, it's no big deal -- it can be handled. But if you make the mistakes, I start getting antsy 'cause I ain't there to ask the questions. Can you forgive me for crawling all over you the other night when you called? I love you so much; and you have taken on the world and more for me. You really are a treasure and I am so sorry for coming off like a shrew with you. I want to come home this minute and show you how much I love you. I do trust you, honey. I'm a little crazy from being away from you, but I'm lucky I'm not institutional. For a short tour, this sure feels long!
 But...we need the time left to do all we need to do. And hopefully, I'll be home to see some of the fruits of your efforts. What do the kids think about the adoption? You said you were going to talk about it with them in our spot next to the flower bed. (I think all of us will always know that spot as someplace where our important times take place.)
 You know, one of the things I worry about is that you feel pressured into this adoption thing. I know and you know that it will make many things easier, but is it what you want to do? Talking about this over the telephone and by mail really doesn't give us the chance to hash out the feelings that you have about all this. It also doesn't give me the chance to look at you -- eyeball to eyeball -- and sob my heart out for the love of you. Are you really mine? Did something as wonderful as you really happen to me?
The trip to Pan Mun Jom was a rather sobering experience. We took a bus ride to Camp Kitty Hawk (about 2 1/2 hours from Osan).
Here I am at Camp Kitty Hawk, Republic of South Korea on Valentine's Day 1985
There we got a briefing and signed release forms and had lunch. Following lunch, we got on a bus and went up to the Joint Services Area (JSA). I was really very surprised to find that we actually came right up to the Military Demarcation Line in the UN area.
The place is really pretty deserted, except for the guards on both sides. In fact, those are the only folks there, except when there's a meeting or a tour going on. And since 1976 -- with few exceptions -- the Reds stay on their side and we stay on ours.
Pan Mun Jom, Korea, 14 Feb 1985
The white building is in North Korea. The two buildings in the foreground are in both North and South Korea. The guards are making sure that the guy on the steps of the white building doesn't get nervous and do something rash. That white "building," by the way, is a facade and is only about two foot deep.
They sure looked at us though! Through binoculars and telephoto lenses we got some stares. Of course, we stared right back!
The tour included a stop at the Military Armistice Conference House, right on the military demarcation line. We were allowed to go into the building and I stood for a while in North Korea -- on the other side of the table. It was a very strange sensation.
 Here I am, standing in North Korea. The wire down the middle of the table represents the Demarcation Line. The guard (American) is making sure I don't touch or otherwise desecrate the DPRK flags and create an international incident.
We also went down to Check Point 3 (CP3) where the tree-trimming incident took place. We didn't get off the bus there; in fact, it didn't even stop but made a circle and went back to the UN village at the demarcation line.
I'm sending a booklet and a couple of souvenirs for the kids in a separate envelope. The booklet explains much of what we saw, but I also took some pictures and once I finish this roll, will send them to you.
I know I'm very glad to be an American tonight. It's not something I take for granted anyway -- but today sure amplified my appreciation for my good fortune. Communism reminds me a bit of the false gods mentioned in the Old Testament: outwardly very attractive, but full of nothing inside. They have a beautiful little city you can see clearly from CP5, above CP3. It has multi-story buildings and looks very attractive from the distance of 1/2-1 mile. No one lives there. It was built for propaganda purposes. The rice fields on the north side of the DMZ are worked by laborers who are brought in by bus from Kaesan and taken home at night.
 I'm glad I went. I wish a lot of other people had the chance to come so close to these places where freedom is more than a word. And the men (and women) who serve at places like Camp Kitty Hawk and the UN Village have my deepest admiration and appreciation. They are sharp; they care! and I'm glad!!
I came home to two of your letters and one from Grandma Davis. I'm saving them for tomorrow when I will have the whole evening to devote to them.  By the way, I've ordered your boots in calfskin, but would really like to get you a pair of eelskin boots. They are gorgeous! And so are you! That's one of the 100+ reasons I love you!
 For all my life and then beyond, you are my dearest love. Sharon
 Bill's letters were always fat with details of his day, the things that Josh and Berinda were doing, and often stuffed with crayola drawings, newspaper articles, and other goodies. He would frequently start the letter in the morning before he left for work, pick it back up after the kids had been fed and bathed, and then write off and on until he went to bed. He would complain a bit when I sent him a "skinny" letter, which was more often than I like to admit, and we were both at the mercy of an overseas postal system that would cause days to go by with no mail and then there would be a bunch of letters all at once. We exchanged a few rather torrid love letters that I will need to redact or weed out before the children see them and are traumatized for life. [Just in case I miss one or two, I'm going to warn them up front: Your Dad and I had sex and we liked it (a lot).]

There has been some discussion about whether or not letter writing will become obsolete in the coming years. Communication has become instantaneous with e-mail and social networking; and telephone calls are much less expensive than they were in 1985. However, when I consider the treasure that these boxes of letters hold for me, and for our children, I hope that we will continue to write letters or at least find a way to archive our messages to each other. Those letters from 1985 were today a warm embrace from my dearest love on a day for celebrating love.

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