I sat in my den with Kathy, by the warm fire, thankful for her and for our home, and that we still enjoy each other’s company. We were reading to each other back and forth when I started “Kay’s Cooking Corner,” from my favorite newspaper. Kay began her column – “I usually don’t make New Year’s resolutions…”
“Your grandfather would have liked Kay,” Kathy said before I got much further.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
She proceeded to tell me about the time my grandfather, Dr. Matt Locke Ellis, asked her if she made New Year resolutions. This was before we were married, so it would have been in the late seventies. Now, trying to impress the grandfather of your future husband is daunting enough, but when he’s a retired philosophy professor and former president of two institutions of higher learning, you take a little more time with your answer.
“You had a fifty-fifty shot of getting it right,” I said to her as my terrier, Gus, tried to get me to throw his ball.
“I know!” She replied in obvious angst. “And I went back and forth before I finally told him that I always tried to make at least one new resolution at the beginning of the year.”
“He said, ‘Don’t believe in them.’”
“Oh well,” I laughed. “He still approved of you, in spite of that major flaw.”
“Mr. Funny Man.”
Then I made a comment about how I wished I’d known my grandfather better, and that I didn’t think we had very much in common.
A few hours later I was upstairs, going through some of mom’s old papers, when I came across two letters my grandfather had written my grandmother back in October of 1931, when he was studying for his doctorate at Yale, while my grandmother Alice and my mom Jean, then two years old, stayed behind in Arkadelphia. He wrote:
“I find myself thinking and dreaming and wishing, especially in connection with days when we have the best times at home. Home is the center of my thought and life. Home means Jean and Alice and love and hope and future and faith and friendship and companionship. And I feel all those last feelings tonight, sweetheart.”
To me it seemed unbelievably coincidental that I would make the comment about my grandfather and then so soon after find a letter written over 80 years ago expressing emotions so deep and heartfelt. I hadn’t been looking for those letters; I didn’t even know they existed. What I had been having were thoughts and memories about a man about whom I cared deeply, but who I was also regretting I didn’t know better.
But was it really a coincidence?
He went on to write of Thanksgiving, and express feelings of sadness that he would be spending the holiday away from them. Remember, this was 1931. They owned no car, and travel from New Haven, Conn., to Arkadelphia was a large expense.
I read on and realized, for the first time, the sacrifice of being away from each other for so long. But especially the hardship it was for my grandfather. He wrote:
“I had rather have Thanksgiving dinner at home than anywhere else in the world, right at home with those for whom I am most deeply thankful.”
After reading it twice, I folded the old yellow letter carefully and put it away, thinking that perhaps my grandfather and I had something very much in common after all.