My grandfather passed away right before Christmas.
Like most in his generation, he saved everything. Beyond being a saver, he was a writer and a vigilant photographer.
My mother and uncle have been scouring over his belongings in an effort to put his home on the market and to share his treasures with all of us.
Yesterday afternoon, my mom brought over a box and since that time, I've felt like the daughter in the movie, "The Bridges of Madison County" discovering so much history about a man that I only knew for the last 36 of his 90 years of life.
Combing through this magical box, I've discovered countless letters that he wrote to my grandmother during WWII and the daily ones that she wrote to him...over the course of four years of their lives. At the time, she was 15 and he was a scandalous 19.
He took photos of my grandmother when she was a model in New York City....photos at the boardwalk in New Jersey...photos on the beach in Martha's Vineyard...photos of their wedding...photos of their friends...photos of their family....their homes...their children...their gardens...their life.
And then he saved my grandmother's report cards from the 1920's and the 1930's. He saved his tests and memo notebooks from Catholic grade school in New York. He saved stamps, money, cards, year books, baptismal certificates, diplomas.
And all of this reading and re-reading has me fascinated by the fact that most of the time, we only know people for a portion of their lives. We jump in at a window and see a slice of them. Sometimes, we think we'll know someone forever, and then circumstances take their course and we don't...and someone we knew like the back of our hand, we can barely remember.
My grandparents had lived the vast majority of their lives before I ever knew them. Reading their letters to each other as teens...she writing from Springfield, Massachusetts and he writing from Pearl Harbor...leaves me with the feeling that love is universal, timeless, limitless and that 60 years ago, one boy on a ship just desperately wanted to get back to one girl waiting patiently for her love...beautiful.