Brain Phrye

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Letters of Note

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I think I’ve found the last batch of pictures. I’m a little overwhelmed so another scanning session is a while off. However there were other things with the pictures - there were five letters.

My mom’s first passport was issued by the Irish government a few months after her 20th birthday. It contains a single stamp: US customs in August of 1957. Her passport wasn’t even two months old at that point and it was never used for travel again.

The first letter was written in December of 1957. The handwriting was oddly like my mom’s but ended “Daddy.” My mom had always described him as a good father; a good man.

It was a thoughtful, caring letter. Not long, not overwrought, but clearly a letter from a father who cared about his daughter; who missed his daughter. Received by a daughter who missed her father. A single page kept for nearly sixty years.

The next letter was sent in early 1958. It was from a family friend; a priest. It was chatty about all the local gossip including a note about my mom’s dad - he was recovering well from surgery. The letter was kind but breezy.

The third letter is dated five days later. It’s less than six months since my mom had left a small rural town in the middle of Ireland for the giant country of America. From the same family friend; clearly troubled by the contrast this letter would provide. It’s written the day before her father’s funeral; it’s written knowing that this letter would likely be the first my mom would learn of this news.

My mom’s second passport was issued by the US government a few months after her 30th birthday. It has six stamps in it; the first just a few months after issue. A decade had passed before my mom first saw her father’s grave. Before she could grieve near her father.

The last two letters are from my grandmother. The first written a few days after her husband’s funeral. The second was written in the fall of 1988. It’s the only one written on the familiar blue Airmail letters I remember from my childhood. Letters from home. Letters for mom. Her writing was always a cipher to me, but the letter is largely about her failing health.

My mom’s fifth passport was issued by the US government. At the time of issue my mom was just a year older than I am now. Among the several stamps is one in Shannon a month after the letter; a stamp in New York followed two weeks later. Between those stamps, my mom sat with her mother. She held her hand. She stood by the grave as the first spades of earth landed on the coffin.

I’d known all this, they were important points in my mom’s life and she had talked about them. But I’d never seen the letters. I’d never thought through the dates.