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May 17, 1945

 

Lieutenant Paul M. Zebler

USS Bates, ADP-47

C/O FPO

San Francisco, CA.

 

Sweetheart,

Because you are on a ship somewhere in the Pacific, I don’t know when you will receive this letter, but know that I wrote it on our son’s second birthday.

Yesterday, I ran into our classmate, Mary Mercer, at the grocery. Her brother Mike is on his way home from Europe. His Jeep turned-over and he was badly injured, but she says he’s going to be okay.

I promised you before you shipped-out that regardless of when you came home you would take Jared for his first haircut. I wanted to save a first for you because I correctly presumed you would miss Jared’s first steps and words.

I can’t keep my promise. Let me explain what happened.

Your Uncle Leo has been good to us. He allows Jared and me to live rent-free in his garage apartment. Still, I stretch your allotment check to its limit, and then to its breaking point every month. I owe Ramsey’s Market for two months’ worth of groceries. It’s hard to believe, but the price of gas is up to twenty-one cents a gallon.

I know you don’t want me to work; but to make ends meet, I had to take a job at the pants factory. You remember the dishcloth and towel factory in Wellston. The government converted it to the manufacture of military uniforms. I’m a final inspector.

The schools are only open four hours a day. The military requires so much fuel oil that the schools can’t get enough to open eight hours a day. That means the students are on half-day shifts. Your Cousin Fran goes to high school from 8:00 A.M. to noon. I work from 3:00 P.M. to midnight, so I hired Fran to babysit Jared while I am at work. Fran is a good kid, although I question her intention to become a nun. I don’t think it’s my place to confront her on that matter.

Paul, my insides hurt when I leave Jared to go to work because I know I am supposed to stay home and take care of him. I just don’t have a choice.

Yesterday, without my knowledge, Fran took Jared to Walt’s Barber Shop. She paid Walt twenty-five cents to cut Jared’s hair.

When I saw the result, I cried. All of Jared’s blond curls are gone.

I asked Fran why she did it.

“Because Jared looked like a girl,” she said. “People kept telling me how ‘cute’ my ‘daughter’ was, and I didn’t think you would mind.”

I’m sorry Paul. I am. I wanted you to take Jared for his first haircut. It’s this war. We can’t plan our lives. I’m just wearing down.

As tough as this war is on me, I know it’s a hundred times harder on you. I try to be positive because I don’t want you to worry about us.

Please know that Jared and I miss you. I lay awake at night thinking about you. Every night I ask God to bring you home to us.

 

I love you so very much,

Alma

 

May 17, 1965- My father never took me to get a haircut. He didn’t receive Mom’s letter. His ship, the USS Bates, was attacked by kamikazes on May 25, 1945, while transporting troops to Okinawa. Twenty-one sailors died.

Biography:  The author’s father did return after service in WWII. This story is to remind us of those fathers who didn’t come home. You may contact Jay at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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