Mail Call On Guadalcanal

Marine Private Mack Donaldson was surprised to hear the sergeant call his name.  He couldn’t figure out who would be writing to him.  Mack’s mother and father were both gone, victims of a car accident when he was eighteen, and he had no siblings.  His mother had once told him she had a sister who lived in Oregon, but said they hadn’t spoken in years.  They’d had a falling out of some sort and never got back together, so she probably didn’t know he existed.

He’d been on Guadalcanal since the first landings.  He’d been scared to death when the ramp dropped into the water and had run as fast as he could for the beach and cover.  He was surprised they met little resistance.  Within a day, they had taken the beach and the airfield and then started moving supplies inland.  The first mail call happened a few days later, and it was at this mail call he walked up and took the letter from Sergeant Miles.

Mack walked back to his position, sat down, and used his bayonet to slit open the envelope.  

The letter was typed, something he thought a little odd.  He’d seen the letters the other Marines had gotten and they were all hand written.  He understood when he read the first paragraph.

July 4, 1942

Dear Private Mack R. Donaldson,

My name is Valerie Wilson and you don’t know me.  I am sixteen years old and I go to school here in Louisville, Kentucky, the same town you’re from.  My English teacher said we should write to the men in the service to let them know we support what they are doing.  I picked your name from the list she had, and wrote this letter.  It is typed because my handwriting is really, really hard to read most of the time.  It would not do any good to send you a letter you could not read, now would it?

My teacher said we should not write anything about how America is making things to send you to fight with because spies could read our letters and figure out how to bomb the places so I won’t tell you about that.  I don’t know much about that anyway because I am just in high school.  My mother works in one of those factories but she can not tell me what she does there.  She said they were sworn to secrecy before they started work and they have posters on the walls to remind them.

I will tell you a few things about me and hope I do not bore you.  I like going to the park and hearing the birds sing.  I like eating ice cream.  My mother says that will make me fat, but so far it has not.  I am five feet three inches tall without my shoes on.  Mother says a woman never tells anybody how much she weighs, but I will tell you so you can get a better picture of me.  I weigh ninety five pounds.  I have brown hair and some people say I am pretty.  I would send you an actual picture of me, but my teacher says I should not do that.  She said if you were captured (and I pray you never are) the enemy might use my picture to get you to tell them things.  

I like listening to music.  At school, sometimes we have dances, and I like doing that too.  I do not have a boyfriend, so sometimes I have to dance with other girls, but it is still fun.  Glen Miller is one of my favorite bands.  Do you have a favorite band?  If you do, I would like to hear what it is.

Well, since I do not know anything about you except that you are a Marine, I do not know what else to write.  If you send me a letter back, please tell me about yourself.  My teacher says you can not tell me where you are or what you are doing, but I do not want to hear about that anyway.  I just want to be able to tell my friends about a brave Marine I know who is doing everything he can for our country.

Your Friend, I hope,

Valerie Wilson

He smiled at the end, because her signature was hand written in cursive and she’d been right.  It was hard to read.  Mack re-read the letter and then re-read it again.  He had to smile at some of the words.  He was just nineteen himself, and remembered girls he’d known in high school.  They seemed silly now.  They’d been more concerned with how they looked and how many boys they could attract than anything else.  Valerie seemed like a nice girl who was trying to support the military in the only way she could.  That night, Mack got paper, a pen, and an envelope and sat down to return Valerie’s letter.

August 10, 1942

Dear Valerie,

I was very happy to get your letter because I don’t have anybody to write to or to write to me.  I’m writing back because you sound like a really nice girl and I’d like to hear from you again if you can spare the time.

I’m a little older than you are.  I’m nineteen.  I enlisted in the Marines right after Pearl Harbor because every man who can should fight to protect our country.  You told me how big you are, so I’ll tell you the same things about me.

I’m a lot bigger than you.  I’m six feet one and I weight about a hundred and ninety pounds.  I’m probably not that heavy now because it’s hot here and I sweat a lot.  If I write where I am, the censors will just mark it out so I won’t do that.  I’ll just say it’s really hot and there is lots of jungle everywhere.

We don’t get much music where I am, but when I was in training, I liked Glen Miller too.  I’ve never danced with a girl, but maybe someday I will.  It’s not that I  think I wouldn’t like dancing, I just never learned how.

Well, this is probably a shorter letter than you’d like to get, but it’s about all I can write.  The last thing I will say is that I’m fine.  I’m pretty tired most of the time, but I haven’t gotten injured except for cutting my finger once and that healed up pretty quick.

I hope you are well too, and I hope you write back to me.  

Your friend,

Mack

Mack went through several battles over the next week.  They’d surprised the Japanese Army and had set up a defensive perimeter around the airfield, but the Japanese Army was doing their best to kick them off the island.  It was during the lull between two of these battles he was getting some rest and food other than C-rations.  He’d just sat down with his mess kit when he heard “Mail Call”.  Mack ate his beef stew and listened intently.  He’d about given up hope when he heard, “Private Mack Donaldson”.  

Mack waited to open the envelope until he’d finished eating.  It was torture, but he wanted to be able to give the letter all his attention.  After dunking his mess kit in the barrel of boiling, soapy water and scrubbing it clean, then dunking it in another barrel of plain boiling water, he went back to his gear, sat down, and looked at the typed return address on the envelope.  He smiled when he read, Valerie Wilson, Louisville, Kentucky.

He took his time slitting open the envelope.  That was another way of stretching out the pleasure of reading the letter.  When he took it out of the envelope, it was typewritten with a scrawled signature, just like the first one.

August 31, 1942

Dear Private Mack Donaldson,

I did not know it would take so long for a letter to get to you and for yours to get to me.  I guess when the Marines have to fight a war, letters do not have priority.

I am so happy you wrote back to me.  I was so excited I told all my friends about getting your letter and what you wrote about.  I hope you do not mind that I did that, but I just had to tell everybody.

I think I know where you are, but I will not write that down.  My mother and I listen to the radio every night to see how things are going and the day I got your letter, they said there was a big battle going on.  It sounds really scary and I am glad I am not there.  I am glad you are though.  I wish you didn’t have to be there and I do not want you to get hurt, but we have to show the enemy that they can not bomb us and expect to get away with it.  On the radio, they say you Marines are doing just that.  I am so proud of you.

You are a big man.  My father was just five feet eight inches and he did not weigh as much as you do.  I do not know if you want to know about him or not, but I will tell you.  He was in the Navy and got sent to Pearl Harbor right after Thanksgiving last year.  My mother was going to take us there so we could have  Christmas together.  It is a good thing she did not.  He was one of the men killed when the Japanese made their surprise attack.

I was really sad for a long time.  My father was away from home a lot, but I still loved him.  After a while though, I realized he did what he did to protect us and our country.  I still miss him, but I know he died fighting for our country and I am proud of that.  He is buried in a cemetery there, and someday I am going to visit his grave and put flowers on it.

Well, that was a pretty sad thing to write when I am supposed to be making you feel better.  I am sorry if it made you sad too.  I just thought I should tell you more about myself.

Guess what?  I had a birthday on the sixth of September, so I am seventeen now.  I know that to you I am still just a girl, but I do feel older.  When is your birthday?  They probably will not let me send you a birthday card because it would be too heavy, but I can at least wish you a happy birthday in a letter.

Well, I need to go do my homework now.  Sometimes it seems dumb to make us do homework after we have been at school all day, but my mother says it is to help us learn.  She was a teacher before she went to work in the factory, so I guess she knows.

Please stay safe and do not get hurt.  I liked reading your letter and I want to read a lot more of them.  I will keep writing and telling you what I am doing.

Your friend,

Valerie

Mack wrote back to Valerie that night, and he kept writing to her after every letter she sent.  She was first just a person he enjoyed hearing from, then became a friend.  He began to open up a little more to her, and she to him.  Her letters followed him from island to island, and over the months that stretched into years, those typewritten letters with the scrawled name at the bottom gave him a reason to keep going when he was exhausted and a reason for why he was there.

Iwo Jima was the worst he’d experienced so far.  The Japanese were dug in and had them pinned down on the beach.  Time after time, they tried to break out.  Finally one group of Marines made it to the top of Mount Suribachi, and that energized the rest of the men dug into the black sand of the beach.  The battle was to continue for another month.  It wasn’t until Mack took a bullet in the shoulder and was sent to the rear he had time to write, and he tried not to worry Valerie.

February 24, 1945

Dear Valerie,

I apologize for not writing but we have been fighting constantly for several days.  It looks like we’re going to win though.  If you saw what I saw yesterday, you probably would have cried.  I know it’s not something a Marine should do, but I had tears in my eyes.  It made me proud to be a Marine.

I don’t want to worry you, but I got shot right after that.  It wasn’t bad.  A bullet just went through the muscle of my shoulder.  It didn’t even hurt that much when it happened.  It did later though.  I can write now because I’m in a field hospital.  The medics say I’ll be fine in about a month and they’ll send me back to my unit.  I hope I can get back there before all this is over.  I need to be there with my guys.

I think I told you about my other promotions.  Well I got promoted again.  It’s just a field promotion to sergeant and won’t be a permanent thing.  They’re my guys now because our platoon sergeant got hit pretty bad and was evacuated to a hospital ship. I don’t know if being a sergeant is a good thing or a bad thing, but I’m now Sergeant Donaldson and I have to tell my guys what we’re going to do.

I remembered to wish you a happy birthday, but I never asked you how it feels to be eighteen.  That means you’re officially a woman now, doesn’t it?  I remember when I turned eighteen.  I thought I could do anything I wanted.  Then Pearl Harbor happened and I enlisted and found out I couldn’t do anything unless the Marine Corps wanted me to do it.  It seems funny to me now.  Back then I thought I knew everything about everything.  Now, I know how little I know about anything.

I do know I’ve gotten very close with you over the past two years.  I would really like to meet you when all this is over.  I’d just like to meet the woman who’s stuck with me for so long.  I’m surprised you haven’t found a man your age, but I guess the draft is taking them about as fast as they get out of school.

I was thinking the other day that you’re sort of like a girlfriend.  You’re a long ways away and we’ve never really met, but I can tell you things I’d never tell anybody else.  I see men around me who don’t have anybody, like I used to be, and I feel sorry for them.  No matter how tired I am or how bad it gets, when I get your letter I can forget about all that for a little while.  If that doesn’t make you a girlfriend, I don’t know what would.  

Maybe I’m thinking it’s more than it is, but I hope that doesn’t make you angry.  I’m just thankful you wrote that first letter to me.  I can never tell you how much that one and all the others meant to me.

I don’t think the war will last too much longer.  We have to fight hard and it’s taking more time than the Generals would like, but we are winning.  We’re also very close to Japan now, so they’ll have to surrender or they won’t have a country left.

Your boyfriend, I hope,

Mack

Mack was back with his unit and mopping up what was left of the Japanese defenses on Iwo Jima when Valerie’s next letter reached him.

March 20, 1945

Dear Mack,

I was so worried that I hadn’t gotten a letter in a while.  When I read that you got shot, I started to cry.  I don’t want anything else to happen to you.  You’ve been safe for so long, and I pray every night that you’ll stay that way.

The radio says it won’t be much longer, just like you wrote in your letter.  I hope it’s not.  I’m tired of hearing about the war and how many men have been killed and wounded.  I’m also worried sick about you and have been for a long time.

I guess I didn’t realize that was happening until I didn’t hear from you for all that time.  When I didn’t get a letter, I started thinking about all the bad things that could have happened to you.  I tried not to think about the worst thing, but sometimes I did, and then I’d start to cry.  My mother would ask me what was wrong, and I’d tell her how I felt about you.  She would hug me and tell me she was sure you were safe but just busy fighting.  I don’t think she really believed that, but it did help.  I’m really sorry you got shot but since you’re all right, I can breathe a little easier.

I do feel like your girlfriend.  It seems a little odd to feel that way since we’ve never met in person, but in your letters I can kind of tell what type of person you are.  I would like you to call me your girlfriend if you want, and I’ll call you my boyfriend.  None of the other girls I know can say they have a boyfriend in the Marines and fighting for our country.  It made me proud to tell them I have a friend who is, and I’ll be prouder to call you my boyfriend.

I would like to meet you when you come home.  When you know when that is, please let me know.  My mother would like to meet you too.  Our phone number is Bradley 479, so if you want to, you can call us and we’ll meet you at the train station.

I’m just so happy you’re all right I could jump up and down.  I guess if I’m now a woman, like you say, I shouldn’t do that.  I should run up to you and give you a big hug, but I can’t do that right now, so I’ll just be happy as a lark.  I told my mother about you getting shot but that you’re all right, and she’s happy too.  Just stay that way for me, OK.  

Love,

Your girlfriend Valerie

Mack fought his way across Iwo Jima until the Marines were replaced by the Army.  His unit then assaulted Okinawa and captured the island after days of bloodshed.  It looked to him as if his next battle would be on the Japanese mainland, and as hard as they’d fought on Okinawa and Iwo Jima, he knew it would be a bloody and costly battle.  He was relieved when two atomic bombs finally brought Japan to its knees.  On September 2, Japan formally surrendered and on September 10, Mack was on a troop transport ship bound for San Francisco. Thirty eight days later he was on a train chugging towards Louisville.  He was still in his Marine dress uniform because he had nothing else to wear, but he was a civilian.  

When the train stopped in Chicago, he found a phone booth and asked the operator to dial the Louisville phone number.  Valerie’s mother answered the phone.  Mack introduced himself and asked to speak to Valerie.  

Valerie was crying when she said “Hello”.  They talked a little before he said, “I have to hang up because the train for Louisville is about to leave.  If you can get to the station, I should be there in about four hours."

Four hours and ten minutes later, Mack picked up his duffel bag and stepped onto the platform of the Louisville train station.  He looked for Valerie and her mother, and finally saw two women standing together at the edge of the crowd.  The younger looking of the two held a sign in front of her face that said, “WELCOME HOME MACK”.

Mack ran to them, but stopped a few feet away when he saw the long white cane the young girl carried and the dark glasses she wore even though the platform was in the shade.

“Valerie?”, he asked.

The young girl tapped the platform with her cane and walked in the direction of his voice until she tapped his foot.

"Mack?"

"Yes, I'm Mack."

“You’re not very close.  Is that because you’re disappointed?”

“No, just surprised.  Why didn’t you tell me?”

“At first, I just wanted to have a friend, so it didn’t seem right.  Then, after a while…well, I was afraid you wouldn’t like me any more and you’d stop writing.”

Mack took the two steps that separated them and took her free hand.

“Valerie, it wouldn’t have made any difference, not over there.  Now…well, I’m surprised, but how could I not like the woman who helped me get through the war.  If you’re still of a mind to, I’d like to get that hug you said you’d give me.”

Valerie dropped her cane, put both arms around his neck, and hugged him tight.  When she backed away slightly, Mack saw tears streaming down her cheeks.

“Mack, thank you.”

“For what?  I should be the one thanking you.”

“Thank you for not just walking away like most men do.”

Mack chuckled.

“I couldn’t just walk away from my girlfriend, now could I?”

“Can I see you then?  I have to touch you.  I see with my fingertips.”

“Sure.”

Valerie gently touched his face all over, and smiled.  

“You’re a handsome man.”

She stroked his shoulders, arms and chest.

“Strong too.”

“Well, I don’t know about the handsome part.  You’re a pretty woman though.”

Valerie blushed.

“That’s what my mother keeps telling me but no man has ever told me that before.  You have to meet my mother.  Mom, come meet Mack.”

Mack saw the woman who walked up beside Valerie was crying too.  She dabbed at her eyes with a white handkerchief and then smiled.

“I’m Valerie’s mother, Elizabeth.”

Mack smiled back.

“It must have been you who typed all those letters then.”

“Yes, Valerie told me what she wanted to tell you and I typed them for her.  When you wrote back, I read your letters to her.  I think I know you as well as she does, and I think as much of you too.”

“You have a very wonderful daughter.  You can’t imagine how much those letters meant to me.”

Elizabeth smiled.

“Yes I can.  My husband always said the same thing to me.  I know how much yours meant to Valerie for the same reason.”

Mack touched Valerie on the cheek.

“Well, girlfriend, since you were nice enough to come meet me, can I buy you two dinner?  I got paid all my back pay, so whatever you want is what we’ll get.”

Mack kept up his end of the conversation while they ate, but he was also thinking.  He wasn’t sure if he wanted to take his relationship with Valerie any further.  He didn’t know the first thing about blind people, what they could and couldn’t do, if she’d be the same as any other woman, or if he could feel the same way about her now that he knew she was blind.  He’d been polite and appreciative so far, but that was because he didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

When he’d boarded the train in Chicago, he’d had thoughts of meeting Valerie and then seeing if they were a match or not.  He wasn’t so naïve as to believe caring for her because of her letters was enough to keep the relationship going, but he had hopes.  Now…would he have to help her do everything, even getting dressed and fixing herself up?  

He still didn’t know when Valerie’s mother drove them back to her house.  He’d intended to get a hotel room for the next few nights while he looked for a job and a place to live, but Valerie’s mother insisted he should stay with them at least the first night.  She said she’d already made up the bed in their spare bedroom, so he couldn’t very well refuse.

When Mack walked them both up to the porch Valerie asked if they could sit on the porch swing for a while and talk.  Her mother said since the nights were getting cooler, she’d go make some hot cocoa and bring it out when it was done.

Valerie was quiet for a few minutes once her mother went inside.  Then she felt for Mack’s hand, and covered it with hers.

“Mack, I’m only nineteen, but when you’re blind, you learn pretty quickly that people don’t want to be around you.  I know you’re having second thoughts.  I felt it in your face at the station.  I don’t expect anything from you.  All I ask is that you be my friend and that you don’t judge me just because I’m blind.”

Mack thought for a minute before answering her.

“Valerie, I admit I’m a little confused.  The girl who wrote to me turned into a woman I grew to care about a lot.  I still do care about you.  I just don’t know…”

Valerie took off her dark glasses and wiped her eyes.

“I understand.  Just don’t forget about me really fast.”

Mack put his arm around Valerie’s shoulders and squeezed gently.

“How could I ever forget about you?  You were the one there with me when the bullets were flying over my head and the mortar shells were hitting so close I could feel the heat.  Valerie, you kept me going when that happened.  You weren’t really there, but your latest letter was in my pocket and when I read it I could think about being back in Louisville after the war and what we’d do when we met.  I kept them all, by the way.  They’re in my duffel bag.  I won’t ever forget about you.  You gave me a reason to stay alive and come home.  What I don’t know is…well…”

“If I’m going to be someone you have to take care of all the time.  That’s it, isn’t it?”

“Sort of, I guess.”

“You wouldn’t have to do that.  I can take care of myself, and I could take care of you if you needed me to.  At the school I went to, they teach you how to do things for yourself so you won’t be dependent on anybody.  I can get dressed by myself, and as long as I know where things are in the kitchen, I can cook too.  I can walk down the street by myself.  I can read for myself if it’s written in Braille, and I can write my name.  I just can’t write long letters because I can’t see where my hand is.  Would you let me prove that to you before you decide I’m not somebody you’d like to keep seeing?”

“I never said I didn’t want to keep seeing you.  I’d like to.  I just don’t know if it will lead anywhere.”

“I don’t know either, but I know I fell in love with the man I was writing too even though I never met him.  I know that sounds like a silly young girl talking, but I’m not a girl any more and I still think that.”

“I sort of fell in love with that young girl too, even though I wasn’t sure she’d like me when she saw me.”

“Why wouldn’t I like you?”

“I’m not handsome like you think, and I’m not as smart as a lot of guys.”

“My fingers tell me you’re handsome, and a man who’s smart isn’t everything a woman wants.”

“What does she want?”

“She wants someone who’ll be with her when she needs him and who’ll make her feel needed and wanted.  She wants to be loved and to love her man back.”

“Is that the young girl talking or the woman?”

“It’s what I want and I feel like I’m a woman.”

Mack looked at Valerie and then thought about what she’d just said.  She didn’t want anything from him any other woman wouldn’t have wanted.  She wasn’t going to try to force herself on him just because they’d written back and forth for almost three years.  Valerie was older in the way she thought than her age would indicate.  Only a good, decent, and caring woman would be that way.  

Mack decided however things turned out, he couldn’t let Valerie’s blindness blind him to the woman she really was.  He put his hand around Valerie’s shoulders, pulled her to him gently, and then kissed her.  It wasn’t much of a kiss because he’d not kissed many girls before.  Valerie hesitated, then put her arm around his neck and pulled herself against his side a little tighter.  

When he pulled back gently, Valerie smiled, then her face became serious.

“Did you really mean that?”

“I meant it enough I’d like to do it again, and I’d like to keep seeing you if you can stand being around a not so smart guy who’s just ordinary looking.”

“You’ll always be handsome to me.  Are you going to kiss me again now?”

He was starting to do just that when Valerie’s mother opened the door, said, “Oops, I thought you two were done”, and then closed it again.

Valerie giggled.

“Well, I guess we’ll need to postpone that kiss for a while.  I think our cocoa is ready.”

Then next day, Mack went to the Ford Truck plant and applied for a job.  He was hired a week later.  With all the men coming back from Europe and the Pacific, the women who had worked there were quitting to become housewives again.  Only military trucks had been built there since the start of the war so there was a huge demand for new trucks and the plant needed workers.  When he got his first paycheck, he rented an apartment so he wouldn’t be imposing on Valerie’s mother any longer.

It was still with some reservations that Mack asked Valerie out that first Saturday.  He liked her personality and she was indeed a pretty woman.  He was just still unsure about her handicap.  That first night took away a lot of his fears.  They had borrowed her mother’s car since Mack didn’t have one.  When they started toward the car, Valerie put her arm in his and walked just like any other woman.  She did the same when going into the restaurant.  Except for the dark glasses, no one would have known she couldn’t see.

At the restaurant, she asked him to tell her where on her plate the food was located.  Once he did she ate about like anybody else.  She did use a fingertip to find things once in a while, but other than that and sort of feeling for her glass  when she wanted a drink, she looked normal.

When he thought about that word – normal – he realized it was a stupid way to compare Valerie to other women.  She couldn’t see, but he’d known a few women with perfect sight who still couldn’t see what was right in front of them.  Valerie memorized where things were, like the placement of her glass and location of the various food items, so she didn’t need to see them.  What was “normal” anyway except the way people usually did things?  The way Valerie did things was normal for her.

As they ate and chatted about things, Mack decided he wasn’t normal either.  People in the restaurant were staring at them, and he found he didn’t really care what they were thinking.  The only thing that mattered to him was that Valerie was an intelligent woman with a sense of humor about herself, and that he was growing closer to her every day.

Those dark glasses did bother him until he asked her why she wore them.  

Valerie grinned.

“They look really good on me, or so I’m told.”

“Well, they do make you look a little like a Jane Russell pinup I saw once.”

“You’re just saying that to make me feel good.  Mom says I’m not as busty as Jane Russell or any of those movie sexpots.   

“Actually there are several real reasons.  One is that I can’t tell how bright the sun is or if it’s shining in my eyes.  The dark glasses keep my eyes from getting hurt by the sun.  Another reason is that I can't see anything coming toward me that might hit my eyes so I don’t automatically close them.  The glasses stop most things before they can hurt me.  They also tell people I’m blind, so they don’t run into me as much.”

Mack asked Valerie to take off her glasses.  When she did, he squeezed her hand.

“You have beautiful blue eyes.  It’s a shame you have to hide them.”

“Well, that’s another reason for the dark glasses.  You’ll automatically look in the direction of someone talking to you.  I probably won’t, and that makes people uncomfortable.”

Mack stroked her cheek.

“Even if they’re not looking at me, they’re still beautiful.”

He could tell Valerie was blushing.

“You’re turning all pink.  Did I embarrass you?”

“No, well, a little.  Nobody ever told me I had pretty eyes before.”

“They’re just part of what makes you beautiful.”

Valerie laughed.

“And here I thought I was the only one of us who’s blind.”

“No, really, you are.  You’re so beautiful I want to kiss you again.”

“Well, you have to wait until we’re out of the restaurant.  What would people think?”

“I don’t really care what they think.”

“Well, I do.  You can kiss me twice on my front porch.”

They couldn’t go to the movies, but there was a club in Louisville that featured bands every Saturday night.  They’d have dinner and then to go the club and listen to the music.  The first time Valerie asked him to dance with her, he said no, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.  They ended up just rocking back and forth on the floor in time to the music.  Valerie seemed happy.  Mack was happy just to be able to hold her close.  After that, they danced to all the slow dances.

It took Mack six months to propose to Valerie.  He was ready after three, but he’d used a lot of his military pay to buy a used car and had to save enough money to buy the ring.  It was after a Saturday of dinner and music he took her hand while they sat in her mother’s living room.

“Valerie, remember when I said I wasn’t sure where this would go?”

“Yes.  I said I didn’t either.”

“I figured it out.”

“Oh.  What did you figure out.”

Mack slipped the ring on her finger.

“I figured out I should buy this ring and ask you if you’d marry me.  The diamond isn’t very big, but it’s a real diamond and the ring is real gold.”

Valerie felt the slim gold band on her finger, then reached for him.  She hugged him tight enough he had trouble taking a breath.  He felt her tears against his cheek.

“You’re crying.  Did I assume something I shouldn’t have?”

“No.  I’m just really, really happy.  I didn’t think this would ever happen to me.  I really, really want to marry you.”

The wedding wasn’t a big affair because even though the war was over, most people were still accustomed to doing things without a lot of things to do them with.  Valerie’s aunt baked their wedding cake and Valerie wore her mother’s  wedding dress.  Her bride’s maid wore an ordinary dress instead of something fancy she’d never wear again.  Mack didn’t have a bride groom because he didn’t have a brother.  Valerie’s cousin filled that spot.

Mack thought Valerie was stunning in the white dress trimmed in delicate lace.  She was walked up the aisle by her grandfather.  When the minister asked who was giving the bride, he stood straight and said, “On behalf of her late father, her mother and I do”.

The reception in the church basement seemed to take forever. After toasting each other, sharing a piece of cake, and opening some of the wedding gifts, Mack led Valerie down the steps of the church and then to his car while a storm of rice hailed down over them.  They drove first to her mother’s house where he and Valerie changed clothes.  She giggled when she asked him to unzip her dress.

“Most of the time I don’t wear things with zippers in the back.  Now that I have you to zip me up and unzip me, I guess I can.”

They drove to a motel in Elizabethtown, checked in, and then had dinner.  Both were a little nervous about what would happen that night because neither had had the experience.  When they got back to their motel room, Valerie asked Mack to turn around.

He heard her rummaging through her suitcase before she said, I”ll be a few minutes.  You won’t go anywhere, will you?”  Mack heard the tapping of her cane and then the closing of the bathroom door before he could answer.

Mack didn’t normally wear pajamas, but he’d bought some just for that night.  While Valerie was in the bathroom, he changed into them and then sat down on the bed.  A few minutes later she opened the door and walked two steps into the room.

“Mack, I don’t know where things are in the room yet.  Would you help me?”

“No.  I’m just going to sit here a look at the woman I married today.”

Valerie lowered her face.

“Do I look all right?  Mom said this would look nice on me.”

“You’re way more than all right.  You’re more than I ever dreamed about back on all those islands.”

“I hope you’ll think that when you take this off me.”

Mack stood up and walked to where Valerie stood.  He cradled her in his arms.

“I hope you’ll think I’m half as good as I think you are.”

Valerie chuckled.

“Are we going to talk like this all night, or are you going to let us both find out?”

Mack lifted the hem of the satin nightgown and when Valerie raised her arms, slipped it off over her head.  He laid it carefully on a chair, then stroked Valerie’s cheek.

“You have Jane Russell beat, Valerie, and all those other movie stars too.”

“Even though I’m not as busty as they are.”

Mack stroked the side of Valerie’s left breast.

“I don’t think you have anything to worry about in that department.  They just wear tight sweaters and that makes them look big.  I like you just the way you are.”

Valerie felt his chest and then began undoing the buttons of his pajama top.  When she undid the last button, Valerie slipped the top off his shoulders and then put her arms around his neck.  Mack felt her nipples brush the hair on his chest and then the soft pressure of her breasts flattening against his skin.

Valerie kissed his shoulder, then stood on her tiptoes so she could reach his mouth.  After she kissed him and then pulled away, she whispered, “I love the way this feels and I want to feel more of you.”

Mack felt her slide her hand under the waistband of his pajama bottoms.  Her touch was feather-soft, just like it was when she touched his face, and when she touched his cock, he felt a tingle race from there to his loins.  Those tingles kept getting stronger as Valerie gently felt the head, then the shaft, and finally, after pulling the bottoms down, his sack.  All the while, she was kissing his chest and holding him with her free hand.

She pulled her hand up, felt his belly, and then put her arm back around his neck.

“Make love to me”, she whispered.

Mack picked her up and laid her gently on the bed, then pulled off his pajama bottoms and eased down beside her.

“I might not do this right.”

Valerie felt for his cock again, and began slowly stroking it.

“We’ll just have to practice a lot then, won’t we?”

Mack did what his father had told him to do and Valerie seemed to like it.  She moaned when he fondled her breasts and caught her breath the first time he stroked her nipple.  With those touches and a lot of kisses, she was soon starting to make little moans with every touch, and her hips lurched a little from time to time.

Only when he traced her body from her breasts to the mass of hair on her mound did she seem to tense.  Mack though he’d done something wrong.

“I’m sorry Valerie.  I thought you would like that.”

“I did.  I’m just a little afraid.  Mom said it would hurt the first time.”

“Then I won’t do it until you tell me you’re ready.”

“I want you to do it.  Mom said if I have you use one finger first until I'm really excited, it won’t hurt as much.  Just go slow until I get used to it.”

Valerie spread her legs then.  She was still tense when he stroked her mound and then traced the separation between her lips with his fingertip.  After a few more soft strokes, she began to relax.  Mack chanced moving his fingertip deeper and found she was a little wet and slippery inside.  He stroked between her lips until Valerie was moaning again, then moved his fingertip down until he felt her entrance.

She tensed when he pushed in gently, and he quickly slipped his fingertip back out and began stroking her inner lips again.  He felt Valerie’s hand on his and followed her gentle pull until his fingertip touched a little bump at the top of her lips.

“Right there”, Valerie whispered.  “Rub a little right there.”

Mack was amazed at what his gentle strokes to that little bump did.  One minute, Valerie was stroking his back and the next she gasped and rocked her hips into his hand.  The more he stroked the little bump, the more she rocked her hips, and the gasps became panting breaths.  After one strong jerk of her hips, Valerie moaned, “Oh…do it now, Mack”, and pulled him between her upraised thighs.

Mack pushed his cock in until he felt resistance, then pulled it back a little.  When he pushed in again, Valerie gasped, but didn’t tense up.  He pulled back then pushed in harder.  Valerie jerked her hips and then yelped when his cock burst  past the barrier and went deep inside her.

Mack couldn’t hold back.  The sensation of his cock sliding inside Valerie was too intense.  He groaned as the first spurt flew through his cock, and groaned again at the second.  He pushed as deep as his cock would reach just before the third, and groaned again.  He was breathing hard when Valerie pulled him down into the cradle of her hips and thighs and hugged him tight.

For a while, neither one of them said anything.  Valerie just held him against her flattened breasts and stroked his back.  When he could breathe again, Mack kissed her then whispered, “I’m sorry if it hurt.  I couldn’t stop.”

Valerie kissed his cheek.

“It hurt a little but it still felt good.  I’m really a woman now.”

For the first year, they lived in his little apartment.  Mack was amazed at how Valerie coped with her blindness.  Within a week, she knew how many steps it was from anywhere in the apartment to anywhere else, and she’d memorized where everything was in the kitchen.  Once in a while he’d have to find something for her, usually something he’d put in the wrong place, but not often.  Once he’d figured out where Valerie put things, he didn’t have to help her much at all.

Her cooking was a little different to him at first, but she could cook and he grew to like what she made.  He would often sit and watch her as she used a fingertip to tell how much water she’d put in a pot, or held her hand over a heating pan to tell her if the temperature was right.

It seemed to Mack that Valerie had a method to do anything she needed to do.  It wasn’t usually the way a sighted woman would do it, but it worked for her.  

He joined the American Legion and served on their color guard.  Valerie was leery about going with him to some of the events, and some of the other wives were a little hesitant to talk with her.  After they got to know Valerie, they realized she wasn’t that much different from them, and encouraged her to join the American Legion Auxiliary.  She did and began volunteering a few hours a month to work with veterans who had lost their sight due to battle injuries.

Mack was really worried when she told him she was pregnant.  They’d had a discussion about children and she’d assured him many blind women had raised children.  He was nervous until she told him the news.  Then he was ready to panic.  Valerie calmed him down.

“The school I went to has night classes to teach you about taking care of babies.  I’ll go take the classes, and Mom will help me too.  Don’t worry, I’ll be fine and so will the baby.

Valerie was good to her word.  She raised their son and two daughters to grow up and be polite, caring, and to be concerned about the feelings of others.  Valerie loved them to death but she wouldn’t tolerate any disobedience or back talk.  More than once, Mack came home from work to find them sitting at a chair at the kitchen table looking glum while Valerie fixed dinner.  He’d ask what they’d done.  They always answered truthfully, because they knew they wouldn’t be allowed to play after dinner if they lied.

When they grew up, they often joked about how they’d tried to trick her but she always saw through the trick.  They said the eyes in the front of her head might not work, but the eyes in the back more than made up for it.

Valerie would just smile.

“Mother’s always know what their children are doing.  They don’t have to see them doing something wrong to know they are.  They feel it.  It’s just how mother’s are.”

After the last child finished college, Mack started saving money for retirement.  His supervisors had been impressed with his service in the Marines and the rank he’d earned, and within ten years, he’d been promoted to foreman and two years later to  department supervisor.  After another fifteen, he was an operations manager.  He made the decision the day he turned sixty-five.  Their house was paid for and they had no other debt.  He’d saved as much as he could so their bank account was in good shape.  When he compared his salary to his pension and interest from his savings, he decided he was working for almost nothing so he handed in his letter.

The summer after he retired, Valerie was making dinner one night.  Mack walked up behind her, cupped her full hips, and squeezed.

“Wanna go somewhere and mess around?”

“No.  If we do, the roast will burn.  Besides, what you’re squeezing is too big for messing around anymore.”

Mack chuckled.

“I like your butt.  Besides, I wasn’t talking about here in Louisville.  I was talking about a place you once told me you wanted to go.”

“I’ve told you I wanted to go a lot of places.  We’ve already been to most of them.”

“I was going to surprise you on your birthday, but I can’t wait.  I stopped by a travel agent today.  The Saturday after your birthday, we’re going to fly to Hawaii for a week.”

Valerie turned around and Mack saw a tear stream down her cheek.

“Will we go to Pearl Harbor to the cemetery?”

“That’s the first place we’ll go, and we’ll go back just as often as you want.”

Two weeks later, Mack led Valerie up to the Honolulu memorial in the Punchbowl Cemetery.  Valerie was on his right arm.  In his left was a bouquet of flowers and a flower stand.

“Valerie, this is the Honolulu memorial.  It was built to honor the men who lost their lives in the Pacific during World War Two.  It has a statue of Lady Liberty standing in the bow of a ship.  According to the guidebook, she represents motherhood.  I don’t think you can reach high enough to touch her, but there are some words on the steps.  You can feel those.

Valerie held his arm for support as she knelt down and brushed her fingers over the engraved letters on the bottom step.

“What does it say”, she asked.

Mack cleared his throat because he’d already read the words and was becoming more than a little choked up.

“They say, ‘In these gardens are recorded the names of Americans who gave their lives in the service of their country and whose earthly resting place is known only to God.’ The guide book sayd on each side are walls with the names of men who died during the war but were never found.  On the top step are more words.  Those say, ‘The solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom’.  The guide book says Abraham Lincoln said that in a letter to a woman who lost her sons in the Civil War.”

Valerie stood up.

“I hear other people beside us.  What are they looking at?”

“There are two marble walls.  On this one that faces some of the graves are two writings.  The first says, ‘This memorial has been erected by the United States Of America in proud and grateful memory of her soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who laid down their lives in all quarters of the earth that other peoples might be freed from oppression’.  Beside that it says, ‘In 1923 the congress of the United States created the American Battle Monuments Commission to worthily honor her sons who paid the last sacrifice in the service of their country on foreign soil.  Let us here highly resolve that these honored dead shall not have died in vain’.

“There’s also a quote from Admiral Nimitz that says, ‘Names that are a cross section of democracy.  They fought together as brothers in arms, they died together, and now they sleep side by side.  To them we have a solemn obligation to ensure that their sacrifice will help to make a better and safer world in which to live.’”

Valerie sniffed and wiped her eyes with a handkerchief.

“I think Daddy would be proud to be here.  How do we find his grave?”

“I wrote to them a month ago and they sent me directions.  Let’s go find it.”

They walked down the Memorial Walk and then onto the grass of the cemetery proper.  Mack led Valerie down the rows of flat headstones, then down between two of the rows.  He stopped then and squeezed Valerie’s hand.

“Here it is.  Lieutenant George A. Wilson, USN USS West Virginia, 1907 to 1941”

“Let me touch it.”

Mack held her arm while Valerie knelt and ran her fingers over the white marble headstone.  She stood up and asked Mack if he’d leave her alone for a while.  

Mack backed away a few feet.  He could see Valerie moving her lips, but couldn’t hear what she was saying.

When she waved her hand, Mack walked back to her side and put his arm around her shoulders.  Valerie squeezed his hand.

“Can you put the flowers where they should be.  I don’t know where they go.”

Mack took the brass holder with a spike on the bottom and forced it into the ground beside the headstone, then put the flowers in the holder.

“They’re there Valerie, just like you wanted.  Do you want me to leave you alone for a while more?”

Valerie hooked her arm in his.

“No.  I told Daddy everything I wanted to tell him.”

“What was that?”

“That I loved him and I wish he hadn’t died, but I was proud of him.  I also told him about you and me and how we met, and then about how we got married and had our kids.  I said he’d be proud of them and that he’d like you a lot.”

“I’m sure he’d be proud of you too, Valerie.  I know it’s been hard sometimes, but you never gave up.  You made a good home for us and we have three kids who grew up to be good people.  That was all you, you know.”

“No…without you as their dad, they wouldn’t have turned out that way.  Without you as a husband, I probably wouldn’t have turned out like I have either.  Thank you for bringing me here.  I never got to say good bye to Daddy, and now I have.”

“So, are you ready to go back to the hotel?”

Valerie grinned.

“Are we going to do that messing around you talked about?”

“I thought we might have dinner and then go dancing for a while first.”

“Like we used to?”

“Well, I won’t have to leave you at your mother’s house afterward, but yes.”

“I brought a nice dress just in case.  You’ll have to zip me up though.”

“I’ll zip you up, and then when we come back to the hotel, I’ll un-zip you right into bed.”

Valerie giggled.

“Do you think after all these years you’ve figured out how to do it right?”

“Well, I don’t know.  We might have to practice some.”

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