Forest City Courier, Aug. 15, 1940
A few days ago I read in one of our best dailies the copy of a very touching letter written by a soldier to his mother. The inevitable horrors of war will leave scars on the hearts of many parents. What a pity too, to leave hurt in the heart of a child. Any one of us can do unthinkingly. The following was taken from The Valve World and pasted in my scrap book many years ago. The appeal certainly pulls upon your heartstrings, and should strengthen our unwavering, faith in the kindness of the human heart.
I am saying this to you as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, I sat reading my paper in the library, a hot, stifling wave of remorse swept over me. I could not resist it. Guiltily I came to your bedside.
These are the things I was thinking, son; I had been cross to you because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel when you were dressing for school. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when I found you had thrown some of your things on the floor.
At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play I made for my office, you turned and waved a little hand and called, ‘Good-bye Daddy!’ and I frowned, and said in reply, ‘Hold your shoulders back.’
Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you down on your knees playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your friends by making you march ahead of me back to the house, Stockings were expensive and if you had to buy them you would be more careful.
Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in softly, timidly, with a sort of hurt, hunted look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. ‘What is it you want?’ I snapped. ‘You said nothing, but you ran across, in one tempestuous plunge and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, again and again, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart, and which even neglect could not wither and then you were gone pattering up the stairs.
Well son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. Suddenly I saw myself as I really was, in all my horrible selfishness, and I felt sick at heart.
What has habit been doing to me? The habit of complaining, of finding fault, of reprimanding, all of these were my rewards to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected so much of youth. I was measuring by the yardstick of my own years.
And there was so much that was good, and fine and true in your character. You did not deserve my treatment to you, son. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. All this was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, choking with emotion and so ashamed.
It is a feeble atonement. I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours, yet I must say what I am saying. I must burn sacrificial fires, alone, and make free confession. And I have prayed God to strengthen me in my new resolve. Tomorrow, I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come, I will keep saying as if it is a ritual: ‘He is nothing but a boy, a little boy.’
I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet, as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday, you were in our mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.
Reprinted with permission from The Daily Courier. Copyright owned by The Daily Courier.