String Bass Memento
The war had just started and we were already fighting about it. Of course I didn't want him to go. He was always so responsible.
He just got back from lunch at the mess hall. It was a short day for him because he wanted to get back to see his family for the last time. Not forever, we hoped, but he would probably be gone for a good long while. He just finished work, grabbed lunch, ate it and came home to our little housing unit on base.
He decided to take a quick shower so he could get on with the rest of the day together with us. Maybe we'd go out for dinner later or have a nice evening at home. We hadn't yet decided. Either way, he wanted to be comfortable so he could enjoy himself and a nice hot shower always did the trick.
I cleaned out his pockets so that I could put his clothes in the laundry and I came across the receipt. It would be his last receipt from the mess hall before his deployment. Those guys at the mess hall aren't the only ones that weren't going to see him for awhile.The receipt might be all I had left of him for who knows how long. I quickly noted on the back of it that our anniversary would be this weekend, when he'd be long gone flying over Vietnam.
I had a bad habit of losing things so I wanted to put it somewhere safe. I might forget it but it wouldn't get lost. He was leaving his string bass at home, he'd have no use for it thousands of miles away flying over Southeast Asia. We had made a hurried anniversary celebration before he left for the war and I'd written about it in my journal and so I put that page from my journal into the bass along with the receipt.
Sometimes I couldn't stand to have the TV on. All of the special reports intruding on my evenings that were already dominated by worry over him still being over there and not knowing if and when he'd be home again. Last thing I wanted was to hear that a plane had been shot down or that an airman had been captured and placed in a POW camp. Because, invariably, I would assume it was him. I avoided the newspapers altogether. I don't know why. Either way, I'd get the news if something had happened to him. The air force would send someone over to have the discussion with me. I was always avoiding the possibly inevitable.
I needed to calm my nerves and so took a trip to the corner market. Unfortunately, you couldn't avoid hearing people talking about the war. As usual, Leo was sitting in the old chair at the front of the store, reading the newspaper. God, why did I have to pass him at that moment? Good timing has never been a friend of mine.
Inevitably, I heard the news of a plane being brought down by anti-aircraft artillery and I immediately began to panic. My fear had been realized. I'd never see him again.
It was all over the news and I waited in horror for any news the air force may send my way about my Jeff. I certainly didn't want any news from them, yet I wanted to know.
I finished cleaning the bass and, as predicted, I'd forgotten the receipt and journal entry were in there. They immediately brought back memories of those times for me, the worry and the dread. I couldn't hold back the tears.
I could barely hear something coming from the other room. It was like something far in the distance but I also knew it wasn't really that far away.
He came in and rushed to me, asking what was wrong.
"Do you remember these?" I said to him smiling through the tears.
"I certainly do, my love."