15 April 1961, Ceylon to Chicago

By , June 25, 2008 4:03 am

My mom just gave me a box of letters to and from (mostly to) her mom, my grandmother. I’m going to try and transcribe them (slowwwwwwly) and post them as I do. The only change I’m making is inserting some paragraphs for readability, as apparently Gert (my great aunt, and the author of this letter) wasn’t a huge fan of them – the original had only two huge paragraphs.
-R

15 April 1961

Dear Mary,

You really are extraordinary. Or just a moment. No, I just see that your card for my birthday was posted on 10 March, it arrived today, so I can’t blame you for not answering my last letter in it. But it was good to have even so belated a note from you and so uncommunicative a one. Did you receive from Delhi a set of table mats? A set I sent to Eleanore at the same time reacher her. Did Bonnie receive from Geneva a gold bangle of an Egyptian head for her charm bracelet? If not, please let me know so I can start inquiries. Especially as I shall have to stop in Geneva after I leave here, which I still hope will be toward the end of May. Did you get my letter asking you to send off my suitcase and did you send it?

Now for you. I’m glad you’ve finally faced that issue of separation. Now, to put it bluntly, try to forget the past or at least not remember it with bitterness. You can’t do anything more about it, but you can do a lot about the future. You’ve probably already realized that it doesn’t matter a fig what anybody thinks about Eddie not living at home, so that you might just as well have ignored “public opinion” all these years. But don’t waste your time regretting not having done it before. As long as you feel you’ve done right, and I’m sure Bonnie is both old enough and wise enough to be able to love you both without any sense of conflict or disloyalty, as long as you are wise about it and don’t demand proof from her that she approves of the seperation. What you must be prepared for is the possibility that you may have to live at a slightly lower standard of living if Eddie’s not at home, but you now know that you can support yourself and if you aren’t willing to pay that price for your freedom from the frustration and bitterness and discontent of the past years then you don’t really want it very badly.

As I’ve no doubt told you before, because it always seems to important to me, maturity is having to make choices between alternatives, each alternative having some advantages and some disadvantages. Children never understand why they should have to give up anything in order to have something else; grown ups should know how to make the choice and to live with it. You’ve wished for my birthday that I may continue to go through life doing the things I want to do. You might just think for a moment that I make up my mind each time by considering the alternative costs and deciding what I’m ready to pay or sacrifice in order to do something I want to do. Sometimes one gives up something else one wants to do, or chooses to do the least unpleasant of two unpleasant things. But it’s being able to choose that differentiates us from animals. Now let’s see what you decide to do with what you’ve chosen. Don’t worry about happiness. It’s not something one gets by direct effort, like going out to buy a loaf of bread or a bottle of whiskey. It’s a kind of by-product. You care for people so what happens to them makes you happy, even if you’ve done nothing about it yourself. I understand, for example, that Betty is pregnant, which you had nothing to do with but I’m sure makes you happy.

One way to start off on the right foot is to do something that you’re not quite sure you can do, take another course in the evening, or take up swimming or decide to lose ten pounds or to stand up straighter so that you don’t have to wear a girdle under your shorts by the time the weather comes around for wearing shorts again. Anything which will reestablish your self-confidence will be a good thing. I’m not kidding, it doesn’t have to be important to anybody else, just try disciplining yourself for something. It works wonders. Second thing I would suggest is to avoid discussing your and Eddie’s decision with anybody else, whether it’s somebody really trying to be helpful or merely being sympathetic or being curious to see how you’re managing or whether they can figure out some hidden reason. It’s just nobody else’s bloody business, and you can get around it by saying you’d rather not discuss it, it’s a purely personal matter between you and Eddie. The less discussion the less pain, and the less regret of anything said when you’re feeling depressed or angry about anything related or unrelated to the problem. Don’t feel guilty no matter how many people you hear or imagine tsk tsk ing around you; this is your life, only you can live it, with or without any mistakes you make in it.

If you find it hard to manage let me know. I can always help a bit over the rough spots. And don’t let financial pressure force you to do anything you don’t really want to do. For example, I didn’t get the impression that Bonnie is the academic type, but if by the time she finishes high school she has developed new interests and feels she wants to go to the university for a genuine reason, not because all the girls are going to find a college boy friend, I shall be able to help and would be delighted to help. THAT’S A PROMISE. And it’s purely between you and me, nobody else need know, not even Bonnie. If you say you want some help to put her through college, that will be reason enough. I don’t believe in young people being burdened with obligations of gratitude for something as unimportant between people as money. I hate what it does to them. She can take help from you knowing you love her and that she loves you; she shouldn’t feel any obligation of burden for such help, but she might feel such a burdern for help from anybody else. Enough for now. Let me hear from you. Good luck, and may you find the contentment you’ve been aching for for so many years. If I had another address I’d send this there. I don’t want you to have to share this letter with anybody else.

All my love, Gert

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