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Charlotte's Lad

Phoenix, Arizona
Middle of the Night, July 13 2004

Dear Elisabeth,

Why is it that inspiration can waken a person in the early hours after midnight  – especially on a worknight – and make it absolutely impossible to go back to sleep?  That’s a rhetorical question, by the way, which is another way of saying “Don’t try to answer this.  It’s one of life’s mysteries.”  So, here I am unable to sleep because I’m thinking about the conversation we had in my writing room a few afternoon’s ago and pondering how I can tell you the stories of the two sailors who came to Dundee during two different wars and the two Charlotte’s in our family who loved them and lost them far too soon.  But the sea is in your blood and your heritage, my dear, and includes your father and your grandfather his father from the United States, your great grandfather from Wales, and Dundee’s own, your 5th Great Grandmother’s “Old Uncle Admiral Adam Duncan, the sea captain.”  (And that’s not counting your Great Grandfather who was a carter at Dundee’s docks and your Great, Great Grandmother who had a fishmonger’s shop in Dundee’s Hilltown!)   

                It was so nice to sit with you and share with you my joy at finding deep down in one of my many “boxes of stuff” your father’s first love letter to me, written right after we met almost 40 years ago.  What a wonderful surprise I had then when you told me you had rescued others of  your father’s surviving letters to me – how many years ago was it? – when, you said,  I was “in a mood” and on the verge of destroying them.  You were right, you know, when you said it’s a good thing to be around me when happy memories become painful losses because you never know what mementos, photos, books, vinyl records, diaries, reel to reel tape recordings and other family story antiquities will come flying out of boxes and cupboards ready for the rescuing rather than  a final, fatalreckoning. 

I know now I fell in love with John Bleh almost the moment I met him.  I wish you could have grown up with him and enjoyed more than the few brief years that were yours and his together. But these letters are your legacy.  They tell, in his words, your father’s story as I knew him.  It’s a story of letters that begins in Dundee, Scotland, in 1916, with another Charlotte and her lad.

For David’s Children and For John’s Children,
And For their Children

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