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May 27, 1968.  Fort Eustis, Newport News, Virginia

Dearest Rita,

I just got two letters from you today, and they kind of bother me.  I mean that bit about Jerry and wondering if you’re ready to settle down.  Ordinarily this wouldn’t bother me as much as now, because we’d have plenty of time to straighten things out, but by the time you get this you should know that my graduation gift to you is your diamond.

Honey, maybe I was wrong giving it to you now, and without talking to you about it.  Your mother sent me a beautiful letter and suggested it as a surprise for graduation.  She said she and your dad were very happy for us, and wished us the best of luck.  At the time it sounded like the best idea ever.  Perhaps I was wrong.  Perhaps you’re not ready for it yet.

Rita, if that is the way you feel — and I want you to be honest with yourself and with me — then return the ring and we’ll wait until you are sure.  That diamond means too much to me to have it any other way.  All my love for you is symbolized in that ring, but to have the full meaning it must be mutual and positive.  I know that you know how I feel about this.

Honey, I love you more than you could ever know, and if necessary I can wait forever for you to be sure.  I’m afraid I was too pushy by giving you the ring now, but I can’t change that now.  I’ll just pray that you’ll do what you know is right, whatever that may be.  Just always remember my love for you.

I just had a bunch of guys around my bunk looking at the picture you sent.  They sure think you’re a sharp gal.  Me too!  I just wish I could be home to talk this whole thing over with you.  Honey, remember, a year is a lot longer than the time we’ve been separated so far.  Perhaps, if I get to be an instructor we’ll never have that year apart, but I don’t know if I can, in good conscience, avoid Nam.  But you’re much more important to me than that, so I’m going to do my damnedest to stay here, where I could have you with me.

Reet, you said something about no job and no money.  If that job at Spies fell through, talk to my dad, and try other places.  Remember, a job won’t come to you, you have to go after it.  And when I send money home to you from now on, I want you to take $10 out and use it for bills or whatever you want.  And I won’t take no for an answer, because I consider your bills mine now.  Okay?  Okay!

About your hair — I hope to have it doesn’t give you too much trouble, ’cause I love it long.  And everyone out here who has seen your picture says you are really tough in long hair so it’s 50 to 1 in my favor, and your dad too, I guess.  Tell him I said he should turn you over his knee if you get it cut.  Seriously, I know it’s a big bother in the summer, so if you really want to, okay.  Just so it’s long again when I get home (threat!).

Gotta go, honey, inspection in a few minutes and I’m not half ready.  I’m going to call you Friday night, but I don’t know what time I’ll be able to, because of night classes.  I love you dearly Rita.

With all my love,

Jeff

What’s interesting about this letter is that when dad mailed it he thought it would arrive the day AFTER graduation, at which point mom would have the ring and that would be that.

However, horror of horrors, it arrived the day BEFORE graduation and gave it all away.  Grandpa Harvey (dad’s dad) was supposed to arrive with the ring and give it to her as her graduation present.  Mom was going to act totally surprised when they arrived but her Grandma Carol (mom’s mom) blew it and mentioned the letter, putting all secrets out in the open.

So technically there was never any official “proposal.”  They just always talked about it as though it was inevitable.

Email from mom:

“I did get the first letter on the day of graduation and he blew the surprise. If I’m remember right, my cousin Jerry was coming to live with us our Freshman year at SDSU. I think he was talking to me about all the fun, partying, cruising that we would do and with the engagement, it would cramp his style of having me with him and we “ran” together. I’m sure it was just a fleeing moment and just needed to talk or write it out loud, if you know what I mean. Jeff and I talked about everything and I’ve always been one to say everything to see what sticks. I had no doubt it was Jeff I wanted to marry.

I miss him……”

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Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday

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