About five months ago, just days before my sister died, I found a box of letters my dad saved his whole life. Letters from Betty Peabody, a girl he first met in California when he was in high school. She was a couple of years younger, and when she moved back to Michigan, he visited and corresponded for quite a few years. Actually, they kept in touch through her college years, and he attended her graduation in 1937.
I think Bonnie had taken the box, and many other of my dad’s personal items, to keep our mother from throwing them out when he was moved to a nursing home.
Bonnie once mentioned her belief that our dad had hoped Betty would follow him to Hawaii when he moved here in 1939. That didn’t happen.
My question back in October was simple: “Is it okay to read a parent’s intimate correspondence that they never shared while alive?”
Well, I have read a number of the letters, and they aren’t what I would have called “intimate.” They obviously represented something my dad felt was important enough to keep them close at hand for over 70 years, but to me they’re really just chatty letters from a friend. Little vignettes from her school, news of her siblings and other relatives, descriptions of trips made, updates on the fate of her school’s athletic teams.
Here’s a link to one of her letters. In one place she refers to his visit to see her in Michigan, which helps to date the letter. I believe his visit was in the summer of 1933, when he and a friend hitchhiked to the Chicago Worlds Fair that opened earlier that year. So this letter was written sometime after that.
I felt a bit let down after reading it. I was obviously hoping I would learn something more about my dad from the letters from this youthful romance. Maybe that will still happen as additional letters turn up. We’ll see.