My sister-in-law Regina told her neighbor Bertha Nell that I wrote letters everyday to my husband Vincent who was stationed in Vietnam. Bertha Nell’s boyfriend was in the Marine Corps at Parris Island, South Carolina. She asked if I would agree to write love letters for Bertha Nell to send to him.
I was flattered that Regina admired my writing enough to recommend me to her friend. It seemed like fun to make up romantic stuff that would take my mind off the challenges of being the young bride of a man who had been deployed to a war zone.
I wrote a sample letter for Bertha Nell and gave it to her to read. Instead, she asked me to read it to her. I read it aloud and was quite pleased with my own creativity.
“It’s so beautiful,” she giggled. “Tony’ll love it.”
“Be sure you copy it in your own handwriting,” I said. “You don’t want him to find out later than you deceived him.”
“It’s fine just like it is.” She signed her name, put my draft in an envelope and licked the seal.
Tony loved it enough to ask her to write back again and again. She let me read his letters to her so I could reply to them. The man had fallen in love with my letters.
After almost six weeks of sending weekly love letters, Bertha Nell began picking them up, signing and mailing them.
“Don’t you want to know what I said to your boyfriend?” I said.
“Nope. I just know it’s beautiful and he’ll love it.”
“What will you do when Tony finds out you didn’t write them?”
“By then we’ll be married and it won’t matter.”
About a month later, Regina came over to tell me that Tony finished basic training and came home.
“Tony told me how much he loved those letters,” she said. “They went to the courthouse and got married before they sent him to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Bertha Nell won’t need you any more ‘cause she moved up there. You sure helped her snag a nice-looking guy.”
“I should have charged her for writing those love letters.”
“Too late now. They’re gone bye-bye. I don’t even think she could read.”
“What! Now I’ve got a guilty conscience. I enjoyed writing the letters and hearing her praises. But I don’t like the thought of having deceived a man I didn’t even know.”
“Well, there’s nothing you can do about it now. You’ll get over it. I will tell you, my brother says your letters keep him pumped up. He can’t wait to get back home to you.”
I giggled. Regina made me feel like I had done something right.
This is a true story. I never heard from Bertha Nell again, but I’ve always wondered how her husband felt when he learned that she didn’t write those love letters. What are your thoughts?