by M. Pardo

             Christine never expected to find anything secretive about anyone close to her, especially her grandmother. She enjoyed her close relationship with her grandmother, who died recently after battling a long illness. Christine thought she knew everything about her grandmother, but what she found out shocked and thrilled her at the same time.
A couple of weeks ago, Christine helped her parents clean out her grandmother’s house. As she was cleaning out the bedroom closet, Christine found a big white box. What is this?  She opened the box to discover letters and a picture.
Christine picked up a picture and gasped. A man dressed in Army fatigues posed with his profile facing to the right. He had a mustache, short-cropped hair, and did not smile. Christine estimated the timing of the picture to be from the World War II era. However, the man was not her grandfather as he was never in the military. Who is this guy?
Christine walked excitedly in the dining room, where her parents were wrapping up the fine china. “Mom, Dad, look what I found,” she said, holding up the box. “This was in the bedroom closet. I also found this picture.”
Her mother took the picture. “I’ve never seen this picture before,” she said. “There’s nothing written on the back.”
Christine shuffled through the box and held up one of the letters. The handwriting was small and almost illegible. It was a letter addressed to her grandmother from a man named Richard.
Who is Richard?  Is he the man in the picture?  All these thoughts swirled in Christine’s head. She sits in the middle of the living room, going through the contents of the white box and studying them.  She attempts to read each of the other letters, but they were just as illegible.  They were all signed by the same name, Richard.
Christine wonders if perhaps Richard was a man her grandmother had a relationship with before she met Christine’s grandfather.  There’s one person who may be able to help, she thought, and that person is her great aunt Rose. Rose is her grandmother’s sister and currently lives in an assisted-living facility,
The next day, Christine visits her great aunt. Rose is an energetic for a woman of 90 years of age and shows no signs of slowing down.  “Hello, my lovely!” she greets Christine as she walks in the room. “What brings you here today?”
“Oh, I am always happy to see you,” Christine replied. “I happened to be cleaning out Grandma’s closet and found this box.  It has all these letters and this picture.” She hands the picture to Aunt Rose.
“Oh, this is Richard,” Aunt Rose replied.  “He was your grandmother Esther’s first love. He fought in World War II.  Esther was going to marry him when he returned from the war. Unfortunately, he died.”
“How?” Christine inquired.
“He was killed in the Battle of Normandy in June, 1944,” Aunt Rose said. “His death devastated your grandmother. She really loved him.”
“What was he like?” Christine asked, curiously.
“He was a wonderful, very sweet man,” Aunt Rose replied. “Very quiet, too. He doted on Esther. He loved her. He proposed to her before he went overseas.”
“Why hasn’t Grandma mention anything about him?” Christine asked, and then instantly regretted her accusatory tone. “I mean, why had she kept it a secret?”
“She never fully recovered from Richard’s death,” Aunt Rose said. “She grieved for a long time. By the time she met your grandfather a few years later, she buried any reminders of Richard. The memories were too painful.”
“Did Grandma love Grandpa the same way, like she loved Richard?”  Christine said.
Aunt Rose smiled. “Her love with Richard was different than the love she had for your grandfather. But don’t get me wrong, dear, she loved your grandfather very much.”
A couple of hours later, Christine walked out of the assisted-living facility. She pulls Richard’s picture out of her pocket and studies it. She wonders what it would have been like if she has the opportunity to meet him? Then, she has another thought. Has her grandmother found her true love in heaven?  



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