I could only imagine how Mippy was feeling as she continued. She said “I got a letter from him and I think he wrote it on the train. She smiled and said “he wrote, ‘my darling Maggie for Margaret’.” Then she looked at the rose and said “it was the only letter I got from him.”
What did it say? I asked.
“No,” she said. “That part of the story I keep private.”
She said “after a month, the letters I sent to him started coming back. I knew that those boys couldn’t say much about where they were or what they were doing, so I thought maybe he was on some sort of secret mission and couldn’t tell me.”
Mippy said “what he didn’t know was that I was expecting your mama. I wrote to him and told him but the letter came back.”
“So he never knew?” I asked. “No, He never knew,” she said.
“After six months, I got a telegram. I waited an hour before I read it. I didn’t want to know what it said.”
Mippy took a deep breath and seemed to be trying to steady herself before she told me what the telegram said. She had memorized it.
She said, “it was addressed to Mrs. Joseph Unwin Sinclair.”
“THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY HAS ASKED ME TO EXPRESS HIS DEEP REGRET THAT YOUR HUSBAND, PRIVATE FIRST CLASS JOSEPH UNWIN SINCLAIR IS PRESUMED TO HAVE BEEN KILLED IN ACTION. THIS PRESUMPTION UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE MISSING PERSONS ACT ON 31 MARCH, 1968. I EXTEND TO YOU MY SINCERE SYMPATHY FOR YOUR GREAT LOSS. A LETTER SETTING FORTH THE CIRCUMSTANCES ON WHICH THIS PRESUMPTION WAS MADE WILL FOLLOW. AGAIN ON BEHALF OF THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY PLEASE ACCEPT HIS SINCERE SYMPATHY.”
She said “he went missing on his birthday. He was only 21. For years, I held out hope that he would be found and would return to me. Eventually, and I can’t tell you when, but eventually I lost all hope. You know, they say that hope is always the last to die.”
Mippy didn’t cry but I think she wanted to. I wanted to. Maybe she had already cried all of her tears and crying wasn’t going to bring her beloved back to her.
She said, “He never really got a chance to live, you know? He never knew that he was going to be a father. He never got to build that swing set. He never got comb grey hair.”
Mippy raised her left sleeve. At that very moment, I realized that I had never seen her wear short sleeves. When I was a child, I saw things from a child’s eyes and it never occurred to me to wonder about the way she dressed but I remember that even when it was hotter than blue blazes, she had on a long-sleeved blouse or a sweater.
When she raised her sleeve, she was running her finger over a steel colored cuff bracelet. She showed it to me and said “I have worn this bracelet ever since I got that telegram. It’s a POW/MIA bracelet and it bears Jus’ name and the day he went missing.
I said “Mippy, you have been alone all these years. Did you ever think about marrying again?”
Mippy looked at me and said, “no one could ever hold a candle to Mr. Joseph Unwin Sinclair and I wasn’t alone. I had your mama…and I had my rose.”
“But that rose,” I said. “That can’t be the same rose he gave you all those years ago.”
Just as Mippy and I looked at the rose in the small glass vase, another petal fell.
To be continued_________________