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11 / June11 / June11 / June

Dickey’s Wife

No cleaning tonight, like I had planned. Severe Thunderstorms instead, and our neighbor, Martha. She came over to wait out the storm, scared of wind and thunder now that her husband, Richard, is gone. He died last October. They met during World War II. He was a boy from rural Tennessee who lied about his age to fight. She was a German city girl.

Tonight, she told us the story of her arrival at this house. (We now own the house in which Richard grew up and in which he and Martha lived as a young married couple with Richard’s parents.) In 1949, Richard came home from Europe alone because Martha was sick. She didn’t want to leave Germany, her home. She wanted Richard to move there. The military police didn’t see her side of things, and decided to escort her and Gertie, the baby, to the airport and put them on a plane for New York. At New York, the military wanted to call Richard so he could pay for Martha’s flight to Knoxville, but Martha wanted her arrival to be a surprise. To the amazement of all around, she used her own traveler’s checks to buy a flight, just so they wouldn’t have to call Richard.

She arrived in town in the middle of the night on December 13, 1949 and got into a cab the military had arranged for her. When the cab pulled up at the house, this house, which was in the middle of the woods then, a collie dog greeted it but no one would answer the door. Martha knocked on all the doors and windows. The driver wouldn’t get out of the cab to help, but at least his headlights shed some light. In the basement of the cottage across the dirt road (now a two lane road with yellow lines), lights were on, a party going. So Martha and her baby went over and knocked.

“I’m sorry to come in the middle of the night. But I’ve just arrived from Europe…”
“Lord, it’s Dickey’s wife!”

The neighbors called Richard’s parents, who rushed outside and across the road. Mama wanted to hold the baby, but Daddy got there first. When they got Martha and the baby back across the road and inside, they called Richard at Fort Knox.

“You’re crazy Daddy, calling after midnight. What’re you doin’?”
“I’m wondering when your wife’s gonna come on.”
“Well, you’re still crazy to call. I told you, I don’t know why she’s not here yet. But, if she don’t come soon, I’m gonna go get her.”
“Well, why don’t you just talk to her now.”

Daddy put Martha on and Richard dropped the phone. Then, after getting the OK from his commanding officer, Richard flew down home.

What a great story—so much better than cleaning house. I love Martha. She is grieving and I worry for her. Not only has she lost her husband, but she’s losing her sight. She has Macular Degeneration. She first noticed it in 1996, when a friend took her outside to search the night sky for a rare celestial event. Martha couldn’t see any stars, no matter how hard she focused. It’s gotten worse since then. Now, she’s almost blind. She misses stars. She misses driving. Tonight, she said David and I looked like we had branches, like trees. I suppose there are worse things to look like. I wanted to show her our wedding photos, but she can’t see photographs. I know she must feel twice lost—without Richard and her eyes. She is amazing, though. She can talk forever, and she can make herself happy. I love her.

One day, I want to write her story of arrival properly. I’ll have to remember all the bits I’ve left out tonight. Like the old man in New York who took Gertie and her to the Empire State Building while they waited for the flight south. Like the type of car Richard flew home in.

Now I have to go. David is calling. The Astros just made history, playing a “six pitcher combined no hitter” against the Yankees. A good night indeed.

What a wonderful story--and yes, so much better than cleaning house.

I got woken up to hear about the Astros' no-hitter against the Yankees, which really made my night. (Long-term Red Sox fan here...)

Posted by: Pica on June 12, 2003 08:54 AM

When David told me what was going on, I understood the significance of a "no hitter." Of course, I didn't realize that no team had played one against the Yankees since 1958 (I think?). Wow. David had to enlighten me about the "six pitcher combined" part, though.

Posted by: Wendy on June 12, 2003 10:05 AM