Chapter 28
Cold Heart

Fall 1967
Going on Fifteen

It’s hard to imagine Dad was once a skipper on an LST boat in the Navy, back during World War II. We have photos of him in uniform, resembling one of those dashing guys in the old war movies. I try to imagine him running a shipload of sailors, though, bossing them around like the captain in The Caine Mutiny, his favorite book, having the time of his life as Mom says he did, but he just doesn’t seem the type. I’m jealous of those sailors who got to see him at the helm of that LST, gazing out over the Mediterranean, and then every night writing gooshey love letters to Mom which we discovered one day when we lived on Jefferson: “My Dearest Darling Mollie …” I took the stamps off the envelopes to place them in my stamp album. One says, Win the War, and it’s only two cents! I don’t know if it bothers Mom looking at the letters and pictures, but it bothers me. I keep wanting that Navy skipper to come back.

How Sound Entered the Forest

Mrs. Macintosh picked up an acorn from the schoolyard and confronted our second grade class with her own version of Aristotle’s famous question. Mysteriously lifting her eyebrows, she asked us, “If this acorn falls to the ground in the middle of a forest where there are no human beings or animals to hear it, will it make any noise?” Always inquisitive, I stood chewing on this puzzle and on a wisp of hair that had escaped my braids. I conjured up a picture of the empty forest and watched the acorn tumbling to the ground as our teacher moved more deeply into the question. “Do you think sound can exist without at least one ear drum for it to bounce off of?”


When my mother began speaking to me at the retreat house of Paul’s death, her voice grew flatter than it had been when speaking of Mary-Louise. She recited dully the sparse facts and as much of our family’s feeling world which she had ever dared remember: almost nothing. In 1959, she told me, history simply repeated itself. Oh, technically, new variations on a theme, but the same theme. Paul was sick with a bronchial condition for a long time the winter of 1957–1958, but it cleared up. In May he and Betsy got their tonsils out.