I was almost Twenty-one the September my Father passed away.
Dr. Joseph Augustine Grady was born in Massachusetts in 1921 (is my math correct?) He was Fifty when I was born. I’m feeling especially grateful at this moment that my birth happened at all.. the odds were kind of stacked against that possibility seeing as my mother was a nun when they met.
It took me the better part of my adult life to put together the pieces of their amazing (and unbelievably romantic) story. Their courtship lasted for five years, and four of those years were experienced through letter writing while my Father was on medical mission in Viet Nam. Their story is a love story- the real deal.
My Dad was utterly broken when my Mom met him…. broken, vulnerable, and an incredibly accomplished Vascular Surgeon practicing in Detroit Michigan. She was twenty years his junior- so, ladies… if he’s a couple years older… don’t sweat it. He already had three children, and tragically- a very alcoholic, very mentally ill wife. At the age of Twenty-Five my mother was appointed to care for them… and so, for the better part of a year she did this and then continued to care for them even after he left for Viet Nam.
They both struggled with their feelings, and my mom tried in vain to deny it by putting distance between them physically and spiritually. She’d promised herself to God… but it seems God had other plans.
After my Father Died, (He was Seventy) my Mom published a book of his love letters to her – most of them written in 1967- three years before my birth. In his honor today, and with his holiday on the horizon … I’ve re- published one (they are amazing).
My Dad would have been Ninety One today.
Happy Birthday Daddy.
Monday September 25th 1967
Dear Mary Jane,
No mail again today. I have only received one letter- yours- since leaving home. I’m getting very lonesome. I need a letter badly, Perhaps tomorrow.
It is very hot tonight. I can hardly breathe. The electrical power is so low the fans are barely turning. Twice today while operating the power failed. Even when it’s running high, the lights aren’t very good. I am learning to put up with so many deficiencies. It’s good for me. I am becoming a very adaptable and patient surgeon. That should be a new twist.
I have at this time a very ill nine year old girl with typhoid fever and a bowel perforation. She need’s surgery but the poor, ignorant parents refuse to allow surgery. It’s sad but there is nothing I can do about it. I told the father she would die without surgery. He said he had eight children and he didn’t really care weather she died or not. Was it Kipling who said “East is East and West is West and never the ‘twain shall meet”? He meant of course that the West would never understand the East and vice versa. I believe that is true.
I have another little boy who is dying of cancer. His sister – about 11-12 years old- comes in every night to take care of him. She has got to be the nicest and cutest little girl I have seen in his country. When she see’s me, she greets me with a gracious bow. I can imagine what she would be like washed and well clothed.
There must be some mail tomorrow. I’ve got to hear from you. I’m lonesome and I miss you very much.
I know you’ve been thinking of that trip to London- but you are not quite sure. You’ll think about it. You would like to but- to the supermarket in my car? What a scandal!!
Some day you may develop my point of view: I love you and I can’t stop- I’ll try to see you whenever the opportunity presents itself or whenever i can present the opportunity. That’s the way it is- London, New York, Detriot, Montreal, River Canard, anywhere on earth.