Love letters from my grandfather

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My grandfather was a prolific letter writer.  Even as a baby I was sent postcards from all over the world with little notes like this one:

“You would look so beautiful wearing a lei from Hawaii my dear Ali!  Wish you were here with me darling girl! Kisses, Grandpa”

golden gate bridge photo

What little girl doesn’t need a grandfather like that?  He entrusted me with all sorts of important tasks when he was away, things I still can’t believe he allowed me to do at the early tender ages of my life.  But he believed in me in a way that has scarcely been matched since his death sixteen years ago.

His death was one of the saddest days of my entire life.  I felt like I lost a part of myself.

love letters from my grandpa

Sometimes I dream about him, and can almost feel his huge engulfing arms all the way around me.  He smelled of Mercedes leather and mints, and almost always wore a fedora.

love letters to my darling

Oh how I miss him!

A few weeks ago at my mother’s house I came across a huge stash of old photos and letters from my grandfather.  He had extremely distinctive handwriting so I spotted his letters right away, and the more I dug the more treasure I found.  I ended up snatching dozens and dozens of love letters from my grandfather to my grandmother throughout a period of 50 years, starting in the early 1930’s all the way until he stopped traveling for work.

love letters

My grandfather was a hugely successful civil engineer who designed hundreds of old buildings and bridges across the world, but his letters are exactly grandpa.  While some of the letters feel too personal for even me to read, most of them are from a tender husband to his beloved wife, mixed with a set of plans and specs for whatever job he was working on.  He was so specifically detailed, talking about the price of tickets for his train fare, the cost of the projects he was bidding on, how much his per diem was on each project, the exact times of his arrival and departure at every airport and train station across the world so my grandmother would know exactly when to expect him.

There’s so much lost in email and texting, nothing sacred about the telephone.  I can almost feel my grandmother’s relief at the news of his imminent arrival home in each letter.  His words are so tender and dear, no one could ever question his love and devotion to his family in his love notes and detailed daily instructions to his family.

I wish we had more letters and less email in our lives, I really do.  I’m so grateful to have found this stash of history from my grandfather, in his own pen.  It almost feels like he’s here with me when I read them.

— Have you ever found old love letters?  Reading these made me feel like I was right there with him, in a cheap hotel in Venezuela during World War II. —

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Allison

Hello there! I'm Allison Czarnecki, founder + editor of Petit Elefant, a blog all about style on a budget for every part of your life: style / home / travel / family. I do a lot of how-to beauty + style tutorials, travel posts, easy recipes, home remodel projects, and cool DIY crafts you totally want to try. I'm super happily married (to a hot Polish immigrant) and am the mother of two kids, a daughter and son, all of whom are featured here on the regular. We live in the country but we're a little bit rock + roll. Welcome!

9 Comments

  1. aimee @ smilingmama :

    Love this! After my grandmother and then my grandfather died, we found a huge box of all their love letters back and forth from courtship through their first few years of marriage while he was at basic training and then in WWII. They are so amazing. We all got a chuckle about how my grandmother’s letters were all business and my grandfather was the romantic! We divided them up and each family took a stack. I dream about gathering them all back up from my aunts, uncles and cousins and turning them into a book!

  2. Julie :

    What a wonderful treasure! My husband and I were apart during our engagement and we wrote letters to each other every day. They are so embarrassing to read now, but I love them just the same. I hope some day they will be just as endearing to my posterity.

  3. Christine :

    Oh wow, what an amazing treasure for you and all your family.
    Despite the name of my blog, I am a terrible letter writer and rely all too much on the Internet. I feel a new year’s resolution coming on.
    I’ve never found a love letter but I do have a special letter from my great uncle to his mum and sisters during the First World War in 1915 – sadly he died not long after writing it.

  4. Kalli :

    I cry, CRY!

    I never knew either of my grandfathers, and only one of my grandmothers, who is now my neighbor and has been for the majority of my life. She’s a little crazy, but I’m grateful for her.

    My mom’s dad especially sounds like someone I can’t wait to get to know better. Though he didn’t die until I was 13, he sustained a traumatic brain injury in a horse accident that took place when I was 5. My memories of him before that time are extremely limited, and afterwards I only know of him as the brain injury itself really.

    My kids have a tremendous relationship with both sets of their grandparents, I’m thankful for it every day. The only thing I worry about is the fact that my dad and Paul’s parents are both in their early 70’s. I want them to live forever. My mom is 10 years younger, so I guess at least she’ll be around…

  5. Sunny :

    This is funny.

    My grandfather was also a civil engineer (after the war) but he dealt with surface water and dams. Worked for the Army Corps of Engineers all over the world from Thailand to Europe to Southern Utah.

    He, too, rocked a fedora and loved a good letter (as well as his “6 oz of sin” [Diet Coke]).

  6. dgm :

    I regularly express this very regret about this generation, that they will have none of the letters between friends and lovers that even I had in my day. Get this: I have every note passed to me in school, from elementary through high school, and most letters and b-day cards from friends and boyfriends and parents (after I moved away to college), and of course, all love letters from my hubby of 18 years (he has the ones I wrote him). I have always treasured these mementos but rarely read them; every now and then I’ll peruse correspondence from a random period in my life and I recognize the handwriting immediately (it turns out that everyone seems to have very distinct pensmanship), and the memories come flooding back. I also have rough drafts of letters on serious topics, where I had to be sure to get it right but had to recopy everything so the letter would be neat, and photocopies of the really awesome letters where I had to tell some guy how it is.

    I imagine some day it will all go in a museum. Or, you know, not.

  7. Cindy Fisher :

    Crazily enough, I’m in the process of cleaning out my attic, and low and behold, I found at least two wonderful letters from you. How treasured they are to me! I have so many letters that I kept over the years. I used to love writing and getting letters. I miss those days! It’s time I start again. E-mail is just NOT the same. (P.S. Do you remember the days when we’d write letters to boyfriends, even if they went to our same school? I received a doll’s head with a letter inside the head once from a boyfriend. Creeeeeeepy!)

  8. Kerry :

    My parents have several boxes of old photos from both sides of our family. There are photos and letters chronicling the immigration of my mother’s parents from Italy, their children, cousins, aunts, uncles. My favorites are the letters my grandmother and her sisters wrote to their brother while he was serving in Europe during WWII and the photos of them in trousers off to work in a shoe factory. The wedding albums, invitations, thank you notes and ‘don’t forget me’ portraits still make me swoon and tear up at the same time! We have albums of my father’s family in Ireland and my father’s first visa into the United States and his citizenship papers. I thank my mother for saving a huge box of my letters I received growing up from friends and family- and, the most beautiful blessing of all- was finding a series of 6 written to me by a dear friend who died when we were 21. Whenever I miss him, I can pull out a letter and see his handwriting, imagine him and hear his voice. My 4 year old and I write letters regularly and have a ‘mail’ day – a trip to the post office to post them :)

  9. Ira :

    wow this post almost made me cry…
    I wish I was close to my grandfather, but he’s not exactly a nice person, oh well..

    Reading this post makes me wanna write letters and send postcards of my own, because I can see how much more personal letters can be, which makes it sweeter than emails…
    :)