A December 7th Birthday Story

Eighty-one years ago, my yet-to-be mom was getting a birthday party organized for my yet-to-be dad. He was 24 years old that day.

By 2 PM, everyone was planning to still come, but the mood had become quite somber. It was the day Pearl Harbor was attacked and the US was brought into World War II.

A few weeks later, my father enlisted in the Army. Dad had a penchant for words and with this extensive vocabulary and a good eye for solving puzzles, he was sent off to Harvard for a year to study Asian languages. Upon completing his education, he was shipped off to Hawaii and joined a top-secret cryptography team responsible for maintaining the military’s understanding of the code used by that Japanese to communicate with their forces in the Pacific.

One day, my dad was called in to see his commanding officer. Upon entering, the captain very brusquely asked for my mother’s name. “Pearl,” responded my father and with that, the captain put his head in his hands. He went onto to say that the censors for the Army, who reviewed all the mail before it went out, assumed that my dad was trying to tell my mother where he was stationed and since his role was top secret, that would have been a punishable offense. The censors, it seemed, snipped out all the “dearest Pearls,” “the darling Pearls,” and the “I love you Pearls,” from his daily love letters.

Dad left the office with a bit of a smile on his face knowing that mom now knew exactly where he was stationed, even though they never mentioned it in their correspondence before that time of after.

My dad loved telling that story on his birthday was a way of deflecting the difficult times that “Greatest Generation” endured to save the world from darkness. I like to recall it as well as it helps me keep a perspective around the silly little things that I allow to disturb my day.  “Perspective taking,” is an excellent resilience skill. I guess I know where that that skill came from.

© Richard Citrin 2022

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