This is the thirty-first of 87 letters exchanged during World War II between Nicholas Salvatore and Elizabeth Galloway. For more see Nicholas and Elizabeth.

Italian carnival

May 16, 1944

Dear Elizabeth,

How do you feel about a man with a beard? I caught a glimpse of myself in a pond the other day and didn’t recognize the scruffy man looking back. It’s itchy and I don’t think it suits me, but not much matters here. We all look and smell the same – bad. I wonder if all men would descend into this state, regardless if there was a war or not, if there were no women around. The villagers we come across are in pretty rough shape as well. I look at these people and try to picture what they looked like young. Not everyone will make it to old age, fewer around here, but they were all young once. They all had the fresh new skin of a baby, the unassuming smile and eyes open to everything around them. Where did those babies go? I don’t want to see anything as it is. The little old Italian ladies remind me of my grandmother. No matter what they’re doing they always seem to be wearing an apron. It’s their equivalent of a uniform. One look at them though, and you know they’re a grandmother, filled with love and kindness (and more than ready to keep you in line if necessary).

Sounds like your mother is just searching for the next phase of her life. Only thing you can do is bear witness. No matter how she might have felt about your father, after so many years she came to define herself in relation to him. With the relationship no longer there, who is she? Be there for her. Something will come up, it always does.

Elizabeth, I want you to know that I love you. With every ounce of what’s left of this broken down body, I love you.


Next letter – May 23, 1944