Dreams and Doubts

Dreams and Doubts

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

Dreams and Doubts

I don’t care how long he is away from home, as long as he comes home.

Karin Mercendetti

June 10, 1944. The lunch rush was over, and a sharp gust of wind slammed the door shut behind the last customer. Sophia poured a cup of coffee, dished up the last piece of homemade apple pie and sat down. Instead of eating, she stared out the window and prayed with all her heart that her beloved husband would give her a sign that he was still alive. She felt in her heart that he was fine, but a little voice inside kept questioning that feeling.

They had met when she was only fifteen and working in a hospital after school. He was five years older, handsome, charming, brilliant and fun. They became friends instantly, but waited four years to get married. They scrimped and saved for five more years to fulfill their dream of buying their own business, this small hotel and restaurant on the river in Gowanda, New York. Since their wedding, they had not been apart for a night, until he went into the army.

She found herself remembering the day that Vic had received his draft notice. It was on his birthday, and she was devastated. Why did they want a married thirty-two-year-old? The notice, however, didn’t faze Vic. He was eager to serve his country.

Vic had wanted with all of his heart to be a pilot because he had enjoyed flying a friend’s airplane around the countryside near their home every chance he got. But the army made him a staff sergeant in the mess hall because of his culinary skills. (He said there wasn’t much you could do with powdered eggs and dried beef!)

He had been moved to several different bases in the South during the past nineteen months. Sophia had taken the train to visit him several times and enjoyed the graciousness of the people, but not the oppressive heat and humidity. She was content that she had remained at home to take care of their business instead of trying to follow him from base to base. With help from her younger sister Josephine, she ran the hotel and restaurant quite efficiently, managing to build a substantial nest egg.

The war seemed to go on endlessly, but Vic had just been home on leave a few weeks ago. He was excited about his current assignment where he had learned to fly something called a glider plane. He went on and on with details that she didn’t comprehend, but his enthusiasm was so contagious that she listened attentively. He had informed her that he would be going to Europe within days. He allayed her fears for his safety by talking about their hopes and dreams for the future. He was convinced that the war would end soon, and they talked of moving to the big city to buy a larger business and having a child when he returned.

But would he return? Now she wasn’t so sure. It had been four days since she had seen the front page of the newspaper with the horrible news of all the glider pilots killed in the D-day invasion of France. She didn’t know for sure where he was, but she could put two and two together! The government couldn’t, or wouldn’t, confirm his whereabouts. Her fingers nervously twirled her wedding ring, and she prayed again for a sign that he was okay. She sipped the now-cold coffee and took a bite of the apple pie.

And then she saw them. Two soldiers in uniform were standing and talking next to a green Jeep parked a few buildings down the block. Terror gripped her heart and she prayed like she had never prayed before. . . . No, God! Please, no!

They started walking toward the hotel. They were coming inside. The place was empty at two-thirty in the afternoon. She was riveted in place, staring at them. She couldn’t speak. Her chest tightened, and she winced at the sharp pain from squeezing her wedding ring too hard.

They kept walking toward her. Finally, one of them said, “Can we get a couple of beers?”

A wave of relief washed over her as she delivered the drinks and said the beers were on the house. She explained to them that her husband was missing in action, and she initially thought they were bringing her bad news.

The next morning, the phone rang at five and she picked it up to hear the operator asking if she would accept a collect call. “Thank you, God!” she exclaimed. “Oh Vic, you really are alive! I knew it. I just knew it.” Vic explained that he was still in Georgia and had been injured during a final training exercise. He ended up in the infirmary and couldn’t go on to France and fly the gliders with his squadron. He was disappointed and ashamed that he had not gone on to fulfill his dream.

Communications hadn’t been good in the infirmary, and he just now learned of the hundreds of friends lost when the gliders landed in France. However, something kept whispering to him that he needed to contact his wife. Since there were no phones on the base that he could use, it had been several days before he was able to get a ride into town to call her.

What amazed both of them the most was how they had been expressing their feelings and “speaking to each other” without a word, while they were hundreds of miles apart.

Sophia Shell
As told to Cindy Shell Pedersen

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