The first time I heard my husband Bud tell about his experiences during World War II was on our honeymoon. We’d rented a small rustic cabin painted a bright yellow at the beach near Newport, Oregon.
How it started I don’t know. But after supper, in a whimsical mood, we sat down on the floor to see whose feet were the larger of the two. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that my feet were the longest.
“It doesn’t seem quite right,” I said. “I mean the husband’s feet should be bigger than the wife’s don’t you think?”
Bud’s reply was to throw his head back and roar with laughter. “Well, I have good reason to be thankful that I have short feet.”
“And why was that?” I asked.
“I was serving in the Battle of the Bulge when I was taken prisoner by the Germans. On the march to the prison camp the guards took a good look at our combat boots and decided because our boots were of a much sturdier quality than theirs, we should exchange shoes.”
A faraway look shadowed his eyes and for a moment I felt him slip away into a world I did not know. Bud, Bud, my thoughts cried. Come back to me. Please, come back.
He continued on. “And so we did the shoe swap. But no one could wear mine, they were much too small. As a result I suffered only minor frost bite. But some of my buddies who were using the German boots, which were lined with metal, ended up with lost toes. Others lost the use of their feet. It was a tragedy.”
He got up and looked out the window then opened it so that we heard the roar of the waves as they came towards us. We stood there a long time.
Our next words were about the songs of the sea. So beautiful, so perfect, it stole our hearts and we went on to other things.