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My Writer's Journal

My Father's Bracelet

I was cleaning out a box this morning when I found a silver ID bracelet, heavily tarnished, so scratched and worn that I could hardly make out the engraved initials: H.V.M. That would be my father, gone now for fifty years. On the back are more initials, L.B., with decorative curlicues. That would be the girl who gave it to him, eighty years ago: Lavinia Buckwalter. But he didn’t marry Lavinia. He married my mother instead.

I know a little about Lavinia. In 1929, Vic Meyer had graduated from college with a degree in engineering and gotten a job with the telephone company in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was certainly not cut out to be an engineer. In college he’d been active in the theater group, and in Harrisburg he joined the local company and played leading man roles. That’s when he met Lavinia. I was about twelve when I found some of the love letters she’d written when he was about to go on stage in a new production. I don’t know if she was an actress, but on that occasion she was in the audience, silently cheering him on. The letters were stashed between the leaves of a photo album, along with her photograph—she was a stylish beauty—and newspaper clippings about his performance. (Check out his photo on the “My Life” page.)

At some point she cared enough about him to give him the engraved bracelet. And at some point they broke up. The telephone company transferred him sixty miles away to Lewistown and he met a church organist named Sara Knepp and married her. Lavinia, oddly, also moved to Lewistown; she married a man who sold tombstones.

Decades passed, and my parents lives ended. After my mother died, I found a trunk with some of my father’s old belongings. The silver ID bracelet was among them, and something even more interesting: the diary he kept when he was a college student and in love with a girl named Peg McGeary. Peg didn’t love him as much as he loved her, and toward the end of his senior year she told him she was going to marry a med student from Pittsburgh. He didn’t know that Lavinia would come along and mend that broken heart.

I used my father’s diary as a basis for my novel, THE SUMMER I LEARNED ABOUT LIFE, published in 1983. Now I’ve polished the silver ID bracelet and fastened it on my own wrist. There must be a story here somewhere.
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