Daddy caught the train for New Orleans to see John as soon as we got the letter with his tragic news, not knowing what in what state he’d find John. John was living back in the barracks, explaining he couldn’t afford to keep a place with Wanda gone. He was strangely calm, resigned to the loss of his wife and children, reminding Daddy it was hopeless for an enlisted man to oppose the directive of a powerful officer. Daddy stayed long enough to realize John had no need of him nor even want him there. He came home, knowing no more than when he left.
Daddy and Mama puzzled over the strange situation, trying to make sense of it. We all started to wonder if she’d ever really existed. There had been the only one short letter, introducing herself. Upon examination, it could have been in John’s hand. There were no pictures of them as a couple, just a studio picture. In his letters, almost as soon as she appeared, he seemed to have been paving the way for her exit.
John said no more about Wanda. He went to college on the GI bill, became a teacher, then a principal. Along the way he met and married Cathy, a fellow teacher. They were very happy but disappointed not to have children. They taught in schools for migrant students, six months in South Texas every year, then usually six months in another program. One year they taught in California. John had a sixteen year old boy in one of his classes, named John Holdaway. The two discussed the coincidence of the unusual last name. Young John told his teacher his father had been killed just after young John and his twin sister were born. His mother had remarried and moved to California with her second husband. Because young John Holdaway had figured out there had to be something more, the couples met to discuss the situation. Wanda’s father had disapproved of her marriage to an enlisted man. He’d had each informed of the other’s death. They’d both gone on to make new lives. Neither wanted to disrupt the life they had at that point. John visited his children a time or two, but they didn’t build a lasting relationship.