I had been gone more than two years when I finally returned to Etna, Pennsylvania, my hometown. I knew that things would not be the same. I had last seen my family in April 1945, when everyone appeared to be doing well. A few months later I received a letter from my sister, Ann, informing me that our father had cancer. When I returned from a mission in August, I received news of his passing; a cablegram had been placed on my bunk. I was not surprised by the message but was shocked that the cable was seven days old. My father's burial had taken place days before.
My world had changed, and the process was not mine to control. The home and family I had known since infancy were gone. My mother was living with my sister and her husband. My younger brother, Frank, a P-51 pilot, had accepted his discharge in Fairbanks, Alaska, at war's end and was in business there.
I arrived at my sister's home late at night. Everyone was up waiting for me. We celebrated my homecoming by just sitting around talking, eating, and drinking. Being home after so long was just what I needed. It was my reassurance that everything was still all right with the world.
Most important after coming home was seeing the woman I was going to marry. I phoned Ethel; she'd expected me to call and didn't sound surprised when I said, "We're going out for dinner, take in a few clubs, and talk."
Ethel and I had met during our first days at school. She lived across the street from me with her parents, five brothers, and a sister. As children we played together. As teenagers we went to the movies, football games, dances, and other activities.