Thursday, July 19, 2012

Means Well

As I move through the collection of family papers saved by Agnes Tully Stevens, I’ve run across some items which still puzzle me. One such piece was a post card that I posted here in mid-June, from someone called Sister Mary Agnes. In her message on that post card, she did insert the name Eileen in parenthesis, just in case her great aunt didn’t remember which relative wrote the note.

Years later, Eileen surfaces again, this time to write a note of sympathy after the passing of Agnes’ son Frank. Since her 1944 post card, Eileen—or, we can presume, still Sister Mary Agnes—is now teaching at a school in Guatemala. Quetzaltenango, the second largest city in the country, is home of Colegio Teresa Martin, a Catholic institution of long standing, where she is evidently serving as an instructor.

Unfortunately, since the time of that first post—and even the speculations I meandered through the following day on her possible connection in the McGonagle family—I’ve not yet been able to determine her identity and position within the Tully and Stevens family constellations. That is still a task awaiting another trip to Chicago and a visit with some relatives who might know.

In the meantime, here she is, surfacing once again within this collection of letters, still corresponding with family though her own life has removed her miles and miles away. And yet, for all the kindness of the condolences, she seems to have an awkward way of expressing herself, as if imposing upon the other party the burden of actually reaching out to make that connection. I’m sure, despite the awkward gestures, she really does mean well.

                                                           Colegio Teresa Martin
                                                           Quezaltenango, Guatemala
                                                           March 22, 1966
Dear Aunt Agnes,
            In one of mother’s last letters, she told me the tragic news of Francis’ death. I had meant to write before this, but since I’m teaching nine hours a day, I find it quite difficult to get letters off to the States. I am really very sorry to hear about Francis. Somehow I felt closer to him than to the other members of your family.
            How have you been feeling? And Patsy, too? I suppose Mother told you I had been in the hospital. I don’t have all my energy back, but am working almost as hard as I was before I took sick. At that time I was teaching 13 hours a day in the classroom. Now I have only nine. I try to rest two hours a day—one in the morning and one in the afternoon. It’s hard to rest in a country where one can see so much to do. It would be nice to have some of the family come down and visit with me a little while—say, to pass a vacation or something like that. I have a very lovely little apartment of five rooms. It is a little on the expensive side, but it is nice and quiet. I had been looking for a nice quiet place for a long time. In January, I finally succeeded in renting this one. Of course, the apartments here are nothing like the apartments in the U. S. but I am very much satisfied with this one.
            Is Frank’s family going to stay in New Mexico, or will they move back North. Did his wife have a profession so that she can get a job easily?
            Dear Aunt Agnes, I don’t want to make this a very long letter because I want it to be an expression of sympathy and I doubt if you would like to talk at length in a sympathy letter, so for this time, I shall just say I am very sorry, and I shall be sure to include his soul in my prayers and daily Mass.
            I can write more some time later, or if you care to know something about what I’m doing or about the country here, you may write me and give me some guide questions. Then I shall know what you are most interested in. That will give us a chance to keep in touch with one another, that is if I can find time to squeeze in a letter now and then.
            Love and sympathy to all,

1 comment:

  1. She sounds tired and lonely - but doesn't want to "whine" in a sympathy letter. A visit from the family probably would have perked her up.

    I wonder if she ever came back "home" (up north). I wonder if she knew Mary Patrick Dawson and was "really" just Agnes (or Eileen) without the "Mary".


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