Bound Brook, New Jersey, USA
13 December, 1969
I have started this letter many many times; started and discarded, unable to make a good beginning. It is to the point that I cannot even decide how to greet you. Do I remain formal, as expected by your superiors, and say 'Dear General Hogan'? Do I forget your new rank in favor of your old one? Do I forget myself entirely, and say, 'My dearest Rob, my Blue Angel, Guten Morgen'?
Well, as you can see, I have at least made a start. And since the first two words were so difficult, you can imagine that the rest does not come easy.
Because you know how my luck runs: it is all poor, and the only good luck, the best luck of all in my entire life, was you.
So with your luck, you shall get this in time for us to say good-bye, or at least, for me in this letter to tell you farewell. With my 'luck' you shall never get this at all and the mail truck will fall into the Hudson River on its way to Westchester.
For this is good-bye; not because I wish it! No, since you taught me how to live, I have never wished my life away. But will or won't, my life here is now at an end.
Rob, I have Cancer. I have only a few weeks left, and again, with my luck, you are away on an important mission and cannot be reached, not even by Kinch (and it still amazes me that he allows me to call him that) or Hilda. And if a man cannot be reached by his second-in-command or his wife, then you are assuredly in great danger! Yet, I have no fear for your safety. You have passed through fire, not once, but many times, unscathed. I cannot think that your luck will abandon you now, and I am certain that you will return home, mission accomplished, not worse for the wear. No, my only fear is that this may be my last chance to see you, ever.
For no matter your many attempts to reassure me, I fear Death, for I fear that ultimate separation from you. I fear that without you before the throne and the Gates, I will panic as I always do, and when St. Peter begins to examine my "record" I will start to blather: "My record is perfect your Holiness, there has never been an escape from Stalag 13!" As if anything to do with the Third Reich is a thing of pride!
Perhaps it will not be so bad; if there is mercy anywhere, it is in Heaven. And Heaven knows how I feel, how sorry I am that I was too stupid, too cowardly to do more. Thank God you were able to do something with a lump like me! Still, your life would have been so much simpler, so much less dangerous, if you could have trusted me, if I could have worked with you from the start! But I know you too well, my Rob. You enjoy the chase, the challenge, the complexity. Why do something simply, when you can make a 'Rube Goldberg'* out of it? And trying to work around me, under me, through me? You enjoyed it far more than you should have, and far more than you let on. I know this!
And speaking of mercy, it is a mercy that your friends have become mine; I will not die alone. Both Hilda and Gretchen wished me to stay in Westchester, but with your children so young and Gretchen still grieving Schultz' passing, I was unwilling to burden them. Lebeau, Newkirk and Kinch all offered their homes to me, but the doctors will not allow me to travel so far. Andrew did not wish to be least or last, and when his Betty reminded everyone that she was a nurse (and with only one teenager in the house, she was looking for something to do), it seemed the perfect solution. So here I am in New Jersey, under the best of care. Except for you, I want for nothing, so I am content.
I am content; but still I long to see you once again. I am certain that you feel this need too, and you would be sad if we could not see each other one more time. So I will wait, wait as long as it can be managed, and trust in your luck to see us both through the darkness and the loss.
I will send this letter (along with my Will and my memoirs – or bluntly, the letters that I wrote to you but failed to send) to Westchester, and not to the debriefing station in Washington. You were never one for unnecessary bureaucracy, and this close to Christmas, you will want to be home as soon as possible, and as a General, you can give your own orders.
I will send this letter in hope. Please come home, my Rob. Come home to me, to all of us, safe, and I will die happy.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xx
A/N: *A 'Rube Goldberg' is any overly complex and complicated machine, made of bits and pieces of odds and ends, designed to perform a simple task in the most awkward way.
And many many thanks to snooky-9093 for her kindness and encouragement, and taking the time out to beta this for a stranger, and to my dear girl WingedWolf121 who read it through and beta'd the earlier version and liked it, even though she'd never heard of Hogan's Heros and had no idea what was going on (don't worry folks, I'm teaching her the ropes).