Monday, November 3, 2008

Correspondence, Simplified

My folks and I have always shared a wonderful relationship via the postal system. My dad was a great one for supporting the local post office by taking out a post box annually and having most of his business and personal correspondence go to that address. He always wanted me to write him via his post box number.

Then I would write my mom separate letters to their street address, and I would write letters to the two of them to that address, too, which meant I always needed to lay in a supply of postage stamps. When a branch PO opened a few doors up the street, I was thrilled! It made keeping in touch via snailmail all that much easier.

My dad has Alzheimer's Disease, so for years his letters (which bless his heart, still came in the mail pretty often) were often written clearly showing by their content he had no idea who I was, or continued to say the same basic thing over and over. Every once in a while the letter would be lucid and obviously written when he had a grasp of who I was and could remember the jist of his (once extensive) vocabulary. These letters are now like treasures to me, never to be discarded. Because my father can not write me a letter anymore. He is in a wheel chair, slowly slipping away from this life, caught in the snare of a disease that has locked away his cognitive ability.

Now I write to my mom a couple of times a week, or once every five days or so. My letters are only reporting what my days have been like, or throwing in commentary on the weather or my students, etc. Nothing too earth shattering, I can tell you. But my mom is so happy to hear from me, it inspires me to pull out my stationery and airmail envelopes at the drop of a hat! I think of her so often, I might as well tell her so!

My parents used to call every three weeks or so, and although my mom and I did most of the talking, with my dad a silent listener in the background, he frequently would remind us of his presence by saying in a low, comical voice, "This call is being monitored!" or "Let's not rake up the national debt on this call, ladies." These days my mom calls me once a week and talks as long as an hour or an hour and a half. Though she often tells me something I've heard before, I am glad to be an audience for her detailed reports of visits to my dad at his nursing care facility, or to help brainstorm ideas for things to do with him. She always seems relieved to have heard my voice, so I'm glad it is therapeutic for her. And I'm always happy to hear her say how much she loves my letters!

I am so thankful for her letters to me, too, as now they are often the only ones I ever get in my mailbox anymore (save the occasional card from my son or brother's family). E-mail is a wonderful invention, but knowing it is always there does mean the art of sitting down and composing a letter by hand and mailing it through the postal system is gradually being lost from our society. My mom and her mother also wrote weekly letters to each other in the final decades of my grandmother's life. I'm happy to continue on with this tradition!

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