We’ve lost an art.
When was the last time you, I, any of us have written a letter on a piece of paper. With a pencil or an ink pen. Signed our name with a flourish after telling someone we loved them or thought of them fondly or hoped the angels of God would watch over them.
When was the last time you wrote someone’s name on an envelope, added a stamp and walked (drove) to the post office to send off a letter to someone you were thinking of?
I send emails, and post on social networking, and blog stuff just about every single day.
But it’s not the same.
I have a stack of mail from my father to his parents, from his parents to him. I can sit here and hold in my hands the proof of their lives, their thoughts and feelings. As I read I can hear them talking to one another across the distance from their home to his base in the Army, or from their home up through the country to his school in Canada. I can hear them talking to me across the years. I hear my father as a young man talking to his parents long before he became a father himself. I hear him telling his parents thank you for all of the sacrifices and foundation they gave him and his siblings. And it brings to mind a memory of him receiving a letter from his son, my brother. My brother had sent him a letter thanking him for the foundation of his youth and his sacrifices for us. Dad framed that letter and kept it on his dresser. He handed it to me to read and I could see the emotion and gratitude on his face that his son had taken the time to write him his feelings.
I hear my father telling his father about hockey. They exchange information on their separated lives. But they stay connected one page at a time. I hear my father’s respect for his family, his church. I hear him tell his little brother to watch for a package, because he sent one to him for his birthday. I hear my aunt exclaim about the upcoming birth of her first child. I read about the things they depended on one another for. I read this family’s wish for blessings upon one another, and prayers for safe keeping until they see one another again.
Each letter is an act of love. The only way they could stay connected, together, even being so far apart.
Think of the effort it use to take, and not even all that long ago, to stay connected. We are spoiled these days by the ease with which we can call across the country on our cell phones. Or connect to anyone in the world via Skype, not just to talk but to see one another even if separated by thousands of miles. I’m not saying the technology isn’t great. It is.
But holding these letters and hearing my father and grandparents sharing a moment in time is priceless (that commercial ruined this wonderful term). I get the essence of dad sitting in his room at the college, or his tent in the Army. I know how he feels about God and about the Army. It is very clear Who ranks higher in affection. It is not the Army. I can picture my Grandfather typing at work, or writing from home, did he sit at the desk? Or sit at the kitchen table that looked out over a yard that led to a house directly behind him that would eventually house this very son and his eight children?
I sit here surrounded by these letters. Their words are circling about me. I can see the hurry in this letter as dad tried to rush off a letter. The writing loose and a little sloppy. In the next letter I see a smaller and more controlled cursive as he took his time and included more detail of his day, and his hopes to come home if Steve could find the train schedule for him. From Canada dad still depends on his parents to do some every day things for him. And Grandfather asks of dad things regarding the church that he would have dad look in to for him. From the Army dad sends them money to pay his loans. And Grandfather shares the information he is looking in to regarding the purchase of a new car. But then Grandmother follows up with a letter that says she has thought better of buying a new car. And the way traffic is horrible now with all of the cars about. And if anyone discovers the new route she now takes to work to avoid the traffic, she will be none too happy!
It makes me feel connected to them in so many ways. Grandmother could relate to me even today.
These letters are made up of their characters. Their emotions. The things they share with one another. And you can even decipher some of the things they don’t share with one another.
I find amusement in my father signing off “Adios Amigos” or “Yours Truly James Faherty” when signing off to his parents.
But I am grateful to be able to touch my father and grandparents lives. They held these letters, they formed these words. They creased this letter. Sealed this envelope. Another opened it eagerly to read of home or a so far away son.
It is such an amazing gift, them reaching across these decades and letting me glimpse their lives.
It is certainly artistic and beautiful to my eyes. And all of my senses.