Nov. 10, 2015

Letters From My Dad...

“Pitchers Drawed * Pourtraits Painted * Limes Growed *

Spelling Taut * Cars Worked On * Free Political Opinions Gave *

Articles Ghost Writ * Foreign Lanquiches Spoke

That was the letterhead on my Dad’s stationery. We carried on a correspondence which lasted close to thirty years, all by snail mail. Every time I opened an envelope and saw his letterhead, I laughed as he was an extremely educated, literate world traveler. My file cabinet containing his letters is a treasure waiting for me to get into one day, but not just yet. What did we write about?  Everything! Who came to lunch at his house that day, people he has known, including Charles Richter, the earthquake guy, books I should read – but as his taste in reading material tended toward scientific tomes and mine tends toward the latest John Grisham, Hunger Games, a little chick lit, all of Preston & Childs and that sort of thing – I never read what he suggested. One he was reading in June, 1996:  Disappearing Through The Skylight by Dr. O.B. Orbison, Jr., a professor at Georgetown University. Here’s a quote:  “If science is a human creation, we have caught the mind in the very act of swallowing up the world, which is another way of saying that we have witnessed nature in the process of disappearing.” See what I mean? The picture is one of our last times together.

Another nifty blogger you’d all like, JulieAnn Cave, who writes The Suitcase Journals, has been writing about books she is currently reading and, as she reads to pre-schoolers, what she’s passing along to them. Julie has excellent taste in books:  How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Dogs; Boom Chica, Rock; Mouse Went Out To Get A Snack and The Cow Loves Cookies. How could you not love any of these.

For those of us just a bit older, Julie writes that she’s been reading The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street; Maude; and the book that brought all this on: 84 Charing Cross Road, a best seller in 1970, written by Helene Hanff. Some years later, I came across it, loved it and sent my Dad a copy. He read it, also loved it, and we corresponded about it for weeks. 84 Charing Cross Road is about a New York writer who contacts a bookshop in London, specializing in secondhand books. She is searching for books out-of-print in the U.S and a wonderful relationship develops between the staff at 84 Charing Cross Road and the author, Helene, which stretches over twenty years.

Thinking about all the letters I sent to and received from my Dad made me somewhat nostalgic for the dear departed days when one went out to get the mail and actually got the sense that it was communication from someone one wanted to hear from. This does not include window envelopes from AT & T, the electric company, Visa, or the trash and water people.

We still write letters, but they’re shorter and sent by email instead of a missive carefully written or typed and sent off – frequently SWAK (sealed with a kiss) – and needing a stamp. Of course, stamps didn’t cost 49 cents then either.

In the last year of my Uncle Wayne’s life, he was living in a rest home in Illinois. I wrote him a letter almost every day, which always included a joke, a small Scripture, and frequently a memory of good times with him when I was little. He was in the Merchant Marines when I was about 7 or 8 and I was a huge fan of Bob Clampett’s Beanie & Cecil The Sea Sick Sea Serpent, which aired on KTLA I believe, and I would laboriously send him updates on what was going on with Beanie. He answered those letters and I never forgot that. The letters he could no longer answer were sent by fax and the staff there would read them to him. When he passed away, they returned all those letters to me, many of which were stained with coffee, folded and refolded, tattered and, obviously, valued by him. Those letters are in my file cabinet, too. Another treasure waiting for me to get into, but not yet.

I’m grateful for email, which keeps us in touch with people all around the world. Facebook is a marvelous tool to see what’s going on with far-flung family. Every day I see pictures of my Texas girls, Jessie and Emily, and what they’re wearing to school today. Two year old Caleb and 7 month old Brady post their pictures almost daily, too. But every now and then, I wish I’d get one more letter from my Dad.