"Live a good life, and in the end, it's not the years in the life, it's the life in the years."

Dear Mr. Postman, send me a letter

By on March 27, 2021 in Columnist with 0 Comments
Mike Cassidy

By Mike Cassidy

Editor

I am at a children’s park watching my almost 2-year-old granddaughter fly down a blue plastic slide. 

I take a picture at mid-slide point of her with a nervous smile on her face from enjoying the longest slide she has been on in her young life, and send it via iPhone to her at-work mother.

Then, at the bottom of the slide, static electricity has charged her hair to stick up, so I take a headshot.

I type in a quick, clever message and hit send.

Only later, I see when I attempted to write, “The experience was electrifying!” my phone corrected it to “The experience was electric icing!”

Gaagh! And you call yourself a smart phone!?

But, was the phone really to blame? Maybe it was the fault of the human and his big thumbs. Or, maybe the fault was that the art of writing has deteriorated to the point we can’t be bothered to proofread our own four word sentence.

Remember those days in the last century when email first came along? And how great it was to send sentences and whole paragraphs to friends, family and business connections without having to find paper, a pen that works, an envelope and a first class stamp?

Now, of course, no one emails. At least not my kids. Too slow, too desktop computer bound. Nope, it’s messages on the smart phone with their speed and brevity or nothing.

At our house, when I was growing up, my grandmother with her fine penmanship taught in school was the designated letter writer. She was also the letter reader — and not just for our family.

Neighbors Fred and Eunice Zuker — neither who could read or write — would bring over a handwritten letter from far-off relation once a month or so, and my grandmother would read it aloud. (How long ago that must have been — do you know anyone who can’t read and write if they were to choose to these days?)

My grandmother would also read letters that came in periodically from my uncle Joe in Texas as my grandfather, my dad and myself sat listening at the round oak dining table.

 Joe, though an actual nuclear scientist and a hobby farmer, had terrible handwriting, and my grandmother would stumble over his penmanship. The rest of us would offer up guesses as to indecipherable words — and the letter reading became performance art we all were characters in.

Did Joe mean to say there was an accident at the farm, or the bomb factory? Did they have hail as big as baseballs, or a hell of a time at a son’s baseball game? 

Each sentence — those we understood and those we didn’t — were diagnosed and discussed, and stories about Joe recalled. 

My grandmother might remember the time Joe stumbled over a word in his valedictorian speech, my dad would remember his high-school-aged brother arguing with an IRS agent questioning the year-after-year losses of my grandfather’s small dairy. “Well, you can’t just give up,” my dad remembered my brother telling the agent — drawing out the words “just give up” —  and we would all laugh, because, to be totally candid, probably the taxes reported didn’t match reality.

I thought of these stories when I read part 2 in this issue of Dale Foreman’s account of letters passed down in his family. Passed down family stories not only help knit together generations, but create a family personality. 

And I wonder: what will be passed down for future generations to remember us by? Four word text messages?

Hope you find this issue electric icing — oops, I mean electrifying … enjoy The Good Life.

— Mike

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