Monday, July 25, 2005

Lost letters

Maureen Dowd, the New York Times columnist, wrote a reminiscence of her 97-year-old mother who recently passed away, and took note of the letters her mother wrote to her when she moved away to New York.

Mrs. Dowd's letters dispensed advice on everything from fashion to how to deal with the loss of a romance ("Put all his pictures in a place you won't see them, preferably the trash.")

It's a fine column, even if you disagree with Maureen Dowd's jounalism, as many of you do, and it reminded me of the cache of letters I found when my father died, almost four years ago now.

We were clearing out my mom's house for her move to an assisted living center when we found my old man's letters to my mother, before they were married, when he was living in Texas and she in Wisconsin.

What a revelation. Written in his precise, engineer's handwriting, the words flowed with a such a flourish they seemed to come from someone I had never met, chiefly because my father, as I knew him, was a man of few words. My mother was the talker, a former English teacher turned homemaker.

Of course, we made sure Mom got the letters in her new home, but not before I read every one. She didn't mind and was glad to have them with her. She kept one by her bed. It was still there when we finally cleared out her room after she passed.

Now they're under my protection, a keepsake that speaks more than my father's pocketknife, or his slide rule or the other items I retained, something that today's digital generation unfortunately will miss because so few of us take the time to put pen to paper.
[new york times]

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