ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Does anyone write letters?
© Another Day in the Country
The question was, “Do you get handwritten letters and cards in the mail?”
It came from a public radio app for a program called, “The Take-away.” I paused a minute, savoring the question and the awareness that I do still get handwritten letters in my real-life mailbox that stands by the road.
I decorate my mailbox according to the season, in anticipation, celebration, of the real honest-to-goodness letters that I’ll receive.
My cousin Georgia, who grew up in Ramona, sends out cards for every little occasion. She always hand writes the latest news. On Valentine’s she wrote, “Our first great-granddaughter will be born soon.”
My grandson, Dagfinnr, sends me letters once in awhile. When he writes, his handwriting is tidy with letters carefully, artistically (I tell him) formed and his words are thoughtfully chosen.
“You’re a writer,” I tell him, hoping to plant a seed, an idea, of who he is.
Most often, he and I meet on FaceTime. It’s my latest discovery and to my delight he loves to call.
“Are you there?” he’ll text me.
Evidently he doesn’t want to reach out and find me not answering, which is often the case since I don’t carry my phone around with me and have been known to leave it in the car for 24 hours at a time.
“Where are you?” comes another text. “This is important, Baba! Text me back.”
You can imagine the guilt I feel, reading those words, if I haven’t answered back within a reasonable time.
This week there was something exciting happening in California. We were having a new roof put on the house in anticipation of “going solar.”
Dagfinnr texted, “Call me! I have an update.”
When I called, he said, “I’m going to take you up in the tree house so you can see what the roof looks like.
The phone is going to go in my shoulder bag because I can’t hold onto it while I’m climbing. It will be dark for a little bit.”
I knew all about the precarious, steep climb up into the tree house.
I petitioned Dagfinnr’s grandpa, a woodworker, to build a tree house for his grandson when he came to visit one year. Surprisingly, he hired someone else to do the actual structure.
“I’m not as agile as you remember me,” he said.
When I eventually saw the completed house, it was pretty much what I expected — Ted always designed things with a pared-down Norwegian look; but it was the ladder that stymied me.
“Why would you build a tree house for a little boy with such a steep ladder?” I asked.
That steep ladder meant the child rarely went up in that house. It’s taken seven years for him to feel comfortable, but here we go.
“You can talk to me as I climb up,” Dagfinnr said, “I can hear you. You just won’t be able to see anything.”
He chuckled. So I talked, in the dark bag, and he climbed until he got up to the platform, above the roof.
“It’s almost like you’re here with me,” he said as he opened the bag and took out the phone. “What do you think?”
He pointed the camera at the roof. It looked good!
My friend DeWitt writes letters to me once or twice a year. I type my letters to him on the computer, he writes his by hand.
He begins his letters “From: Old Dog, sans collar, To: Pat Wick, trusted Lifetime Companion.”
And then he brings me up to date about his life, his children, his challenges, his joy!
“How fun to be in that stage where you don’t give a damn!” he writes. “I really enjoyed your letter — you should teach life art, teach it to the next generation, because life is art! It’s how we live, it is who we are. It is vulnerable — people are afraid of vulnerable, afraid of exuberance, afraid of being alive.”
And then he goes on to tell me that he, 69, and Lady Joyce, 71, have been married now “for three great, wonderful, years.”
This is his fourth marriage.
“She is the woman I thought I was getting the first time. Life is good, most of the time.”
I smile as I read. He’d sent pictures of their wedding, continues to send pictures of the beautiful garden they’ve built in Georgia. Pictures help so that I don’t still envision him at 45 — which is the last time I actually saw him.
He always tells me news of his kids.
The first six I knew when they were little, and he devotes a paragraph to each of them — they are now 48, 46, 45, 41, 38, 36, 28, 26.
“So, yes,” he writes, “my kids and grandkids … living their own lives, making their own mistakes, and, in some cases, still blaming it on me. I guess that’s what dads are for.”
I save these handwritten letters, in the month they arrived, in the file with receipts and bills.
The following year when I’m doing my income tax and I’m going through those files, feeling poor, it cheers my heart to find a letter or two. I stop and reread them, and I feel wealthy!
It’s another day in the country and one of the most important things you could do is hand write a letter to someone you love.
Last modified Feb. 19, 2020