In the Christmas article I wrote last year, titled One of the Best Christmas Gifts You Could Ever Give, I shared how rare…and rewarding…it can be to get a hand-written letter in the mail from someone these days.
I talked about that how, despite our senses being bombarded with more than 225 messages per-hour these days (including text messages, emails, online ads, radio and TV ads, and on and on), most of us can probably count on one hand, the number of hand-written letters we have gotten from a friend, loved one, or family member in the past year or two.
We are all so much busier today, often times due to the mixed blessing of technology. It’s just so much easier to opt for the immediate gratification of pounding out a text message or posting a picture to Facebook, then to take a half an hour to sit down with your thoughts, quietly write a message from the heart to someone important to you, put a stamp on it, and drop it in the mail.
I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to this. So I completely understand how challenging it can be to squeeze a little time out of a busy day…especialy towards the end of the day, when you are often mentally exhausted.
Well, about a month after I wrote my Christmas article, I was reminded in a personal way, how valuable it can be to write or receive a hand-written letter. In January, I lost my dad to cancer at the age of 80. And this Father’s Day is the first one I am experiencing without him being here.
Just last weekend I finally took the time to go through a box of his belongings that was left to me. I had it for a few months, but just didn’t want to open it for a while. But I was so glad I finally did. While there were many memorable items inside, like a few Brooklyn Dodgers hats, his college ring, and some old family photos, one of the most treasured things I found were organized in an old three ring binder.
It was a collection of hand written letters, in pencil, that my grandfather had written to my dad in 1956 to keep him up-to-date on the goings-on back home, when he was serving in the army in Japan.
Reading them was like taking a peek into history–back to a time I had only read about or seen on TV in classic old movies. A time when families were more close knit, often living in the same neighborhood or even on the same block for generations, and America was booming with optimism in the post-World War II 1950’s. Not to mention all the cool cars on the road at that time!
My father grew up and lived most of his pre-adult life in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) New York, and both he and my grandfather were die-hard Dodger fans. This was during the time the Dodgers played the Yankees in the Series almost every October.
This collection of a dozen or so letters written in 1956 was during the time the Dodgers were losing to the Yankees once again in the 1956 series. It was actually the LAST World Series the Dodgers would ever play before packing it up and moving to Los Angeles after the 1957 season.
There were many mentions in one letter, about Don Larson and the perfect game that had just happened the day before. Like this one…
“…who wanted to know about those Yanks anyway? All we were worried about was ANOTHER NO-HITTER against US. We were willing to lose it, as long as another FOIST didn’t happen AGANST US! To be honest about it, I hoped we hadn’t gone into this series…yeah but it hoits bud, it hoits.”
For all of you who might not know the sound of a Brooklyn accent, FOIST is actually “FIRST”, and HOITS is actually “HURTS”, I love how my Grandfather wrote in the vernacular of his time and geography.
And this little gem about Yogi Berra from a letter dated Oct 10, 1956 …
“Everyone’s feelings were mutual about us bums losing the next one. It felt like a certainty when they belted the big guy for two runs in the first inning on Yogi’s homer…geez, I hate that guy! After that, oh well what the hells the use of going any further and getting aggravated over it right? We won it all last year so at least we can say we beat them damn Yanks at least once in the Series.”
My grandfather passed away when I was in my early twenties, so I never really knew what kind of personality he had or what he was like when he was younger. These letters were the only clue I had into what his true personality was like during a simpler time in our country’s history, and my family’s history as well.
I guess my dad found these letters valuable enough to save and preserve, and I am grateful for that. I wonder if he ever thought I would be reading them over sixty years later. I too, will save these now and pass them on to my kids and grandkids.
In today’s world of digital everything, kids may one day never experience the feeling of finding an old box of photos or letters in the attic or in some dusty box found way in the back of dad’s closet after he is gone. I’m guessing that finding an old zip drive in the home office desk or some files in the cloud one day just won’t feel the same.
So I guess the lesson here is the same as the one I wrote about last Christmas.
If you haven’t written a hand-written letter to a long lost friend, family member, relative or anyone that you want to reach out to, why not take a half hour of quiet time today or this week before you forget?
Why not retreat to your favorite quiet place, and just pour out what is in your heart. You can write to just say hello, or for whatever other reason you feel compelled to.
You just never know how it could affect that person’s life, your own life, or perhaps a son, daughter or grandchild who may be opening that box of your belongings one day, and finding something they will always treasure.
Happy Father’s Day to all you dads!
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