When was the last time you sat down to write a letter, put it in an envelope, placed a stamp on it and went to the post office to send it off? That takes a lot of time and commitment, especially since I actually have to go to the Post Office to send the letter. Even when my love was working remotely on Chenega, a remote island in Prince William Sound, Alaska, we would email regularly as cell phone coverage in that area was not good. Has the art of writing a letter and sending in the mail past? I say no it has not. While many of us stay connected through email, text, Facebook, FaceTime, Skype, cell phone or land line, I have reverted back to a time when we actually wrote letters to one another and my son is the recipient of these streams of consciousness. Ok, so I am not writing the letters by hand because the keyboard has destroyed my penmanship, but I have embraced writing letters once again as a deeper way of communicating to my beloved son who is off in college.
Perplexed, my son said, why are you sending letters? Just a day or two earlier he mentioned that he has been checking his post office box daily so I thought that it would be nice for him to actually get mail. By the time that he receives the letter the information is actually out of date because we have already spoken on the phone or sent a text or two.
So why then am I taking the time to write a letter to my son when we could just as easily stay in touch with so many different forms of communication? Since my son’s departure for college I have spent a lot of time thinking about this past two years. The house is quiet and I reflect on the times where I was sorting through both my loves belongings and my mother’s belongings. In the emotional process of sorting I would come across papers that would include letters. What is it about theses letters that have me so intrigued?
While emails, Tweets, FaceBook posts as well as other forms of electronic communication never go away and make a statement of a moment in time, it is letters of the past that capture a personal state of mind. The day that my love passed away he communicated two things that were very important to him before he was not able to speak anymore. He said that he did not want to be air lifted to Anchorage and told me where the letter he wrote to our son was. This letter still brings me to tears.
Letters like the one that my love composed for our beloved son, while not finished because he passed away before he could complete it, capture feelings that were not verbalized in life. Why is it that we cannot share true feelings in life? Is it fear of what the response might be? Instead of waiting to end, I believe that now is the time to share not only the daily ins and outs but the deeper thoughts that can be shared by a written letter.
I like to believe that my son and I have a good relationship. We communicate well but of course there are things that we don’t share. After all it still is a parent child relationship. Yes, we talk often about daily activities and whom we interacted with. Sure we share superficial comments of what we had for dinner, how work was, how classes are, the weather, a movie, family, friends and other topics, but I find a letter allows an expression that moves away from the superficial verbal interaction.
As I wander through the quiet empty house, occasionally talking with the animals, I find myself having conversations in my head. In an attempt to find an outlet to get these conversations out of my head, writing a letter seems to be working at having those end of the day conversations of old. As I sit at the computer, I start writing about a conversation similar to those I would have had with my love, our son, or my mother at the end of the day; the kind of conversations when the house was full of people; the responses to the “Hi, I’m home, how was your day?”
My hope is that these letters will also help future generations understand the complexities of the past. While going through my mother’s belongings I came across stacks of letters that she received from her mother all the way back to when she first came to the United States. While they were difficult to read because they were hand written on very thin airmail parchment paper, in an older form of Dutch that I am not familiar with, I still took time to read what I could and managed to decipher enough to enjoy the message. Here too, the letters were about the daily events, family updates as well as encouragements that a parent would share with a child that was far away.
For now writing letters to my son seem to satisfy a therapeutic form of figuring out what is next. My hope is that some day the letters that I write to my son will document and shed light on reflections of the day, capturing a moment in time that will submit a greater understanding of the joys and struggles as I navigate an uncertain future.