Tuesday, 27 August 2013
By Carl Hansen
More and more we hear that the practice of writing letters is a lost art in our world of instant messaging via e-mail and Twitter. The post office is planning to cancel Saturday deliveries and may itself soon disappear as the Pony Express did hundreds of years ago.
I sometimes wonder, as I carry in copies of the various catalogues that come to our house (in my wife’s name, by the way) if such publications, along with junk mail are all that is keeping mail persons employed in the 21st. Century.
When I went off to college in the 1950s, I diligently wrote and mailed a letter home each week to my father. He was too frugal to want to make or receive a long-distance telephone call, so each weekend I would sit down at my desk, pen in hand, and tell him a little about what had taken place that week.
A few days later, like clock-work, he would write back.
His letters meant as much to me as I hope mine did to him. For while my letters were quite easy to compose, I knew writing a letter did not come easy for him.
My father had to end his formal education after the sixth grade when his own father died. As the oldest of seven children, it was his responsibility to be the breadwinner for the family; continuing in school was not an option.
While he later taught himself many things needed for his eventual career in construction, his writing skills did not need to advance beyond what he had already learned in elementary school.
What intrigued me most was his creative spelling which I soon learned was done phonetically. His word construction often brought me a chuckle or two but what he put down on paper always managed to communicate what he had in mind, even if it took me a few moments to figure it out.
I have often wondered how long it took Dad to complete one of his weekly letters but I imagine it took far longer for him than it did for me. I wrote my letters to him out of sense of obligation; he clearly wrote his as an act of love.
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