You might imagine that given my age (76) and with the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, I've been thinking lately about clearing out some of the detritus here in the ol' homestead.
Not that I've done much about it but it has come up in conversation recently with a couple of friends.
One of them, in New York City, tells me he tried arguing logic: “It's not like anyone is going to write my biography,” he said to himself and to me.
Too true, but I've had just that conversation with myself about my old love letters. In one case, a long, long time ago, the man I was dating spent a year in Europe as publicist on a TV miniseries while it was shooting in several countries there.
Back then, 1970s, there was no email, phone calls were problematic and expensive, and snailmail was oh, so slow – weeks even.
But he wrote me a letter every day – every single day - numbered them on the envelopes and saved them up until one of the actors was furloughed back to the U.S. for a few weeks before his or her next scheduled shoot.
Then I'd get a phone call: “Hi Ronni. I'm here in New York. Let's meet for coffee. I've got a batch of letters for you from J.”
Now, honestly, how can anyone expect me to toss 300 or so love letters with a story like that go to with them.
The fact remains, however, that no one cares and it's not like I've read them in the past two or three decades or will do so anytime soon. Why, then, am I keeping them?
Another friend here in Portland, Ken Pyburn, noted that without the fact of the letters themselves, one is free to fictionalize old stories from our pasts. I know what he means. We may change the details over time so that a story not entirely “true” to the details of what actually happened, but it's my experience that the essence remains. And maybe it becomes more true in its own way.
Most of us here are old enough to remember when snail mail was the only written communication we had and I have quite a collection – from lovers, a lot from my father, mother, great Aunt Edith, brother and friends too.
As I've been thinking that it's time to get rid of them I've also thought I should give them all one last read. And yet I have resisted. I don't know why.
It's been a long time now that email has mostly taken the place of hand-written letters and I've kept most of those too, the ones that were more than a quick exchange of information. They don't feel as substantial as words made with ink on paper and I've definitely not given them as much thought as those old ones.
Maybe all this is different if one has children, which I don't.
In the greater scheme of things, letters hardly matter, do they? I should really be getting rid of all the bigger stuff, all the duplicates, the too much kitchen equipment, old electronics and such, but so far have not done.