Letters From The Heart

One of my prize possessions is a letter dated January 13, 1972.   Just a short two page letter that was handwritten by my grandfather.   He sent it addressed to “Master David Lee”.  (In today’s society, the use of “Master” as a form of address is extremely rare.  In my grandfather’s time, it was more commonly used  for addressing  young boys in formal situations )   It was the first real letter I had ever received.  There would be more over the years that he would write but none as special as this first one.

Now over 40 years later, my hands still tremble with excitement when I open that envelope.  I am amazed that he took time to hand write a letter to his grandson. The letter is just a two page note he had written from his winter home in Florida.    Nothing of any great importance in the subject matter of the letter, unless you consider how he expressed how much he missed me and how much he looked forward to the time we would be spending together during the summer months.    But most of all, he expressed how much he loved me.

My grandfather was a writer.  Not by profession, but by practice.  He wrote letters.  He had very nice cursive writing style and his writings were easy to read and easy to follow.   My writings pale in comparison.  I only wish to be as good as he was.

I often wonder if he knew what he was doing when he wrote this letter? Did he know he was leaving a piece of himself with me? I like to think that he knew that he would be making his grandson feel real special for a few days because he received a real letter from his grandfather.  It worked, it made me feel very special. Maybe he knew something that I am just learning.  Maybe he knew that he was leaving a part of his legacy.

In this day and age of technology and e-mail, very few people hand write anything anymore.  Most people do not hand write anything more than their signature on their credit card charge receipt.  I would like to change that.

This past year, I’ve written several letters to friends.  Many of them are living in my same hometown.  Typically, many people think of letter writing as something done with people living far away.   I don’t, however, it does  seem a little strange or even odd to write a friend I just had coffee with yesterday.    But I find many opportunities to write friends, who I see “face-to-face” in my daily life.   Why?  Because writing a letter gives me the opportunity to say thank you or give words of encouragement – not that I’m unable to do those things in person.  For I have a great desire to converse openly both in letter and in person – especially words of love, respect and gratitude.  With a letter, one doesn’t have to find the right moment, or set aside time to say what one wishes to say.  Letters provide a very intentional opportunity to communicate precisely.

One also feels pretty certain they have a captive audience from the reader – that is if they choose to read the letter.  So I’m curious, do you write letters to friends you see regularly or just those far away friends?  Do you even write at all?

My challenge is writing letters to the members of my family.  I have a web site specifically designed for them to read long after I am gone from this world.  But that is not the same as receiving a handwritten  letter from me.   I want to spend the rest of my life being a writer…much like my grandfather, not by profession, but by practice.

If I can, I want to write a handwritten letter to each of my friends that stood by me during my most difficult times in life.  I want to take the opportunity to express my gratitude for the support and friendship over the years.   One thing my grandfather always taught me was the importance of saying “thank you” properly to those in your life that deserve the recognition.  I want to write letters of thankfulness from my heart.

I want to encourage all of you reading this post to take this challenge today.  I am asking that everyone take a pen or pencil out and write your loved one a letter.  Challenge yourself, to answer the following questions:  When was the last time (if ever) you wrote a letter to you spouse?  Men when was the last time you wrote a letter to your wife?  To your children?  To your mom or dad?  To a special person in your life, maybe a teacher or friend?

The window of opportunity is growing smaller everyday.  Do it today…before you regret not doing it after they are gone.

Spend some time today, enjoying spring and writing some words of sentiment to a loved one – in a letter of course!  I know I am.

The next letter you receive may just be from me…

Putting pen to paper,

David

48 written,  136 and counting to write.

Only The Lights Remain The Same

There are not many things I love more than having a free evening and a blank sheet of paper in front of me.  I love it even more when I fill that sheet up with words.

What is exciting to me is that I never know where it is going to take me.  It is always an adventure as to where I will end up.  Each and every time I plan on writing about something specific I never do.  I am never able to plan it out like that.  I just let the story or subject just flow out of my memory.   I like the thrill of looking at a picture or listening to some music that bring back some memories and I just love to let it flow from there and see where it takes me.  It is probably why my writings are so disjointed sometimes.  Like I have always said… I love to write, I’ve never said I was good at it.

Tonight was no different from any other night.  I sat down without a plan and I started staring at the blank page in front of me.   I was wondering where it will take me tonight.  Just then a picture that is in a small frame sitting on my office desk caught my attention. In that frame is a small faded picture of me and Bryan Blakley.  That picture was taken just before we picked up our dates for the Homecoming Dance in 1976.  We were desperately trying to look cool in our leisure suits and long hair.  We failed.

For some reason I started to think about Bryan.  I had known him for over 45 years.  I do not really remember a time when he wasn’t part of my life.  From about the age of 6 to 17, I cannot think of one thing that I was a part of that he wasn’t involved with in some way.  He and I played together and fought together.  We did just about everything together…whether that was skipping school…going on a double date or just hanging out.

One of my favorite remembrances of him was a time that we walked home from the fair about the time we were 16.  We had just spent the last night of the fair walking around checking out the girls and just having a good time.  Nothing of real significance happened that evening at the fair.  As a matter of fact, I don’t really remember anything specific even happening.  Just the two of us acting stupid, (and again) trying to be cool.  We failed again.

The fair had closed for the night about 11:30 and Bryan and I decided to walk home that night.  The Ottawa County Fairgrounds is located about six miles outside of Oak Harbor, Ohio.  At 16, the premise of walking six miles to home on a hot summer night seemed to be perfectly logical.  I remember that it was pitch black that night.  It seemed you couldn’t see past your next step.  We took our time.  There was no need to hurry.  Didn’t seem like there was that much to go back to.

Maybe it was just the mood we were in or maybe it was because it was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.  But I remember that Bryan and I talked about everything on that long walk home.    We talked about our childhood, our families.  We talked about music,  what we liked and disliked.  We talked about girls.  We talked about our future.   He told me what his plans were for his life. Bryan wanted to leave the tiny confines of Oak Harbor, Ohio.  He wanted to see the world and the sooner the better.  For me,  I wasn’t exactly panicked about my plans.  I don’t think up to that point in my life I had ever given a second thought about what I was going to do with my life.  Hey – I was sixteen years old.  To me, the future was for someone else to worry about.

We had walked almost all the way to town when suddenly Bryan and I stopped talking.  It seemed as if there was nothing left to say. I suddenly had the over whelming feeling that somehow that night I walked out of my childhood and into the next phase of my life.  I wanted to stay there, in that night… more than anything I wanted before.   But I knew I couldn’t.   I was sixteen.   I slept under a roof my father owned, in a bed my father bought.    Nothing was mine, except my fears.   And my growing knowledge that not every road was going to lead home anymore. Things were about to change.  Walking through that neighborhood I grew up in, I realized that there was a time I knew every family on the block.  Their kids, names of their dogs, but most of those families weOHre gone now.  Scattered.  The ones who stayed were not the same.  The world was moving on.  My world… their world… a place where only the lights remained the same.

So… we went home. 

As I reflect on that night, some 35 years later,  I think about a lot of things, like hometowns, like family – the shortcomings, the flaws and the arguments. Still, in a world of inconsistency and doubt… maybe home is what you make it. Like I  have said before, most small towns were all about the same.  Sure, some may have been a little bigger than Oak Harbor, and some may be have been a little greener… but there was only one real difference. Only one of them… was yours.

We didn’t really accomplish anything that night.  At least that is what I thought at the time.  Our remaining high school years that lay ahead would find us moving in different directions.  There would be other nights where we would hang out and try to be cool.  We always failed.  But the sad truth is there wasn’t ever another night just like that one.   That night and the long walk home will always be set apart in my memory and in my heart.

Over the next 30 years when our paths crossed and we would always talk and we knew that there would always be a special friendship between us, but it would never be the same as it was growing up on that alley between Walnut and Washington Streets.

A few years ago, I received a phone call.  I just couldn’t believe the news on the other end.  Bryan had passed away.  I was already reeling from the loss of my closest friend (Bob Emrich) in May of that year and now my childhood friend was gone as well.   I was shocked and in some ways I am still not over the loss of my two closest friends.  For whatever reason, God sometimes allows people to be taken very quickly from us.  Many times, so fast that we never get the chance to say the things we needed to say.

I will cherish that time.  The last conversation with him was no different from any conversation I would have had with him over 35 years ago when we walked home from the fairgrounds. Our lives indeed took different paths but we will always share the common bond we found in what we call family.

Growing up is never easy. You hold on to things that were. You wonder what’s to come. But that night, I think Bryan and I knew it was time to let go of what had been, and look ahead to what would be.  Other days.  New days.  Days to come… when only the lights remained the same.