Dear So-and-so

Maybe you, like me, have a lot of time on your hands lately? I have an excellent suggestion for you!

I’ve been scanning everything that will pass through the scanner (yes, and a couple of things that shouldn’t have been attempted). Last night, while hunting for some fun photos to share with you today, I came across a letter that wiped the floor with me. It evoked intense joy and brought me to tears (yes, more than once). Here’s the surprising part:

I wrote it.

Not until this morning did I recall the full circumstances behind why I wrote a six-page letter, kept a copy, and forgot about it for 20 years.

The back story:

Many times over the years my mother recounted my father once writing a discontented letter to his parents, something about them favoring his brother over him. The message from my mother essentially boiled down to, “Don’t be like your father.”

In 2002, my father’s father (yes, my grandfather, but please note this is the same person to whom my father wrote his letter), a formerly upbeat, socially active man who grew progressively more depressed and hermetic in the years following his wife’s passing, seemed prepared to die. Having already burned all the photos in the house, given away everything he didn’t intend to use again, abandoned all his hobbies, and written his will, he withdrew to the room furthest from the street outside his house — away from doors, neighbors, or a view — and spent all day, every day avoiding interaction.

Other than becoming a voracious reader of everything he could get his hands on (previously, only mysteries and thrillers; but the last book he passed me was a Maeve Binchy novel called Evening Class which definitely didn’t have any murders or assassins in it), he minimized everything: wardrobe, diet, haircuts. He tried to turn off his phone completely, insisting he had no need for long-distance service and wouldn’t pay for even the base rate, but somebody, somewhere required he keep a phone that could only dial out 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency.

In order to arrange a visit to him (a seven hour drive), I had to write a letter in advance, tell him the date I’d be arriving, hope it arrived before me and that he would be home on the day I randomly picked, and show up exactly on time. That started us (mostly me) writing letters, and thinking on my father’s letter prompted me to do the opposite; I wrote my grandfather (and my deceased grandmother) a letter of gratitude. That’s my advice to you:

Write a letter!

Identify that person you know you should thank before it’s too late for you or them, or an old friend or relative you want to get back in touch with, or make amends with, or even someone you know who is lonely, then DO it. Don’t call. Don’t text. Don’t e-mail. Put a well-written, thoughtful, intentional, tangible letter in the mail (and keep your own copy).

The point is: using your time today to say something meaningful to someone who means something to you will redeem your quarantined day, they will be strongly impacted (I promise; however, do not expect a response), and when you come across your letter in 20 years, you get to experience the same joy in re-reading it that I had with mine.

Go! Do it! What are you waiting for?

4 thoughts on “Dear So-and-so

  1. This makes me want to see the other end of it. To see your grandfather go to the mailbox and pull out the letter. Where did he sit down to read it? What did he do for the rest of the day after reading it? Did he begin to prepare for your arrival? Did he eat lunch?


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