Friday's Weekend Column
Love Letters

by James Glaser
May 21, 2004

Charmaine died two weeks ago, but months ago, when she was still up and walking around, we took a stroll out on our deck on a nice warm early spring day and talked about our future, or our lack of one. I told her, kind of joking like, that if she could, I would like her to somehow tell me if she was okay after she died.

I said it joking-like, but I was serious. I knew her life was out of my control and I had a mind full of worries. She looked up at me and said that she would do what she could and then she kissed me and we sat looking out at the frozen lake.

Yesterday, I was opening her sock drawer as I was thinking about starting to clean things out. I thought socks would be easy as when I think of her, I picture different dresses and shirts or jackets, but not socks.

I'm not trying to make this column all sad or teary, and I am getting to a point here someplace. Well, I opened that sock drawer and there was an envelope with my name on it in Charmaine's hand. To tell you the truth this is my third one, but the other two were just short notes, this was a three page letter.

Over the years the two of us have written letters back and forth even though we were living together. After our first date we had letters crossing and that sort of started a life of writing to each other. Sometimes you can't say out loud what is in your heart, but sitting down with a piece of paper lets you form the words over and over until they sound right.

This latest letter wasn't dated, but from some of the things written in it I could tell it was written sometime in April as she talked about the ice going out on the lake. At first I had a hard time reading it as my eyes were so watery, so I set it aside for a while.

I made some coffee and shut off the radio and tried again. I'm not going to tell you what she wrote, but the letter sure made me feel better. Somehow she knew that I would really want to hear from her again and her words came across just like she was talking to me. Of course the letter also reminded me of how much I had lost.

I think the concept of writing letters has faded into the past for most Americans. People use the phone or e-mail. I think there is something nice about having a piece of paper you can pick up and reread, something that the other person took the time and effort to write using their own hand. It is also nice that you can keep those words with you and when you need to, you can take them out and read them again. Even if you memorize the words in your mind, something about that familiar handwriting makes the person who wrote the words seem closer. Charmaine did sign her name, but she didn't need to because I could recognize her hand writing.

I don't think they even teach handwriting in school after the first few grades, because then everything is done on the computer. I know it makes it easier on the teacher, but I think it is a real loss for the students and, in some ways, for our communities too.

So, if you are reading this, think about putting your thoughts about someone you love down on paper. I can tell you that love letters make any relationship much better. The letter you write will be cherished much longer than any bouquet of flowers, even longer than something bought with money, as it isn't just the words, but the effort put into it that shows how much you care.

There is also something important about signing a piece of paper in your own hand, that is expressing your love for another.

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