One of the beauties about a near-continuous string of letters is that an author can pick and choose his or her fights.
Even when she was a college freshman, Ellen never got a steady dose of preachiness that would have amounted to a lecture on paper. Lectures didn’t work so hot when she was at home and there was no reason to assume she would warm up to heavy-handedness when she was in college. She was at the age of majority and it seemed then, and does now, that the more prudent path was to lead and suggest, rather than harangue her about eating her vegetables or brushing her teeth along with whatever parents can rail on about. Some of the harder topics were best set aside when we were face-to-face. Don’t interpret that I abrogated my parental duties, it’s just that there is more than one way to skin a cat.
That’s what a long term approach to letters will allow. I use the drip method week after week on Ellen and Reid without resorting to parenting by dictatorship. Too much stern medicine each week and those two would’ve shut me off quicker than they could say “Get a grip, dad.” The goal is to get them to open and read the letters, not shred them.
Here is the February 8 letter loaded with woe-is-me tales of my 60th birthday:
February 8, 2010
Ellen/Reid: Well, 60 years ago today your uncle and I entered the world, one right after the other, and things have never been the same, at least for my parents. Hard to believe it is yet another b-day with a zero at the end. But if the experts are to be believed, 60 is the new 40. Another way to look at it is, it’s not the years, its the mileage. I look in the mirror and see a low mileage model and wonder ‘how can this be?’ But it is and that’s okay.
Sent your uncle a box of stuff, mostly symbolic items that remind him to live while the getting is good; a world map he can put on the wall and wherever the dart lands, travel there; a box of golf balls with the admonition to tee-‘em-high-and-let-‘em fly; crayons and a drawing pad so he can doodle and then send his drawings to his grandkids; and a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates to remind him to be nice to his sweetie. That sort of thing. He sent me a Nebraska ball cap and jacket a few weeks back and those were great gifts.
Man, they got pounded not too far north of here this weekend. Not sure where the snow line was relative to Charlotte, but I do know that it’s a good thing it wasn’t close to here. We had some rain squalls late in the week that mucked things up, but it didn’t stop me from playing golf on Saturday (37F at the start but no wind) and it was still fun. But last weekend was the killer; we had a skiff of snow on top of about ¾ inch of solid ice, and that meant I couldn’t get in to work on Monday because my shaded driveway wasn’t close to getting enough sunshine to melt. For a while there I was transported back to the days in Iowa when all we did was dig out and chip-chip-chip at ice. I used your great-great grandmother’s garden hoe to help with the chipping, and in a real tragedy, the wood handle broke. I can fix that easy enough, but it sort of saddened me that my grandma’s hoe wouldn’t be put to use for its original intent which is to whack weeds. Instead, it was relegated to removing ice.
It sounds as if your mom really got hammered by N1H1. She’s the first person I’ve know to have it and it laid her low for almost two weeks. We texted back and forth about it a bit, and it would be hell to be sick and have a big dog, Henry, who wouldn’t understand when his master would not take him for a walk or play. What a beast he is. But your mom sounds better and that’s good. Didn’t realize the extent to which that strain of flu can incapacitate people. And she had a flu shot. She said it works on 90% of the people. She was, unfortunately, in the 10% group.
Your grandfather is about to have his hip replaced and your uncle and I are struggling with how and where to put your grandmother while he convalesces. It will be very hard on both of them, and your grandfather is of the mind that he will be up and walking in no time. That surely won’t be the case but the situation is what it is. You might give them a call just to check in.
I’m sorry the Colts were on the short end of the Super Bowl. I was rooting for them for no other reason than you both went to school in Indy. There’s always next year according to the losers. The game was kind of blah as most of those games are. The hype always exceeds the reality in sports and most other things. I don’t quite understand the fetish which surrounds the ads. Why don’t companies simply tell people their product is better than others rather than try to out-comic the next company? I don’t get it. I suppose it’s all about grabbing limited attention spans.
Reid, your attitude is very good given the upheaval in the agency. You will come out smelling like a rose because at age 24, you have already survived one bout of agency ennui. Let’s keep talking about a plan to find a new situation or make the best of where you are.