When I was a U.S. housing columnist for the Associated Press, one of the guiding tenets was to keep the story as simple as possible for the reader. You don’t need to be a journalist to grasp that concept. No one dollar words when a 25 cent word will do.
The same with letters. Here are two one pagers written early today. Both share some of the same material but the telling took a slightly different path in each one.
The first is the usual weekly note to my mother. In her unfortunate state, it’s fine to update the same topics from week to week. The sentences tend to be short and uncomplicated. So are the paragraphs. Sure, I want to be informational but also to let her know she’s still important to me. If the page occupies a few moments of her time then we’ve both won.
The second letter is to my dear aunt Mary and uncle Henry (aka Hank). They live in Portland, OR and face their own health and life challenges. He’s a former minister (and my mother’s brother) and Mary is a proverbial live wire. I’ve missed them over the years and this past summer was a chance to reconnect with them and their two sons, Tom and Tim. Henry asks about his sister at every opportunity. This letter is another such opportunity. I can be open and candid with these two. They are part of the family equation these past few months. If I don’t tell as much of the story as I can in what is essentially a one-off letter, it will never get done.
September 10, 2010
Mom: Never in another million years did I ever think to see you sitting on the back of a Harley, but now I’ve seen it all. Country House was nice enough to send along photos of the bunch of you perched on the Hog as it tooled around the neighborhood on a pretty day. That really looked fun. Hopefully his pipes were loud enough to shake things up a bit. It’s fun that they have lots of activities for you guys. If and when I ever get my bike out there we’ll take a ride for real.
I hear through your other son that they’ve dialed back some of your medications. That’s good. I’m taking one aspirin a day plus a vitamin, and that’s about all I want to take these days.
Just heard from Ellen this morning and she’s giving a thumbs up to her first week of teaching second graders in St. Paul. The full debriefing should come sometime this weekend. She’s got mostly immigrant children so their language skills are all over the map, literally. She is supposed to send photos of her new classroom and when she does that I’ll include one in the weekly letter.
As for Reid, he’s doing okay, too. He’s liking his new studio apartment but the one down side is he has to haul out his laundry to the local laundry place. There are worse things however. He’s really working hard at his job and liking it quite a bit. He rides his bike around Chicago quite often and it would be a cheap way to see the city, plus he gets some exercise. I’d like to see him join a gym but am not sure what his monthly budget allows.
Last weekend was not a real big weekend for me. Rode my Harley a few hundred miles up toward Winston-Salem, North Carolina. A nice ride through the countryside. Stopped at the local Harley shop for a few minutes, then on back home. Spent Sunday re-staining and waterproofing my little front porch but it looks a lot better now. You wouldn’t believe how many townhomes are for sale in my little development. By my count the total is 12. Times are tough for lots of people and the payments are just a little more than lots of folks can muster month in and month out. My guess is that Grand Island’s economy isn’t nearly as bad as it is in these parts. Lots of people looking for meaningful work.
Spent part of Labor Day morning at my church helping to paint the rooms on the second floor of our big secondary building. It’s being converted to a temporary shelter for homeless women. It had been vacant for quite some time and needed a good sprucing up. It’s a good use for the space and the congregation is fully behind the project. It will house around 50 women in a dorm-type of situation. Well you be good, and don’t ride into the sunset on that guys Harley. Not a bad idea, though.
September 10, 2010
Mary and Henry: This note is long, long overdue, and after this summer, it’s high time I brought you up to speed on most things.
Hank, your sister seems to be doing better these days. She had a rough patch last month, and Ralph took her to another unit in Hastings where she had a thorough evaluation which was probably long overdue, too. The end result is that the doctors throttled back the hodge-podge of medications she’d been taking. The disparity of drugs seemed to throw her for a loop. She’d been shifted from enough places that with every move came another tweak to her medications. Now it appears that it’s been ironed out (knock on wood). She’s back in Grand Island now and appears to do pretty well. I don’t get to talk to her all that often but when I do she sounds chipper and alert. She’s somewhat restless though, yet she doesn’t talk about Omaha and the other events. On the whole I’m glad she’s there because Ralph has seen her just about every day.
I may get out there in October. We’ve got some estate things to do along with a fair amount of packing at the house. There have been a lot of people troop through it but there’s not been a single offer. It’s a reflection of the local economy. People just aren’t in the market for a home, and if they are, they know they are in the catbird seat in a buyer’s market.
I’ve been in touch with Tom now and again. He’s a good guy and he keeps me posted on you guys. He follows my blog relatively religiously (not many people do) and it keeps him up to speed on the latest news. I can’t tell you how much it meant to have he and Tim shepherd the two of you to Omaha during those trying days.
Tom may have told you I’m back in the job market. My stake is firmly in the ground in Charlotte so this is where I’ll cast my lot. Since I’ve come back to the Presbyterian church (I edit the church newsletter and will send the next installment to you. You can see past issues online at Caldwellpresby.org), my pastor has been beyond supportive. I’ll admit that my feeble power of prayer has not been extended to the job hunt since it’s my belief that God has more important things on his plate (i.e. showing the divine light to the bizarre Koran-burning, publicity-seeking whack job in Florida) than something as mundane as employment. Honestly, I’ll be content to ride things out with any sort of work that can be shut off at 5:00 without taking any of it home with me. I’m fine with that.
Well, it’s back to the job hunt. I suppose you two will hear from me with a little more frequency now that mom has landed in what looks to be a longer term solution for her. Don’t think for a minute that you guys haven’t landed in the right spot. It was the right decision when you made it and it will continue to be so.