Behind the woodshed…

A tough morning for Ellen's adoptive dog Henry. Hey, I'm with you, pal.

I have had an epiphany.  Actually, the light bulb came on in the half hour I was taken behind the woodshed for a good old fashioned ass kicking.  But no writer has deserved the punishment more.

Administering this private flogging was my friend Betsy who, thankfully, had the nerve to tell me A) the letters to Ellen and Reid are too shallow, B) the letters sent to my mom should be segregated in a different space, perhaps a different blog, C) there are too many rants against technology on this space and instead I should delve more into what is written to Ellen and Reid and why.  None of her criticisms stung in the slightest; I think she was spot on yet her counsel was in part self serving.  If she was going to spend her precious time to read the blog and the letters, she wanted content worth reading.

This reaches well beyond this blog to the core of the letters themselves.  Because Betsy has seen the letters over time (this is the 125th post) – each with one or more letters on display – she spotted what you may have noted, too; a disturbing trend of short paragraphs about the same things over and over again.  The weather.  Tomatoes.  The bike.  Golf.  Why not, she said, open up about losing my first job ever (at the age of 60) and how it shook me to my core?  And that’s just the tip of the topic iceberg.

Betsy thinks I don’t give the kids enough credit for being adults who want to see a deeper side of their father.  I couldn’t agree more.  The letters hadn’t matured as the kids grew.  Why or how it took hundreds of letters until the deficiencies were uncovered might seem a mystery.  Yet even as she began to outline her case, the points she raised were no strangers to me.  Most had already crossed my mind through the years.

So I’ll pay a long overdue visit to the drawing board.  It may not be wholesale change but there will be change.  Will it mean tossing aside an approach that has worked (or has it?  Do Ellen and Reid share Betsy’s view?) on upwards of 500 letters ?  Could be.  I am about to find out if there is a middle ground.


Of course, Betsy’s comments about depth do not apply to letters to my mom.  Here is today’s letter to her.  Betsy did point out that the letters to my mother (along with prior letters to my mother and father when he was alive) don’t necessarily fit a blog about letters to children.  She suggests parental letters be housed in a whole new blog.  I’ll toss that one around.

October 29, 2010

Mom: They have put me in a new job at work and if I didn’t feel pressure before, I sure feel it now.  But hard work never hurt anybody, least of all me.  I’m glad for the challenge and its fun.

I see from the weather than you’ve had your first cold snap and frost.  That’s really pretty late for you guys up North.  We haven’t even sniffed a day in the 30s just yet but it appears we’re in for that sometime in the next week.  The Indian Summer here has been just glorious.  The weather couldn’t be any better than it is right now.  Lots of people here locally say this is their favorite time of year.  As for me, I like April and May.  That’s the best time.

I’m starting to see a few more deer begin to move around the neighborhood.  They have to learn how to dodge cars if they’re going to survive.  I don’t think the deer grow quite as large as they do in Nebraska but there sure are a lot of hunters around here.  There’s a lot of forest area around Charlotte and the Carolinas so there’s no shortage of spots to shoot a gun.  They hunt a lot of quail down here, too.  My shotgun is with Ellen’s husband Tim up in Minnesota.  I don’t want to hunt down here.

I’m supposed to play golf on Sunday, but if you saw my real swing on the course you would be disgusted.  It’s really bad, and it makes me not like golf very much.  It’s been such a big part of my recreational activity for so long that it’s kind of hard to think about giving it up, but I am.  I’ve been doing a lot of walking these days and that’s almost enough workout for me.

Your other son says you went to the dentist the other day and things went pretty well.  He says you have some more dental work ahead of you, and he’ll do a pretty good job of keeping me up to speed on how things are going.

Tomorrow Nebraska plays Missouri in football in Lincoln.  I’ll videotape the game and if the Big Red wins, I’ll watch it.  By the time this letter reaches you, you’ll already know if they won, too.  They’re doing about as well as can be expected.

Reid was in San Francisco last week and he seems to have had a good time.  He likes Chicago a lot but it wouldn’t surprise me if didn’t think hard about moving out to California.  But it’s so expensive to live out there.

Well, that’s enough for today.  I’ve got to put my nose back to the grindstone, but watch for another call real soon.  And keep that fleece on because winter is coming.


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