Category Archives: Mailing

Turn back the clock…

This is something I'd of never seen in the Midwest. Stopped the Harley on little-used SC-341 near Darlington, SC for this shot of cotton.

My guess is the first heady days of college life have gone poof for most kids.  Their lives have settled into a routine; study (their parents hope), eat, sleep, hang out with friends, and sure, party.   Okay, maybe those aren’t ranked in the right order.

By now, because they can’t stand the suspense of not knowing what’s going on, parents have initiated some sort of ‘how are you?’ contact.  That’s the typical formula.  Probably a mixture of emails and texts.  Schools might as well yank mailboxes because those will never see much use.  No, scrub that.  Then the credit card offers would never have a place to land.  But on further review, maybe yanking the mailboxes isn’t such a bad thing.

I’ve heard from a dozen people or so about my op-ed piece in the Charlotte Observer.  What a great idea, some say.  We should all do that, say others.   I don’t know.  Maybe my time, the time of correspondence, has truly gone by.  You can’t open up the newspaper these days without Google trumpeting a new something or other to make our lives even faster or more socially networked than they are now.  More efficient, too.  But we damn well can’t turn back the clock, that’s for sure.  I’m whining on a Monday morning.  Time for coffee.


Here is last week’s letter to Ellen and Reid.

September 7, 2010

Ellen/Reid: Reid, it was good to talk to you at length yesterday.  I like the way you think although I don’t pretend to understand but a small portion of your digital world.  This morning I’ll open up your emails and try to get through the web site stuff.  I really appreciate your help.  By this weekend most of the heavy lifting copy-wise should be finished.  And be sure to send at least cell phone pix of your new bachelor digs.  There’s something about privacy that you just can’t beat.  You shouldn’t be concerned at all that you don’t live in what others perceive as the tony section of Chicago.  It’s all about what makes you tick, not them.

So today was your first day in the classroom, Ellen.  Will be anxious to get the lowdown on your first week with the kids.  No doubt you will be a smash hit just like you always have been.  Good to get back in the whirl of teaching.  That is your realm.  Your weekend had to be lively and exciting what with Tim’s brother in town.

I overlooked a good Bubba story last week.  When Felicia and I were out west – out in western North Carolina – we were fishing a little stream on Saturday morning.  I was several yards out front working my way up the pools when I turned around to see where she was and she was frantically motioning me to hurriedly get back to her.  Maybe I’d come a little too close with a fly or something.  But her anxiety was real: we had a visitor.  It seems a local Good ‘Ol Boy, shirtless and maybe toothless and his backwoods element, had been spying on us from the bank.  Felicia had spotted him peering through the underbrush.  My guess is he was eyeing her instead of me, but it was fairly unnerving.  I never saw him, but a local confirmed later that Bubba was a little out of kilter.  All we could think about was Deliverance all over again.  We got out of there real fast.

Nothing new to report on the job front.  In a few week’s time I’ll be done here.  Already I’ve packed up most of my personal belongings and my cube is nearly barren of all but bank paperwork.  I’ve been taking stock of the past few years here, trying to make sense of what has unfolded (as opposed to unraveled).  I think I was a square peg in a round-holed world.  In the strictest sense, banking was simply not my cup of tea.  Now it’s on to whatever it is that lies ahead of me.  Fleishman-Hillard is a possibility but only as a contractor.  Better than nothing and it is in my wheelhouse.  The Charlotte Observer has approached me to write a regular column on senior housing issues – hey, I’m a senior – but it will hardly pay the bills.  But that’s where your help on the web site will come in handy, Reid.  I really appreciate you pulling all that stuff together and I’ll get at it this morning.  You’ve in essence dragged me kicking and screaming into the new world.  It will be a slow build but will be interesting if not fun.

Kind of a slow weekend in these parts.  Rode through Asheboro, NC and up to Winston-Salem to the Harley dealer.  Only then did we realize we’d already been to that dealer.  A pair of idiots.  It was a true senior moment.  The other high point was staining the front deck with some sort of water-proofing compound.  Big whoop.  The tomato plant, however, has made a resurgence in the face of my best efforts to neglect it.  There are fruits on the vine although the orbs are size-challenged.

This time next week I’ll be in Idaho with Bob and Dave.  I’m somewhat anxious about the trip because it is going against my grain.  That is, hold fast to the home front to keep plugging away for a job.  But has Bob has hammered into me time and again, things can wait.  Ready to see the Real West again even in the face of angst.  FYI…I will likely head to Nebraska to help your uncle Ralph tie things up relative to the home and to see mom in Grand Island.  There may even be side trips to St. Paul and Chicago, so watch out.  Keep your cell phones charged and ready for a call.


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Filed under College, Contact, Correspondence, Mailing, Parenting, Writing to college students

The greatest reward…

My father and I have talked on the phone every day – the calls aren’t very long, a few minutes tops – but it’s good to hear his voice.  I’m all ears for however much time he’s got.

The letters have made it to his new address.  Amazingly, with all he has to deal with his anticipation for the pages is still there.  We don’t spend much time on what the letters contain.

The content is secondary at this point.  It’s nice knowing it brings him a a small amount of comfort and a sense of normalcy in the midst of what is admittedly an institution.  In all the years I’ve performed this weekly function this is the first time I have had the inkling that if the envelope didn’t arrive, the recipient – my dad – would miss it.  I don’t want to disappoint him.

I suppose the greatest reward a letter writer can hope to experience is sensing the anticipation by someone who is anxious to receive what you send.

Over the years dad has asked ‘did you send a letter?’ if it was delayed even day past its usual arrival.  It’s important to me, too, that he receives something each week.  As long as he expects to hear from me, that’s good enough.


This being Wednesday, I’ve plucked out and pasted in an older letter.

Nov. 27

‘Cakes/Reid: Well, the one thing about bathroom scales is they don’t lie and they have no way to break the bad news gently.  They call ‘em like they see ‘em.  So as soon as I stepped in the door yesterday after returning from Omaha, I sucked it up and stepped on to see how much poundage was added with mo’ turkey, mo’ dessert, still mo’ turkey and mo’ taters.  Oh, and that pan gravy slathered over everything.  To my surprise, I hadn’t gained much of anything and I would’ve been willing to bet a modest sum that I was up 3 – 5 pounds.  This is after not being shy around the table.  One thing you can say about your grandmother, that lady knows how to cook, not only in quality but sheer volume.  She can really bring it in the kitchen.  She asked about you guys repeatedly.  I told her all was good.

For the most part, the Christmas shopping is over and done with.  Maybe a few small things now and then, but your bigger gifts were shipped to South Shore Drive last week for arrival tomorrow (Tuesday).  I stopped at the house on Saturday before playing golf with Kenyon, Oleson and Allen.  Things looked good, Henry could be saddled and ridden like a bronco, and I dug up some chive to take back to Charlotte for my new copper window planter from Smith & Hawken.  Your mother and I went over to the mall to buy a couple of things, and it was good to be around her.  Weird, but good.  For the most part she appears to be happy, and it’s good for her to have her mom and sister and the gaggle of friends to help her.  Wish I had that in Charlotte.  But we had a pleasant enough time and it was good to see her.

The Colo. – Nebr. game was closer than the score indicated.  EB, my good friend going all the way back to 3rd grade, Bill C_____, was able to use the ticket so things worked out just fine.  The Big Red has clearly slipped a few steps but they will play Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game this weekend.  Your Uncle Ralph wants to go to the game in Kansas City, but he can’t find anyone to go with him.  He wanted me to buzz up for the weekend, but one game every 10 years is plenty enough for me.  Reid, did you know Butler won the Preseason NIT in NY?  Yeah, they rolled over Indiana, Tennessee, Gonzaga and some other flunky.  It was quite the show.  So you’ll have something to look forward to when you get back.

The weather sure is a hell of a lot different.  40s and 50s in Nebraska, 72F when I returned home yesterday afternoon.  Now, that is a bit over the norm, but people say that’s how it can be almost all the time.  It was in the upper 30s this morning, but no wind.  So it was nice.  But it will be 70F this afternoon.

Sort of settling into some routine around the house.  Leave work, hit the gym, go home and cook something.  One of these days, I have to get organized.  EB, I ain’t moving the office downstairs until I can assure myself that the mountains of paper littering the family room and current office are under control.   I’m paying most of my bills online, but I need filing space for stuff.  Got out on the Harley yesterday for about 50 miles.  It was good to ride if only for a while.

You guys do not need to worry about any sort of gift for me.  I’ll get you both down here soon enough and that’s enough of a present as far as I’m concerned.  So really, don’t send anything down this way.  I’ve got enough stuff on my plate – and on the couch and on the floors – to keep me occupied.  People are already out selecting Christmas trees.  I’m not there quite yet.  If the mall ever has a Scrooge exhibit, I hope they call me to serve as Old Ebenezer.  I’d fit in pretty well.  Well, gotta go and serve the corporate master.  Be good, be safe, be healthy.

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Filed under Family, Mailing

Now, about the receivers…

Enough about the sender.  How about those on the receiving end?

I do wonder from time to time what people think when they find a letter from me in the mailbox.   To be honest, no permission to send is ever asked.  Things just sort of arrive and the readers are left to their own devices.  (It’s a different kettle of fish with Ellen and Reid.  They know what’s coming and why.)  To tip people off would be akin to asking someone if its okay for me to send an email.  It just isn’t unfeasible.  My version of don’t ask, don’t tell, I suppose.

I’ve never once asked if what I sent was received and, more importantly, how it was received from their point of view.  Rather than point to the letter, the page is allowed to stand (or fall) on its own merit.  Folks can take the contents for what the few hundred words are worth.  The presumption here is that their thinking ranges from ‘why this, why now?’ to this is okay or maybe it’s nice to get something in the mail that isn’t a bill.  If it piques their interest for a couple of minutes, so much the better.  Far be it for me to assume it is of importance to them.  Everything is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.


Here is last week’s letter to Ellen and Reid.

June 14, 2010

Ellen/Reid: The only way to take things in regards to your grandparents is one step, and one day, at a time.  Things seem to be stabilizing a little bit in that right now there are no more planned moves, no more pulling the two of them hither and yon.  They each have their own rooms and that really meets each of their needs.

Your grandfather is in good spirits given his condition.  In some ways the nine days there were very good.  Our conversations were just very conversational.  I think that to talk about things openly is good in lieu of dancing around or avoiding the topic.  It was refreshing to him and cathartic for me.  We got a lot done; the service mostly mapped out and some of the other arrangements in order for casket and clothing (blue blazer with an Air Force lapel pin, white shirt, gray slacks).  When I walked in the first day, he handed me a legal pad with his wishes for pallbearers (Reid, that means you and Tim), honorary pallbearers, etc.  It was surreal in a lot of ways.  But there was no place else I would rather be for those days.

He is sleeping a lot.  He’s not many weeks from major abdominal surgery on top of his cancer.  We’d be beat, too.  He does not seem in a lot of pain although his breathing is labored only because of the fluid build-up (edema).  The head nurse there, Erin, was very good with him.  She walked him through what was happening and why, and he was very understanding.  It’s just the normal progression of the disease.

Your grandmother is having a hard time with all this.  She doesn’t quite understand why they can’t be together in the same room and it makes her frustrated and angry.  As your grandfather and I both said time and again, it’s not her but her ailment.  Still, I twice lost my temper with her.  Once was not 30 seconds after Erin had laid out the candid scenario for him. Your grandmother came into his room, very angry with him – let’s go home, you’re not sick, etc. – and the dichotomy of the two situations just couldn’t be further apart.  But while it rolled off his back, I took it to heart.  She turned her walker around and bolted out of the room and I just lost it.  She and I had quite a set-to out in the hallway.  That was my one regret during the entire time in Omaha.

In fairness, we made her move very quickly without her knowing much about it.  If we had told her she’d be in a new space, and potentially locked up for two weeks with no visitors, it would have been very, very tough for her.  My cousin Eric and his son Klint helped move everything while my mom was kept occupied.  When the time came, I gave her personal sitter the high sign that it was time to take her to her new lodgings.  Ostensibly, the rules are that once a new resident is in the memory wing, there is no leaving the unit, plus no visitors, for 14 days to help them acclimate to the new surroundings.  But your uncle and I prevailed on the staff to bend the rules, and they agreed.  Grandma and grandpa have seen each other regularly.  It’s hard to watch them separate when the time comes.  But there are glimmers for her.  She said she likes her new room – one of the best in the memory wing – and she likes all the photos of you guys and Andy and Joe.

My uncle Henry and his wife Mary were driven down from the Twin Cities by their son Tim.  It was a highlight of the week for him to see his sister, your grandmother.  Henry is an incredibly dynamic person, but he has his own issues: early onset Alzheimer’s.  We took them all out to eat except for your grandfather who stayed behind.  Family time doesn’t get much more precious than this.  I don’t know if Henry and Mary will make it back for the service, so it was the right time for everyone to say their goodbyes.  It was a great moment, and it’s what your grandpa truly deserved.  It’s just a process that rolls onward to the conclusion we expect it to be.

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Filed under Contact, Creativity, Mailing

A 44 cent security device…

More bad news on the local personal security front last week.  Seems a CD chock full of Social Security Numbers and other personal data was swiped and no one knows for sure how or where the information will surface or if it ultimately fell into the wrong hands to be used for criminal purposes.  For all we know someone could be downloading the hot data right now onto some nefarious website or applying for bogus loans or arranging for ersatz credit cards.

This instance, while far from isolated, is another reminder that our dependence on all things electronic and interconnected has rough, jagged edges.  Admittedly it is a stretch to equate written correspondence as somehow safer than the brittle security of the Internet.  But one thing we know to be true; whatever goes on the web can be fair game for someone who doesn’t play fair.

Maybe I am nutty – that is a rhetorical question that does not demand an answer – but I keep falling back on the idea that there is not always a need to go electronic in our communications.  That’s why much of the time my best security device is a 44 cent stamp.


Here is the May 24 letter to Ellen and Reid

May 24, 2010

Ellen/Reid: We’ve had better days than these but somehow we will manage to get through it all.  It is just the way of the world.  Your grandfather’s most recent setback would have been a death knell had the intestinal blockage not been removed.  As it turns out, the blockage was caused by a hernia which was constricting his intestine.  Not quite sure how that occurred but it did.  It is of a mild relief that it was not related to his cancer but still, it won’t further his cause.  He is exhausted and in need of rest.

This happens just when we thought we’d found the ideal place for the pair of them.  To stay together was their wish but we could not of known the emergency surgery lay ahead.  That has thrown a wrench in the works.  How the place works is that you sign up for a specified level of care; i.e. your grandfather stipulated he would handle your grandmother’s medications and most of the other duties.  But with him out of commission, there is no one to give your grandmother her pills, no one to take her to the dining area, and no one to literally watch over her.  They would have ridden things out in their little apartment and that would have been great.  Hospice would have come in to assist your grandfather when that time arrived.  Honestly, I’m not sure what we would have done if they were still at home.

But they found your grandmother roaming outside the building yesterday, and what that means is that she can likely not stay there anymore.  The cost to provide what is essentially 24 hour babysitting is exorbitant and well beyond their budget.  So now we’re up in the air and all of this is upsetting, particularly to your uncle who is incensed that planning for such eventualities didn’t occur long ago.  We didn’t have benefit of a crystal ball to foresee events.  Who knew your grandpa would go into surgery and turn this latest plan upside down?

The move itself went okay.  Your grandfather was upset at the rapidity of things but your uncle really pushed the envelope very, very hard.  A bull in a china shop.  But fortunately he did or we’d be in worse straits than we are now.  Watching your grandparents go up and down stairs in a dimly lit house was agonizing; you saw that for yourselves a few weeks ago.  I’m thinking of taking a leave of absence to go up there to attend to things, in part because your grandmother needs it and to ease the burden on your uncle who is closest to the action.  Not certain how all of that will plan out but I’m looking into it today.  I am still scheduled to be there June 4 – 10.  The family room and kitchen and their bedroom has all been moved.  As a practical matter, what remains is to simply start organizing the remaining items; tools, kitchenware, clothing, furniture, and other odds and ends.  We haven’t even talked about readying the property for sale.

Before all of this came down I began to ask your grandfather again about our family past.  I’ve included a recent newspaper clipping recounting his story from November 21, 1944 when his B-17 made a forced landing in Belgium.  He was glad to talk about it.  We also talked about his forebears; looks like his side of the family had its roots in North Carolina and we fought on the losing side of the Civil War.  That’s why they ended up in Clark, Missouri as they pushed Westward after the great conflict.  Reid, your grandfather thinks Gen. Omar Bradley is a first cousin of your great grandfather, Ed Bradley because they were both from the same neck of the rural woods in Missouri.  We talked too, about how grandpa worked for a little paper in Ida Grove, Iowa before jumping to the Sundance Times and Crook County News in Wyoming.  His pay in Ida Grove: $30 a month.

I’ll go for now, but keep your phones on for the latest updates.  If you have any questions, let me know and I’ll answer them as best I can.  We’ll get through this even if it’s not easy.

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Filed under Archiving, Mailing, Postage, Technology