Monday, February 20, 2012

A Long-Winded Story + Handwritten Letters.

The last time I wrote a letter, it was probably to one of my friends in high school. Folded up sheets of looseleaf paper, carefully decorated with colorful gel pens and highlighters. They were either stuffed in lockers, tossed at each other in the halls, or passed in class. Sometimes, to our horror, they were intercepted by teachers. Most of us were pretty observant when passing notes in class - no one wanted their teacher to read aloud the news to the entire class. I mean, sure, everyone would wind up finding out eventually (uh, hellooooo, its high school), but having a teacher read your note aloud was akin to your parents reading your diary - totally uncool and downright embarassing. While those notes were cherished (I have lunch boxes filled with notes at my dad's house), the most important letter I have ever written in my life was the one that I wrote to my grandfather, which was placed in his coffin at the wake I never went to.

My grandfather was dying of prostate cancer, so my mother decided to come up to New York to assist in the care of her father-in-law. We were living in Florida at the time, so my dad stayed home to work and take care of the house, while my brother and I joined my mother on Long Island. This was also convenient for my parental units, because they were having marital troubles and this was a pseudo separation, which my mom wanted, but would never say aloud to us. Because my mother was an active parent at both of our schools, we were allowed to miss a couple months of school, as long as the assigned schoolwork was completed. We had our work faxed to my aunt's house, and my uncle would FedEx the work to our respective schools.

We stayed at my Poppy's house (my mother's father), but split our time between the homes of my aunts and my grandparents' condominium. I was very close with my grandfather, so I did not handle his sickness very well. I used to pray to God that I would be a better student/daughter/sister if he cured my grandfather. At thirteen, I wasn't really a fan of religion. My mom's best friend, Bernadette, died of breast cancer when I was eleven, leaving behind three children. I was convinced there was no God, for doing such a horrific thing to a wonderful family. I figured if the man upstairs pulled through this time, he would redeem himself.

When my father flew up from Florida, I knew things had taken a turn for the worst. I started spending more time at my Aunt Debbie's house. I would spend time with my cousins, Catherine and Marie, do my homework, listen to my cousin Catherine's CD's, and occasionally go on the computer. My brother was with my parents at the hospital, where my grandfather had been moved to. After seeing Bernadette, bloated beyond recognition, fighting for her life in a hospital room, I refused to step foot in a hospital. I felt so lost and alone. Life was shitty, winter was cold, and had just found out that my boyfriend, Tommy, had cheated on me with my friend, Sara. My poor aunt. I'm sure I was surly and rude to her - I never dealt with disruption well, especially of this magnitude.

Finally, in February, my grandfather lost his battle with prostate cancer. This was the second time I had seen my father cry in my life (the first time was when I was in third grade and I got my waist long hair cut to my shoulders. He sat at the white table on our back porch, crying, six pack of Coors Light on the table, dealing with the fact that his daughter was starting to make her own decisions). I felt as if my entire world collapsed. I know this is a strong statement, but at this time in my life, I hated God. I was so mad at him for taking away two important people in my life. How could someone that my family looked to for guidance do such horrible things?

When it came time for the wake and funeral, I couldn't do it. I wanted to, but I knew if I saw my grandfather, lifeless in a casket, with that horrible funeral home makeup caked on his face, I was going to lose my shit. I'm pretty sure my parents knew the same, so when I asked them if I had to go, they said I didn't have to if I didn't want to. So I did the next best thing I could do - I wrote him a letter.

I don't remember my exact words, but I remember the sentiments clearly. I told him I was sorry that I couldn't come to the funeral, but that we both knew it was for the best. I promised I would never forget him and the memories I had of him - singing and dancing together, the time I refused to eat food because I was afraid I'd choke (grandpa was the one who tricked me into eating again), sneaking Jolly Ranchers when I was told not to, and watching Lassie together. I said how much I loved him, missed him so much already, and how life would never be the same without him.

I wonder if my parents ever read the letter.

I don't think I've ever really told anyone about this point in my life (unless they were around at the time to experience this firsthand) and I have never told anyone what that letter contained. I just wrote about it in a blog entry, for a plethora of strangers to pour over. Surprisingly, I'm totally cool with this. My mom would see this as progress; taking down some of the walls I put up to protect myself.

Now that the long-winded, emotionally charged part of this entry is over... I have been saying for weeks that I want to write real letters to people. I always relay congratulatory statements via text, email or Facebook. Not exactly personalized, and to be honest, pretty lazy. Now that I've stopped to smell the roses, I want to get back in the habit of writing letters. Everyone loves opening their mailbox and seeing a personalized letter or card. Most of what I find is junk mail, the penny saver and bills - all of which I could do without. This afternoon, I dug out my overpriced stationery that was collecting dust on the bookshelf. I wrote cards to family members and letters to my brand spankin' new pen pals.

Fun letters, cards + postcards!

I'm bringing the art of the handwritten letter back. All hail snail mail!

- Michele


  1. Replies
    1. How beautifully written. No Michele I never read your letter to grandpa. I was a privet note and I would not invade your privacy. Yes I am proud of you for taking the wall down around you. I know it was a hard time in your life, I tried the best that I could to help you through it, it's never easy. I loved you grandpa very much, he was more of a father to me then my own. He would and is very proud of who you have become, as I am.
      I have always told you and will keep telling you this is your calling, writing. Don't ever stop, your words have touched my heart many times and have brought tears to my eyes. I love you!