Saturday, 18 February 2012

Dear Folks,

Grandma McDermott at Christmas this past year
What I will miss most about my Grandmother are the handwritten notes she sent me every birthday and holiday. These notes followed me through college, graduate school, several jobs and a recent move to Boston. My cousins, Nicole and Michelle, lived in Ohio and in Allentown when they were young and would always get caught up on family happenings through these letters. My brother and I lived a mile from Grandma and Grandpa, so our early correspondences were usually in person. Nicole and Michelle called these letters “Dear Folks” letters for the simple reason of that is how she started each writing.

The letters were a simple, personal greeting that meant more to all of us than any call, text message, or email. And in case you’re wondering, my Grandparents did have a cellphone. They were important and special because we all knew that Grandma took the time to sit down and purposefully construct each word and sentence. And we saved every letter that Grandma sent. Along with my brother and two cousins, we have a written, personal history of our Grandmother, her life, and how much she cared for each of us. Technology cannot replace that. 

The letters were usually composed on both sides of notebook paper and often recollected the past few days:

“Today Grandpa spent the morning up in the garden picking green beans. Will probably have some for supper. Joan (my Grandmother’s sister) and Earl are coming over later. I decided to make a turkey dinner even though it’s June. That’s okay, right?”

“Did some wash today and must clean the burners on my stove tomorrow. They need it badly.”

In the past year, Grandma’s health started to decline. She spent most of October and November in the hospital, but made it home for Thanksgiving. It was odd passing through two holidays and not receiving any letters from Grandma, but we all understood the circumstances. A few weeks after Thanksgiving we all received a Christmas card from Grandma and inside was a letter. Despite her weak hands and limited energy, she managed to meticulously construct each line of this letter delicately, and with love.

As I write this post, I am sad for future generations. I’m sad that some children and grandchildren will never get to experience the genuine, personal experience that comes with opening a letter that contains a handwritten note. I’m sad that some will never experience the intimate elegance of writing in cursive and know how it feels to place feelings and emotions into each letter, word, and sentence. I hope that this tradition is passed down and carried on by those of us who spend our days producing and consuming digital text so that future generations can experience what it’s like to receive something so personal as a handwritten letter. It's a tradition we must hold on to in our families and our schools.

A Valentine from Grandma McDermott 2011

My Grandmother passed away this morning at 87. She died at home - the home my Grandfather built over sixty years ago - surrounded by family and at peace. She got to see the sun rise this morning and watch the birds flock to her bird feeder. It was a peaceful, painless transition. I was not there to see her in her final moments, but I imagine she may have wanted to close with something like this...

Well must soon start thinking of starting supper so will say so long for now. Take care & Happy St. Patrick’s Day.


Grandma and Grandpa