For more than 60 years,
a publication centered on life in Mississippi.
Today is December 18, 2018

Grin 'n' Bare It

Handwritten letters

Kay Grafe
Kay Grafe

Every year about this time I begin my early-spring cleaning and trash disposal task, one which I can never seem to finish. Yesterday, as I was going through file boxes, trying to determine what to keep and what to throw away, I came across a file with the notation: “Letters to answer.”

I don’t know about you all, but I have to admit, I am a procrastinator. At the time I received each letter I had every intention of answering those from my dear readers. What is it they say about “Good Intentions?” (I don’t want to go down that paved road.)

As I began reading some of the letters, tears began to well up. Over the years, you, my readers, have been so kind to read my columns and often write a letter, send an email or in some cases give me a call. One of the letters that I retrieved from the file was written in December 2016 by a gentleman named Charles and his wife, Emily. I won’t divulge their last names because they might not approve of that. Hopefully, they will read this column and know that I appreciated their letter.

Charles wrote the letter, and it was well written and so complimentary. He even had a kind word for Mr. Roy. The envelope was missing, so I don’t know their address, except that they are members of Northcentral Electric Cooperative. The letter was so kind. Thank you, Charles and Emily.

All of the unanswered letters caused me to begin thinking about how society today has changed and personal letter writing is almost a lost art. My daughters and grandchildren and I stay in touch, but not by writing letters. It’s all by email or text.

In most cases, both of these forms of correspondence do not qualify as letters; they are messages. Therefore, misspelled words, improper grammar, missing punctuation and shortened words (“u” for you) are accepted as the norm.

Come to think, I cannot remember the last time I wrote a personal letter to a family member. I use appropriate cards for the occasion and sign my name for birthdays and such. Although, I forgot to send my cousin Jo a birthday card last year. Sorry, Jo.

I know that when Mr. Roy was away in college or in Army basic training, we corresponded by personal letters. You ladies my age know what I am talking about. And during the first years of my married life I corresponded by letter with my mother, grandparents, other relatives and close friends.

Most of these letters are packed away in boxes. I hope that when I am gone, my daughters will take time to read them as they are cleaning out the house. I believe it will give them a better insight into “who Mom really was” and what she was doing and thinking at that period in her life. There is an art to writing good letters, and I bet few young people today understand that.

Throughout history letters have played a vital role in preserving history and in giving us insight into the lives of many important people. Without their letters we would know very little about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and so many others. What would the New Testament be without the Apostle Paul’s letters.

Much of the material in history books and biographies is derived from letters. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams wrote numerous letters back and forth to each other during the last 10 years of their lives, and today these are preserved in a book. I always thought it ironic that these two great men and close friends both died on the same day, the Fourth of July. Both had signed the Declaration of Independence 50 years earlier.

One of the last great letter writers was Ronald Reagan. His book of letters to Nancy, “I Love You, Ronnie,” gives readers a rare insight into the lives of these two special people.

There was one kind of letter that most young people did not want to receive, yet many of us did. It was commonly called a “Dear John” letter.” For you young readers, this was a way of saying, “It’s over, sayonara, adios, goodbye.”

Again, I want my readers to know how much I appreciate you, and please don’t stop the letters. Texts and emails are acceptable too; they mean so much to me. I’ll try much harder to make 2018 the year I begin, again, to answer my mail.

Kay Grafe is the author of “Oh My Gosh, Virginia.” To order, send name, address, phone number and $16.95, plus $3.50 S&H to Kay Grafe, 2142 Fig Farm Road, Lucedale, MS 39452.

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