Sunday, January 17, 2010

Forever Letters, Forever Stamps

About Letter Writing
Published 3/09 Suburban Journals

Letters have been a life-line for my best friend and me for forty years. They bouyed our spirits and kept us emotionally afloat as we endured the crashing waves of life. Now, our letters are an anchor for my friend's receding mind.

Our friendship began when we were next door neighbors and wives of soldiers stationed in a remote Alaska town. We connected immediately. When it was time to return to our respective hometowns, we vowed to stay connected.

My heart skipped a beat each time the letter carrier deliverd a red and blue edged airmail envelope - it felt like my cherished friend in Boston was sitting in my kitchen. We shared the joys and frustrations of motherhood; we reared our children with swapped ideas and complaints, and we did it all through letter writing. Each ten page missive was like unburdening ourselves at the gossip fence. Although we were separated by fifteen hundred miles, we knew we had one another to lean on when we needed a boost or a kick in the pants.

As divorce loomed on my horizon, she was there to listen, respond and support me. When medical issues loomed on her horizon, she shocked me with an unexpected phone call. "Tumor. Brain. Malignant." I'm sure she said a host of other words, but those were all I heard. "So very-very sorry." I'm sure I said much more, but what I remember is we didn't cry. Verbal words of comfort failed me; all the while my mind was spinning a letter. When we hung up, I took pen in hand, poured out my love, encouragement and addressed our fears. I did this twice a week for the next three years, when her letters were sporadic or non-existent. Chemotherapy and radiation were her topics; teenaged children and daily living, mine.

Today her cancer is gone and so is her short-term memory. I write her weekly. She tells me her heart skips a beat when she sees a letter from me. Although she can not remember a moment ago, her long-term memory is intact. Every letter is a connection to days of long ago when we walked among the wildflowers clutching our swollen bellies, sharing hopes and dreams, wondering what it would be like to be a mother.
Forever more we will be two newlywed girls walking a dusty path towards yesterday in that remote Alaska town (Delta Junction).

As my friend drifts away, I vow that we will stay connected. As long as there are Forever stamps, I will forever write my friend a weekly letter.


Tammy said...

This is so moving I'm speechless...and typeless. Beautiful.

Lynn said...

I've read this before and it's just as heart warming the second time around!

BECKY said...

I remember this, too! And I can so relate to being the "military wife" and being far from home.....and that one or two friend we find....for life! Beautiful!

Pat Wahler said...

Writing letters is such a rarity these days. How wonderful that you've kept up with the tradition for so long. I'm sure it means a lot to your friend.

Linda O'Connell said...

Tammy, Lynn, Becky, Pat, thankyou for your kind words. It is sad to see my friend fading, This is my way of paying back, giving of myself to someone who was always there for me. Thanks to all of you for being HERE for me. IT means a lot. Becky the best book surprise I ever received was a 1943 Reader's Digest from my granddaughter. The stories are filled with sexism, racism, an afront to women, but an unbelievable look into the past. It is my literary treasure.