My father was the picture of strength during my child- and most of my adulthood: he was an all-star wrestler and coach, gym and health teacher and master Red Cross water safety instructor, seemingly teaching most of the County how to swim. It could have been from years of blaring his whistle (I'll never forget the "Acme Thunderer" which summoned us home immediately), the passing of years or the insidious Alzheimer's he suffers, but my ability to talk with my dad, who is over 3,000 miles away, went away a while ago.
Frustrated by the inability to have a conversation with my dad (don't get me started about video calls - he retired "when the getting was good," which in his mind meant before he'd have to learn to use a computer), I decided to write. I didn't think much of it because, for the most part, my letters weren't very long but, after a while, my mom said he loved getting the letters. She said she would have him read them aloud and explained that often it would be the only time she'd hear his voice during the week when the communication wasn't about medication, a problem or something else bad. She said reading out loud was good for him and helps stem some cognitive decline. I don't envy my mom as the caregiver but I'm told the letters also give her some respite and a view into what's doing in my life in California. (Years ago she sent a birthday card and wrote, parenthetically, that good sons don't move 3,000 miles away from their mothers.)
I admit, my handwriting isn't the best and is certainly nothing like that of my mom, who writes as neatly today as if writing on a blackboard 30 years ago, but when I write to my dad, I write in larger size so he won't struggle. Every time I sit to pen a card or a note, I make an effort to counteract the years of college and law school note-taking and produce something legible and personal. Because this takes effort, I think about how the use of e-mail and computers play a part in the loss of an art form: handwriting.
While at a museum in Albany a little over a year ago (back when people traveled), I happened upon a display which included pages of the area's census. The scripted entries were beautiful. I said to Ryan, "Do you see this?? This is how people wrote a long time ago." He said, "Gorgeous!" It was.
My years of practiced handwriting and calligraphy were decades ago but I've made a commitment to write more by hand and trust the time I take is appreciated. It also makes me feel like a solider in defense of an art that might be lost if we don't fight the battle, so I encourage you to take up your figurative sword, be it a fountain, ballpoint or rollerball pen and share your writing with people who would love to hear from you. Feel free to share your stories with us.
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