When I was a kid, I used to have pen pals. Remember those? At the back of some comics, there used to be listings of kids all over Canada and the U.S. who would describe their interests and hobbies, and put their name and age and address. And you could write to them. The good old days. I had about 6 pen pals from all over, not because I especially like meeting new people (this guaranteed you didn’t have to), but because I liked getting mail.
I loved getting mail, actually. I signed up for everything and made my mother crazy. Collector postage stamps “on approval” (she put a fast stop to that), sea monkeys, x-ray glasses, greeting cards – anything. I wasn’t great at reading fine print, but I was fast with a pen and a stamp.
She did let me keep the pen pals, mostly because the letters consisted of things like what grade we were in, how many siblings we had and what we did for fun. I remember one kid told me his goal was to be a carnie. He wasn’t kidding. Mom said I couldn’t write to him anymore. I told her at least my letters were interesting; all she wrote home to England about was who had died, who was sick and what the weather was doing.
Letter writing is a lost art now. My handwriting isn’t legible, even to me. There’s also the upside of frequency. If I can email, you’ll hear from me more often, as well-intentioned thoughts on a rare piece of stationary awaiting a rarer -still stamp are unlikely to make it out the door.
It can be dangerous writing a letter to someone you haven’t seen or talked to recently. I realized this, as I fired up an email this morning to someone I’d been out of touch with for awhile.
“Maggie has been sick. 600 bucks at the vet; she stopped eating for 12 hours and got dehydrated. She looks so pathetic I hustled her in –she’s 13 but the only one around here who loves me, so I’m kinda partial to her. She has eye drops, ear drops, and antibiotics for an infection they couldn’t pinpoint. Got her home, got the rounds of meds into her (not happy, she gave me stinkeye twice a day and ran), but within a day she was eating like a trooper. So much for the edge of death.
“Huge thunderstorms here, lots of big branches down. Looks like a frat house on Sunday morning.
“We lost that neighbour who’s been sick for awhile now. It wasn’t a surprise, but it’s still a jolt. Thought you should know.
“I’ve been sick all week. I was supposed to go meet up with two friends in West Virginia last weekend, had a perfect car lined up, but I was too sick to go. Sinus and migraine. I never get sick. The doctor said it was viral and couldn’t give me antibiotics. I considered taking Maggie’s and she, of course, was all “hey, have at it”. It’s finally over, but it’s been a lousy summer on the health front. Both boys said “I thought you were going away”. I pointed out that I was lying near death. They both said “but you never get sick”. Then they asked what was for dinner, since I was home.
“So. All caught up. Bitching and complaining and bringing you news of illness and death. It’s like the Middle Ages, but with computers and antibiotics.”
I’ve become my mother.