Joyce Whitis

Every day except Sundays and holidays, I walk down my lane, dogs keeping me company, and open the door to my mailbox. There is always a little anticipation, especially if I’m expecting a package from Amazon.com or Coldwater Creek. Just this past week I picked up my mail then back at the house, stood over my trash can as I shuffled through it. There were three invitations to extend the warranty on my 2005 vehicle; form letters asking for donations of money to New Mexico Children’s home, Boys’ Ranch, and the USO; “last chance” forms to renew my subscription to Texas Monthly; pleas to join up to fight hunger in Africa; solicitations to vote for candidates from different political parties; a fistful of coupons from various businesses; two notices that I had been approved for credit cards; and a letter!

I turned it over front and back, examined it, even sniffed it. It was a real letter in an envelope without a cellophane see-through window. It had a stamp in the corner placed there by a human hand and my name and address were written out in blue ink. The return address gave me name of a neighbor that had move away.

“My old friends,” I shouted to the dogs. “They wrote me a letter. It’s been a long time since I got a real letter in the mail.”

I sat down at the breakfast table, opened my letter and began to read.

“Dear Joyce,” it said and instantly I saw my friend sitting at her desk with pen and paper in hand as she began to catch me up with news of herself and her family. I hugged the piece of paper close. The handwriting was precise, easy to read and it went on page after page with words that flowed from the pen of my friend who had moved across the country.

“We miss all of you in Erath County and send best wishes your way. It was so hard to leave our beautiful home but at our age the move to be closer to our children was one of necessity. It is beautiful here on the West Coast but there will never be any place like Stephenville with you and all the good folks there that we love so much.”

It was so good to read about my old friends and their move and all that had changed in their lives with suggestions of more changes to come as she told me that her back hurt all the time and she had an appointment with a doctor hoping he could help. She said that they, who loved traveling around the country in their motorhome, didn’t think it was much fun anymore and had put it up for sale.

When I finished reading, I put the folded paper back in its envelope and filed it away in a desk drawer. There was the thought that it might just be the last letter I ever get from my friend or from anybody for that matter. Nobody writes letters anymore, certainly not in cursive. My grandchildren don’t even know how to write connecting one letter to another. All they do is print and the letters they send my way are text messages with imaginative spelling that pops up on the screen of my Iphone. Today’s mail is mostly delivered to personal computers and the letters are not really letters at all but jokes, cartoons, tricks, stuff that is easy to address and send on with the click of a mouse. Hardly anybody takes the time to sit down with pen and paper and spell out words that connect friends and family.

I remember when folks used to write letters. I even had several “pen pals,” boys and girls that I never met but we corresponded for several years telling each other what life was like in our hometown. When I was in college, letters from my mother came regularly. Dad didn’t write much but every so often his brief letter would come and those were so special because I knew that he put forth real effort to put pen to paper. After my Dad was gone and Mother grew older, I would keep one letter until another arrived and so I have the last letter she wrote, only a few weeks before she was carried to the hospital and never came back home.

Through the years, I’ve managed to keep a lot of the letters written to me. Way too many of them are from folks who have passed on. There is one from a sister, several v-mail letters from my brother written during WWII, and one very special letter from my husband. Sometimes I take out a letter and re-read it. During the time that I have that letter in my hands, that person comes back to be with me once more and I remember and am thankful that our lives came together however briefly.