Letters that Helped Make Me a Man

Letters from Mom and Dad from 40 years ago.
I have kept a box of letters up in a drawer in my office closet for decades. The last time I put a personal letter in that box was when I got a nice note from a writer last year. Pretty much nobody has written personal letters, on stationery, in decades. I was thinking about my dad so I brought the box down and began to re-read some letters Dad and Mom sent me 40 years ago.

Forty years!  I was living in Amherst at 144 Summer Street, or 1136 North Pleasant Street, this was before marriage, children or even owning my house or living in Deerfield. These letters reveal a lot about my father’s character, and the many ways he shaped me into being confident and happy in life. He gave me so much positive emotion, such as this letter he wrote after I got a new job at the Valley Advocate newspaper.

Nat Hartshorne, my father.
Nat Hartshorne, my father.

“Of course, you know how happy  you’d make the old Curly by getting a job on the Advocate!  Jesus!  I’d thought that was out of the question. But you kept at it and you finally  got what you’d deserved all along.” 

Often, Dad was not happy with what I had written in a previous letter, and he’d let me have it.  Once he compared me to Harry S. Truman, “who used to fire off hip shots without any thought of the consequences or what the recipient’s situation might be.”  He admonished me for being upset that they were only coming to visit me for lunch, and not staying overnight in Amherst, back in 1978.

The letters so often revealed a true interest, a dedicated devotion to knowing about me,  and the encouragement and support you’d expect from dad.   It meant so much to be able to always feel propped up, even when at times I doubted that I could get a job I loved and be happy like he had done.

“I couldn’t say this before but I was so delighted to read that you don’t want to be a salesman again. (Thank God!) You’re a writer. I want so much to get up there and see you in your natural habitat.

“You are most certainly a winner and you’ve made both of us enormously proud of you.”    Those were words to savor!

I am contemplating whether there might be a book about a man like Dad in the cards.  “The Last Great Letter Writer,” is a working title.