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Old letter a sign of the times, self

Posted: May 4, 2012 10:04 a.m.
Updated: May 7, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Every now and then, we clear out the cobwebs of our lives. My mother’s been going through this for a while now and, as she did, came across this 25-year-old letter from me. It appears typed, since it includes hand-written edits in my handwriting. I thought it would be fun to share, since it not only offers me a bit of self-reflection, but a peek at life back in the ’80s.


“Memphis, TN

“August 29, 1986

“Dear Mom, Doug, Jenny, ’Becca and Merlin,

“How are you all doing, I wonder. I’ve been trying to call you for the past few days, but I must have the wrong phone number. My new phone number (yes, they changed it again) is (901) ___-6428. Think of it as (901) ___-M’HAT. (Well, it works for me!) Call me up or write me back soon to tell me your phone number. I have already contacted U.S. Sprint and I should have a travel code in a couple of weeks and 1-plus dialing within 30 days.

“I spoke with Heather and Dad yesterday. Heather has told me that she’s been trying to get in touch with you about money again. Apparently something called the ‘Templeton’ fund messed up on her account number and only sent her part of what she needed, asked for or whatever. Anyway, her boyfriend’s father is a stock broker type (and I’ve done some double-checking here) and it seems that Mr. Templeton is retiring soon and could cause the value of the stock or whatever it is to go down a lot. It has been suggested to me that anyone having dealings with Templeton should get out now ‘while the going’s good.’ Heather also mentioned that something messed up in Hofstra concerning money and she is a good $300 short on her rent. Her phone number, in case you need it, is (516) ___-7762. If she doesn’t answer, call her boyfriend, Paul, at (516) ___-5422. Even if they’re not there, he has an answering machine and you can leave a message. You also will need to give her phone number as well, since she didn’t have the right one either.


“Enclosed please find examples of my short-story and poetry writing which earned me an A in my ‘Intro to Creative Writing’ class. For the entire summer, I received three As (Writing, Soci. of Occupations and Professions and Cont. Sociological Problems) and one B (Marriage and the Family). Too bad they can’t award Dean’s List for summer terms, that’s a 3.75 average.

“The two short-stories are ‘Gray’ (a re-do of a sci-fi short I did about a year ago called ‘A Day Like Any Other’) and ‘Out of the Heat’ about a man who (yes!) finds himself. The poem ‘The Freedom the Mind Offers’ is a poem I originally only intended for Jennifer that I wrote about a month ago. After looking [it] over several times, I wanted to get the class’ reaction to it. Considering my ‘A,’ I’d say they liked it. ‘The Caretaker’s Son’s Nightmare’ is a bit more of what I would call ‘pure’ poetry and is my longest work yet in that genre. I have another poem I did for the class called ‘Ancient Traveler’ that is on the computer. As soon as I get the chance, I will print it out and send it.

“Well, I hope everyone is fairly settled now. At least you guys got a place to stay besides the hotel. Grandma and Grandpa are still awaiting the building of their new home in Del Ray, Florida. Good luck in school, girls. Merlin, stay out of trouble (impossible!). Doug, good luck at piano tuning, etc. And, Mom, I hope everything goes well for you in Atlanta re IRS.

“All for now.




Obviously, 21-year-old me was a little on the immature side. He also made some pretty big mistakes, even about his own family.

The biggest one is the reference to my grandparents waiting on their house in “Del Ray” when they were really living well north of that in the Port St. Lucie/Fort Pierce area.

“Merlin” was my family’s black female cat whose name was spelled “Merlyn,” a play on my sister Rebecca’s middle name.

The person referred to as “Jenny” in my greeting is not the same person as “Jennifer” in the body of the story. Jennifer is a girl I once dated who ended up instead as one of my best friends. In fact, I asked her to be my “Best Person” at my wedding, not having any male friends I really wanted for that spot. She married the young man she brought with her. They have two girls now.

My sister Heather’s boyfriend, Paul, and his father, “the stock broker type,” are both gone now. Heather married Paul, but lost him to cancer a few years ago; his father died not long after they married.

I have little memory of those courses I got As in, except that two of them are connected to my minor in Sociology. I don’t remember the short stories or poems at all and don’t believe I have copies of any of them.

What I’m most tickled by are the technological references. U.S. Sprint? Not exactly around in that configuration anymore. Travel codes and 1-plus dialing? Ancient means of long-distance communication. Answering machines? Voice mail’s the answer today.

What I’m really not sure about is the “computer” reference. An early personal one? Something I was given access to at Memphis State University? I have no idea.

Getting this letter back was a neat trip down memory line. My father recently turned over some old things of mine. I think I’ll take a look at those and see what other golden nuggets from the past I can come up with.

Oh, and my wife thinks the “B” in Marriage and the Family is a hoot.


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