Category Archives: hopeFull romantic

Handwritten Love Letters

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Collections of notes and love letters carry such important

messages. Sometimes connecting the world with the past,

sometimes bringing hope and love across the miles and

through dangerous times. Bill Shapiro went around the world

to collect his findings of such varied subjects, but mostly

he wanted Love Letters. (Check out his book, “Other People’s

Love Letters: 150 Letters You Were Never Meant to See, October,

2007.)

Bill Shapiro’s book can be studied to help you write a moving

and poignant love letter. His collection of letters range from

the very serious subject matter, includes the humorous to the

sublime.

Bill gathered notes and cards, too, that were sent from the

youngest age of kindergarten to the oldest age of beyond

ninety was a fantastic project for him to undertake. I would

have enjoyed this project and cherished the memories of the

faces on the people sharing them and who I would have met along

my journey.

I think that finding letters in an attic is such a wonderful

way to connect to your family’s heritage and see into the

way their thoughts and feelings were during the period the

messages were sent. The subjects of history, war, Depression

and the Holocaust have given us fascinating missives.

My Dad’s love letters, sent from Cleveland to Middletown,

Ohio were beseeching and searching for the way to capture my

Mom’s heart. They ‘cinched the deal’ while my Mom dated a

few men after college, living at home with her parents and

teaching high school. Their love life was always passionate,

filled with the continued promise that it would last forever.

The packet of shoestring tied cards with each personally

filled out, by my Dad to my Mom, found after his death has

been on my mind, especially as their 59th anniversary is

fast approaching.

You see, four years before my Dad’s death he suffered a

life-changing stroke. It was debilitating in a devastating

way. He was not able to read nor write for months. Once he

‘passed’ the occupational and physical therapists’ time

limit, my mother had helped to find the interesting twist of

fate that had switched his right and left sides of his brain.

He was walking in the winter, through the Sandusky, Ohio mall,

where he kept bumping into people. My mother quietly and gently

would move him back by her side.

When he would reach for his silverware or cup of coffee, she

would note, he would be reaching in the opposite direction

from where he wanted. He would look at my mother, with a

somewhat confused and childlike look on his face. She said it

reminded her of a wounded puppy.

She started by telling him to place his left hand on the table

and remember that was his left side. When he would physically

do this, it helped. It placed him more in the realm of awareness

and also, this became quite helpful for him to read again.

One of my parent’s favorite activity, as they drank their coffee

on retirement days, they would combine their brains and complete

the crossword puzzle in two newspapers daily. What he knew in

science and technology balanced her knowledge of the world,

history and of course, her favorite subject, English and

languages.

My mom found the squares in the crossword puzzle to be rather

helpful for Dad’s orientation and re-introduction to writing

left to right. Why do I think this is significant to love letters?

The way he was childlike had concerned my mother’s mind and their

budget. Her ‘last straw’ was when he chose to buy six ‘expensive’

Vermilion, Ohio beach towels from one of the souvenir stores in

their retirement village of choice. The total came to $120!! my

Mom yelled! My Mom took his credit card away, even though the

thought of his six grandchildren, my three plus Rich and Susan’s

three, were not worth the extraordinary cost! She returned the

towels to wait until a local store (now closed) called Alco’s

had their beach towels on sale, at the end of summer clearance.

So, my Dad was sadly commissioned an ‘allowance’ of only twenty

dollars a week.

Four wonderful years passed. He had been given a new lease on

life, his heart had stopped in the hospital while recuperating

from the stroke. He had gone, he believed ‘to Heaven and back.’

Pulled back to life, by the resuscitation process with those

handheld electric shock pumps on his chest.

Of course, if you have read this before, it never hurts to hear

these encouraging words that my Dad exclaimed, once ‘back from

his spaceship trip to Heaven:’

“If I can make it to Heaven, anyone can!”

My Dad found out he had cancer in late Summer, 2000. He was

told it may be a year or less, he took the chemo and the other

treatments. He was ‘chipper’ but nauseous. He continued to find

wonders in each day, since that stroke had made him a big kid

again. Mom and he had some special and romantic moments, despite

his knowing he was not going to live long.

The fact that he bought, over the short period of September, 2000

when he found out he had cancer and not long to live, until the

beginning of January, a total of 42 cards is outstanding! He used

his budget to buy a few each time that my parents were out, my

Mom swears she never even noticed him wandering around the stores

towards the card department. She also said when she was buying

candy at the local Hallmark Shoppe, she did not notice him looking

and searching for ‘just the right one.’ None of us knew until my

Dad had died on January 27, 2001, that my Mom’s treasure trove of

cards and messages was still waiting for her to find.

It took my Mom past February to even think of going into Dad’s

clothing drawers. She found a few things in the laundry and

was not even wishing to wash them. They had my Dad’s scent on

them. She wore one of his sweatshirts for a month of nights

to bed. She finally got herself ‘geared up’ for the heavy task

of cleaning out the drawers.

Three stacks were made on the bed she no longer slept in. The

day that my Dad passed, she chose to start sleeping on the sofa

with the back of it, like his own back, pressed up against her.

One stack of clothes was for my brothers to search through,

one was for the grandkids, my own three children choosing to

pick a t-shirt and a tie, with my son and oldest daughter

wanting a leather belt each. The third stack of clothing went

to the Vermilion Goodwill Store.

When she opened the socks drawer, she was digging through

it, transferring the great number of tube socks directly

across the room, into her own sock drawer. She, to this

day, wears men’s socks that are leftover from Dad or buys

new ones to remind her of him.

At the bottom of the drawer a pile of cards over 12″ tall,

about 8″ wide, was tied with a brown shoe string. It had

a note at the top. It said (the gist of it):

“Rosalie, I hope that you will find comfort in these cards

that I searched for you to open. Please read only on the

dates that are given on them, so they will last quite

awhile. I hope to make it to our 46th anniversary, but if

not, that will be your first card to open. Now, you know

I love you and will be with you always. Don’t be sad when

the last card is opened. Maybe you can have a party and

celebrate then, on our 50th Golden Anniversary.

Love you, pardner! Bob.”

My Mom called each of us to share the news. We had had a

meal on their 46th anniversary with Mom, my oldest daughter,

both brothers, myself, my sister in law and my ex-husband.

We had eaten at one of their favorite restaurants by the

Sandusky Mall. She had not yet found the hidden cards.

When Valentine’s Day came she had not yet discovered the pile.

But by the rowdy holiday of St. Patrick’s Day and the rest of

the years leading up to 2005, she had several to open on important

dates, along with some silly ones thrown in to fill in gaps in time.

There were six non-holiday ones, that tickled his ‘fancy,’ and had

some nonsensical reference to a memory that they shared. All major

holidays we celebrated, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New

Year’s. Each had some quick thoughts jotted down after the printed

message. My Dad utilized some of his clever and sarcastic wit. Her

birthday ones and the anniversary ones seemed to my eyes to respect

their serious nature and therefore were very elaborate and ornate.

These were the ‘special’ ones, that if you were there, you would

note a tear shed by Mom. The Halloween ones had silly things like

witches and one time, as if she were a child, one had a ghost that

opened up into three dimensional and whispered, “Boo!”

We had that celebratory party, in a fancy hotel restaurant

halfway to my aunt and uncle’s house in Chardon, Ohio. It was

a lovely feast, where each had put their thirty dollars in to

pay the total bill and include a grand tip for the servers.

It included cousins and three female grandchildren, one great

grandchild, Skyler, (age 4 months), we three siblings, two

spouses, my Aunt Amy and Uncle Orrin and Mom, in all her glory,

at the head of the table.

Gifts were humorous or simple, no expense was stressed when we

planned this celebratory occasion.

Mom ‘kept the card’ but I practically memorized Dad’s message

written here are the words on my Parent’s 50th Anniversary card,

which was absolutely gorgeous,

written five years prior:

“Dear Rosalie,

You were my help mate, my editor, my best friend, my anchor,

my co-pilot, and the mother of my children. You were the love

of my life.

And to Robin, Randy and Rich, our 3 R’s (reading, writing and

‘rithmetic!)

And to Carrie, Jamie, Felicia, Katherine, Jonathan and Libby~~

And to All the Possibilities!

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

(he included 9 ?’s)

I LOVE YOU!

I wish to have you understand what an impact this has been

on my years since. It is hard not to compare the love between

my parents, one raised in the ghetto, working nights at age 11.

My Mom says, “He was such a punk!” While the other half of the

pair (dynamic duo!), my Mom, was raised well. To the long list

of men who have been my suitors (husbands, friends and boyfriends)

I have been disappointed. They “did not hold a candle” to him!

My optimism mixes with some dashes of cynicism, then I get

a little nudge or message in a dream from my Dad:

“Don’t give up the search!

Protect your heart.

He is waiting for you to find him!”

Lovingly sent.

Chasing Shadows of the Past

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While studying the photographs on the Veteran’s Day board at my

Mom’s senior apartment building, I pointed to a tall, gangly looking

young man wearing an Air Force uniform from the WWII era. I asked

Mom if she recognized the name of the man. She looked at his face,

then the name and said, “I think I knew him!”

I turned to her and saw a rapt emotion covered face. I told her that I

had asked about the name of the man not if she knew the man. She

asked what did I mean by that? I told her that one of her favorite

Westlake High School 1971 graduates shared the first and last name

of the man, but the picture resembled him. I exclaimed with some

verve in my voice,

“That resident of Westlake Village Senior Living Apts. may be the

father of the young man from your World Lit and Spanish classes!”

She looked at me, kind of a funny expression, “Well, that would still

mean I may have met his father, too!”

We headed off from the main part of the building towards the “C”

building part. This is the area where the residents may have some

form of disability and more challenges in their daily living skills.

As we headed off on our “wild goose chase,” Mom, her dog, Nicki

on her leash, (patient saint of a little dog,) and I down the quiet

corridors towards the door I reflected back on the numerous times

over the years where Mom would cross paths with her students. Some

had ended up living in Vermilion (where Dad and she had retired),

some were living in Westlake, and we would see them in shopping malls

and stores around the western suburbs of Cleveland.

This particular student, who may or may not be one of her students,

had been one of MY favorites, too. He had gone on to Cornell University.

Jim had come home over holidays and during my four high school years,

I had written to him, along with my Mom’s enclosed letters. When I went

off to BGSU, I heard he had moved on, gone to medical college somewhere,

but we had lost touch. Mom had more new favorites to write to. I have only

his high school graduation picture, had his old address at Cornell, and did

not carry his torch once I met my first husband on my first day of college.

I thought of how paths twist and turn, criss and cross, I had some bubbles

of hope float up to greet me.

A silly song, kind of old but a “goody” starts out,

“Slow down,

You move too fast.

You’ve got to make the morning last,

Just kickin’ down the cobble-stones,

Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy…”

Song, “The 59th Street Bridge Song,” otherwise known as “Feelin’ Groovy.”

Written and performed by the legendary folk music duo of Simon and

Garfunkel, 1966.

I had the true feeling of “Anticipation,” another great song, by the special

songstress, Carly Simon. She sang this song the year the young man, my

Mom’s past student graduated, 1971.

We went to a door of a man who had a flag and another copy of the young,

handsome uniformed Air Forceman’s photo on his shelf outside his door.

This shelf is one I like to decorate for Mom, using some of my seasonal

decorations. I am glad to remember the servicemen around the world

who dedicated their lives to their countries.

I hesitated for a moment, then decided to knock. I heard a waverly and

faint, frail sounding man’s voice ask,

“Who is it?”

I said, “My name is Robin and my Mom lives in B building. We were

wishing to talk to you.”

The male voice gave a little louder reply,

“Wait a minute… I am coming!”

When the door opened, a tall, handsome but much older, slumped version;

a “shadow of the man in the photograph” answered the door.

I launched into my introductions, telling him enthusiastically that we were

hoping he was the father of a man my Mom had taught. I identified which

high school, the one that is only two streets over, in the same town as her

senior apartments was. He repeated the words,

“Westlake High School… my son attended one in another suburb of

Cleveland. He named it.”

I said that his name, James, with his last name was the same as one of my

Mom’s “favorite students.”

He leaned against the wall by the door, having forgotten, I imagined a cane

or a walker in his rush to open the door. He was very pleasant and regretful

of being the “wrong” James or Jim.

I looked at him, decided to give him a big hug for those thoughtful words,

and he imparted some information that may or may not be helpful on

the further investigation to where in the world is Jim or James…

When my son moved to Medina or Mentor, I forget which city, he would

get his mail mixed up with another man with the same first and last name,

who was a doctor.

This new “lead” on the man in my memories and my Mom’s held some

possibilities. We both thanked him very much, he seemed reluctant to

have us go. We mentioned we hoped to see him sometime in the future.

I took his whole name with the middle initial added to it, thinking that it

may be able to be traced or followed with a little internet help.

I have not done this yet.

I am a little afraid, maybe might seem like a “stalker” but I have a little

glimmer of hope. You know why, don’t you?

Maybe, it will be kharma or kismet…

I can always hope this may lead me to my happy ending.

Don’t know what you’ve got…

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So true, all those sappy love songs!

How many times have you been dumped?

How many times have you been the one who broke things up?

What actions did you do to set the ball rolling uphill, just to have it

smack you in the face?

We read about love probably more than other subject. The subject fills

library shelves of books about romance, along with the psychiatry books

that help us figure out what we are doing wrong!

We hear about love in a high volume of the songs we listen to on the

radio. We name a special song, “our song.”

We also go to numerous movies with love as the theme. Sometimes

these are mistakenly labeled “chick flicks.” How unfair! In some

couples there are two girls, some a combination of girl and boy, and

there are two guys together. Don’t they all enjoy watching whether it

works, how it grows, and if it is like them, relate to it?

Someone recently said “I am a hopeLESS romantic.” Think about it!

Have you ever said those words? Don’t you mean “hopeFULL romantic?”

If you were hopeless that would be so sad…