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,
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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!”