Monday, July 11, 2016

Down Memory Lane

It took me two hours to clean out a box 9" x 10" x 10" deep.  It was filled with miscellaneous sundries, mostly letters that for one reason or another I have saved over the years.

I threw away a lot, but kept the special ones.  I also read a lot of the letters

The thing is that it was like a walk through the last 30 or so years of my life.  I found letters from a few people who have dropped me from their lives.  It was nice to remember when we were friends and all was good. 

I had forgotten that I corresponded with Gilbert's sister in Oklahoma for quite awhile after his death.  We probably parted company when I told her I had started seeing a therapist to deal with the grief over his death and she told me that "therapy is only for crazy people" and yet she mourned his death for the rest of her life, while I managed to work my way through it.

There were many glowing letters from people I don't remember thanking me for doing things that I don't remember doing, but it was a real boost to my ego to know that people, at some time, felt fondly about me.

The best of this was a letter from the high school music teacher thanking me for a thank you letter I had sent him, after our last kid left his jazz choir class.  The letter was beautiful and there is no way I can throw that away.

There is a typed letter dated 1987 that is unsigned and I can't figure out who it's from but I was amused to read, "Don't worry about getting a modem.  My modeming affair is on the skids already.  Just one of those things (Very time consuming!) And it would certainly not be cheaper to send letters over the phone line rather than my UB post  Just the novelty of it was appealing for awhile..."  H/She then goes on to talk about the advantages of having a modem, but ends up feeling it will never catch on.

Wish I knew who wrote this letter.  I'd like to see if he/she is on Facebook.  :)

There were, of course, the letters from people no longer with us.  Lots of letters from my friend Will Connelly and a very long missive from my friend Diane in Seattle, whom I still miss very much.  There were also several "what I'm doing now" letters from the founder of the Sunshine Children's Theater, who left Davis many years ago.  I decided it was time to throw these away.

There were letters from Yvonne Kalman and Donald Madgwick.  Kalman was the daughter of Emerich Kalman, the composer of the operetta Countess  Maritza, which The Lamplighters performed.  I had found a letter from him among Gilbert's belongings after he died and I wrote to him to let him know of Gilbert's death.  We had a brief, nice correspondence and I was looking forward to meeting him when we traveled with The Lamplighters to a Gilbert & Sullivan festival in Buxton, England.  We met...and he was this nerdy, really unlikeable little guy.  We did not see each other further during the festival.

As for Yvonne, I interviewed her before we did her father's operetta and she was a very nice lady.  She made a special trip from Los Angeles to attend Gilbert's memorial service and I think she shocked the bejeezus out of her because she came to the house first for dinner.  His family, myself, and his best friend had been dealing with Gilbert's death and all the "business" concerning a death and planning a memorial service and we were, by this time, pretty giddy.  I think she was shocked at our lack of respect and our dumb jokes and giggling.

I received more letters than I remembered from my high school typing teacher and life-long friend, Sister Anne.  She wrote eloquent letters in that beautiful handwriting of her.  I last saw her when I was at a conference in St. Louis and she brought me to the motherhouse, where she now lived, in Indiana.  Later, she sent me a lovely beautiful videotape, which I treasure.  She then wrote that she had non-Hodgkins lymphoma and it was a shock, when we sent an announcement of Ned and Marta's wedding, to learn that she died a few months before.  I decided to keep her letters.

There were also more letters than I remembered receiving from my old Physics Department boss, now an emeritus professor from Carnegie Melon. I saw Fred about 20 years ago when I spent the weekend with him and his wife. He had many health problems at that time, so it's a surprise to me that he is still living, into his late 80s.  He doesn't write long chatty letters any more, but he does send e-mail once or twice a year, after I send him a birthday card and a Christmas card.

Awhile ago, I linked to a video that I found on YouTube, the first of four, in which he tells the story of his family and how they escaped the holocaust and came to the United States.  I learned a lot that I'd never known about him before, and when I wrote to him to congratulate him on the video, he was surprised I had seen it because he had no idea it was on the internet.

I cringed a little when I saw the familiar handwriting of my father in the stack of letters.  Our last years were not good and he would send me letters that were so hurtful that whenever a letter arrived, I would put it next to me on the couch and hold it at arm's length and just glance at it a little bit at a time.  So I wondered what this letter contained and why he had sent it.

But it was one of his very rambling letters about music.  My father's passion was music, specifically jazz, and he lived to share his knowledge with others, but he was terrible at doing it.  He always started out OK, but as he warmed to his subject he wanted to include more and more and more so that you got the total of his knowledge in one session.  When I was a child he gave up on teaching me his knowledge of jazz because I was so obviously not interested

But the last time we saw him -- my very best time with him, ever -- he suddenly discovered that his grandchildren shared his love of jazz.  For years, ever since they started becoming teenagers, he assumed they had nothing in common because he hated rock and roll.  What a surprise it was when they started playing jazz for him and he positively glowed when he sat down and joined them in a jam session.  "Whoever thought I would have a jam session with my grandchildren" he said at the time and I felt so good because I realized that I had finally done something that made hi happy.

He started teaching Jeri about jazz and, as usual, overdid it.  At first she was enjoying it but as it went on and on and on, I saw that trapped look in her eyes.

This letter, rather than letting me know what I was doing wrong, started out "will you give this to David, please.  I have already sent it to Ned and to Paul."  It was four pages, back to back about music, chords (my god did he loved chords! I swear an augmented something could give him an orgasm) and suggestions for how to play and what musicians to listen to.  You could tell that he was frantic as he was writing it, trying to get it all down, because the handwriting got more and more illegible as he warmed to his subject, plus the pen he used bled through to the back, so it was very difficult to read.  I don't think I ever gave the letter to David.  Just something else I had done that would have made my father angry if he ever knew.

It was a roller coaster of emotions as I continued to the bottom of this box.  I saved maybe a dozen letters -- everything from the kids, everything from Sister Anne and a few others that were special to me.

I think the favorite thing I found in the box was an envelope that had this piece of paper in it

When I unfolded it I found this

Why you don't just toss things willy nilly and why you take two hours to go thrugh everything to make sure it is something you really want to throw away...

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