Write that letter


Have you always wanted to tell a parent, a sibling, a partner, a friend how you feel about him/her, the ways in which that person has had a positive impact on your life?

Do you worry about your writing skills – grammar, spelling, punctuation? Forget these issues as no English teacher will take a red pen to your letter.

The diagnosed cases of coronavirus in the county in which I live will soon number 1,000 with 40 deaths. Those of us who pride ourselves on being in control have finally realized that in some areas we have little or no control. We know, however, that with the virus, we can, and should wear masks, use disinfectant, and practice social distancing. Those ignorant enough to believe it’s their choice about these issues may find themselves and those they ostensibly love in the hospital or in a casket or at a crematorium.

As a writing instructor, I’ve known for some time of the positive power of the written word to heal, bring clarity, delight, and comfort. One of the participants in a creative writing class I taught recently is writing letters which she will never send to a deceased sister. Her commitment to record important moments of her life indicates that the process of writing is important.

I’m providing a sample with a letter to my brother.

Dear Bill,

As the virus continues to take its toll, I realize that if I have anything to say, I’d better get it said.

I want to thank you for being such an important part of my life. My childhood was exciting, challenging, and wonderful because you were the most important part of it.

We used our imagination to create magic in an environment that some would consider barren- even hostile. The coal tipple became a favorite place for us after the workers had left for the day. There was something mysterious, and a bit dangerous, as it was several stories high, ran over the Cumberland River and was built of rough, uncured lumber- ready to deliver splinters to our hands and bare feet.

And climbing into the yet-to-be-loaded coal cars, gondolas, was always a great exploit because we always sought the elusive ones with a configuration of round support bars, perfect for gymnastic feats.

Do you recall the day we lifted up a piece of scrap metal discarded from the tipple and discovered a copperhead under it. We stoned it to death as poisonous snakes had no business trespassing on our playground.

Gilliam’s Hill was perfect for blackberry picking although we picked little. It was more fun to romp up and down the hill. That’s impossible now as tall trees keep children away. I wonder if the pink wild roses have survived or if there are any remnants of the ramshackle pig pen Daddy and his friends built on the corner of the property the year he decided to buy two little pigs and raise them to provide meat for the family. Remember the abandoned coal mine that was on the hill, a place we dared not enter for fear of a cave-in. And grape vines offered swinging opportunities with a Tarzan yell.

The Cumberland River beckoned, but we knew it was deep and dangerous behind our house. You would not have lived the day you almost died if Daddy had not been home that Saturday afternoon, heard me scream, and jumped into the river to retrieve your lifeless body. He grabbed a rain barrel, put you on it, and rolled you as the water gushed from your body.

Speaking of waters in eastern Kentucky, did you ever forgive me for losing your Boy Scout canteen on one of our swimming/wading excursions up Cloverlick?

Remember the chicken house where our grandmother’s hens had little nests built especially for them and that funky smell? I always wondered how those chickens knew exactly where to lay their eggs.

And there was your Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. When you got it, you became the enforcer. Marilyn stood up to you, and you shot her in the leg. Mother was certain that someone would get an eye shot out, but no one had an aim that accurate.

When Mother spanked me for engaging in dangerous or annoying activities, you stood hidden behind her and made faces at me. I cried when she spanked you.

We left those mountains to join Daddy in Toledo where he had found work when you were 11 and I was 13. In that new environment, we no longer had to be best friends.

Thank you for being my brother. Thank you for the exquisite memories of our time together as children.


Vivian Blevins

Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., a graduate of The Ohio State University, served as a community college president for 15 years in Kentucky, Texas, California, and Missouri before returning to Ohio to teach telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and to work with veterans. You may reach her at 937-778-3815 or [email protected].

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