Keep up the dialogue

“Remember when we moved into our first house?” I inquired of my husband this week, “And the neighbor kids talked about how clean our garage was?”

“Yeah,” my husband responded with a laugh, “ I told them it was clean because we didn’t own anything!”

We shared the memory amid discarded clothes and childhood memories left by daughter #1 whose bedroom we have cleared for remodeling. She’s been living away attending college four years and this week we decided it was time to repurpose her bedroom: it will become a den, complete with a hide-a bed. That way I will have a quiet place to write and guests will no longer have to camp in our living room.

Once the items were cleared we got to work. The fun part is seeing the vision I have for the room begin to come together as the paint goes up and the flooring down. The downside is working my way through the belongings left behind.

A call, asking what we should do with the items clarified my plan of action: clothes could be donated. Childhood memories will be boxed and placed in the attic. She has promised to take her things when she has time to retrieve the boxes and space to house them.

My husband set up the ladder below the opening to the attic and hollered, “Is all this worth keeping? I’m in a move-it-out-of-here mode!”

When I promised I’d already sorted the items, I stood on the next-to-highest rung of the ladder to hold the flashlight and watch Matt crawl around in our attic. When we realized our stash needed some reorganizing in the light of day, some of the boxes not specifically labeled were lowered down into the family room for a closer look.

The most intriguing boxes were labeled “childhood” in my dad’s writing and I was curious, for it has been years since I’d looked inside. My husband indulged my need to reminisce and lowered them down for a closer look. These boxes, holding items my mom and dad boxed for me, held childhood treasures they thought I would appreciate as an adult.

The choices were wonderful. There were the dried corsages from high school dances. My first driver’s license. School papers representing my best work at the time. A fabric sample of the flower power bedspread my grandmother sewed for me. Report cards. Classroom pictures.

I was certain my pleasure could not be matched until I opened a box labeled “family correspondence—college years.” And while all the letters hold great value to me, especially the ones my mom wrote that recall events I had forgotten and might never have remembered without their prompting, there is one bundle of letters of particular significance. They are letters from my dad.

I treasure everything about those letters, just as I did while a college student. Only today my appreciation is more profound, as I now parent young adults and I can appreciate the depth of feeling behind Dad’s words. As we continue to head toward a paperless world, holding the letters and seeing Dad’s familiar scrawl touches me deeply.

I also enjoy the mental image of Dad sitting at the kitchen table, sometime during the evening after work, pouring heart and soul onto the stationery because he knew his thoughts were safe with me. Even back then Dad knew I would find his distinctly sentimental tone agreeable.

You have been away to school about 10 days now and I am missing

you greatly already,” he wrote on September 27, 1977.

My knowledge that you are doing what you have wanted for so long and what your mother and I take as our pleasure in helping you to do makes our first real separation bearable but not easy. I miss your cheery “hello” but take pleasure in the circumstances that take you from us.

When I wondered if I could manage a part-time job as a dorm resident advisor and attend school full time Dad wrote:

If you want to do something worthwhile in your life you must be a risk taker and not be afraid of failure. History is full of examples of people who failed many times before they achieved a worthwhile and outstanding goal.

Dad’s powerful words of encouragement take on new meaning to me, all these years later as I read and ponder his wisdom. Not only am I encouraged to press on with some of my personal goals, but I have vowed to continue the sentimental dialog with my children, family and friends, whether it be through e-mail, a call, visit, a card, or text message. God works through people with willing hearts to touch those hoping for support and love, wisdom and encouragement. Let’s lean on Him for the right words and the right timing.

Let’s also stop at some point this week and thank God for the creative ways He enlightens us using the people and circumstances of our lives. May we make it a point to use words that may bless the people in our lives, never doubting that faithful sentiments can and will impact our world, now and into eternity.

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