Did you ever have a pen pal? You know, a person you would write real letters with, in that time BEFORE the internet? Does that time exists? Yes it does... It sounds like I am very old, but I grew up without internet until I was about 12 years old. When I was 6, we moved to another town due to the work of my father. This meant leaving my best friend behind. So for years we would write to each other. On this colourful paper that you would specially select. With matching envelopes of course. I think most of my stationery had horses on them… Or maybe I even had a Barbie period, not sure about that anymore. Anyhow, I lost this ‘art’ of writing. It is very different from writing an email. Nowadays emails are almost the same as chat messages, just a bit more elaborated. At least mine are.
Just before I left the Netherlands in March, I visited my grandfather. I am very lucky because I have a super healthy grandfather that is still fit and active as hell. He is in his 80’s but his mind isn’t at all. When I said goodbye at the end of the evening, I realised that there is no guarantee that he is still around next time. He is in his 80’s after all. And this realisation kind of shocked me and I promised myself to keep in touch with him.
Old school way of communicating
I wanted to keep my promise but there is one thing that my grandfather is not so good at anymore: hearing. Which means that calling is getting a bit tough. Not so much that he doesn’t hear you through the phone, no not at all. It is just that he often doesn’t hear his phone ringing! And of course he does not have a mobile phone (for this he is really old school). So how do you keep in touch when phone and email (yes, he also does not have a computer) are out of the question?
Exactly: old school writing postcards and letters. For years whenever I was on vacation, I would send a postcard to my grandfather from where ever we were. So I started picking up this habit again. It started with some postcards and small tokens of our neighbourhood. And the great thing is, when I added our address to the back, he started writing back! On average I write my grandfather about once or twice a month. Sometimes a small message, scribbled down on a handmade piece of paper I bought at the market, other times a long letter with detailed information about what we did and were we went. And I have to admit: I enjoy it intensely. Writing an actual letter is so different from writing on your computer. Somehow you find yourself considering your words carefully and take more time to think about what you want to write. I guess the fact that there is no ‘delete’ button forces you to do so. And yet this gives me a relaxing feeling.
You appreciate the message even more
On top of that: how much fun is it to check your offline mailbox and find an enveloppe in there with a reply after some weeks? With some kind of anxiety you open the enveloppe and read what has been carefully written down, specially for you. Writing letters takes more time and effort and somehow when you are on the receiving end, you appreciate the message even more due to this. One of the efforts I have to put in is finding European stamps, which are not available everywhere… Sometimes I write my letter but it is waiting for about a week before I can send it. And you know what? That doesn’t matter at all. There is no rush with this and nobody is expecting you to. Since I am writing with my grandfather I feel I am much more in contact with him than I have been in years. It makes me feel close to him and I know he enjoys reading my stories a lot. It is maybe old school, but I am glad I rediscovered this art and I am hoping to keep doing this for a long long time with my grandfather…