Write Someone a letter
“Jesus. Jesus Christ,” I whisper to myself, “that was not what I expected.”
I put the little sheet of paper down on the well-worn Crate & Barrel desktop. The letter’s type written with a raised logo across the masthead. It now features a handful of newly formed bumps scattered across the bottom of the page. I flatten out the paper, gently smoothing it with the palms of my hands.
I sit still and reread the one page note. This time more slowly as I search for, and discover, the unwritten message and emotions squeezed between typed words. I get the feeling this was not written quickly. The author had crafted these words with care and tied his note to the shaft of time’s arrow; the sharp end of which was dipped in the open heart of a man standing on the doorstep of winter. A man eager to take aim with his words, he pulled back and released an arrow laden with unvarnished thoughts, arcing it across time. It hit its mark, passing through me and landing on my desk.
I wipe my eyes.
I finish the second reading, lingering with a finger on his proud signature. From my seat at the desk I crane my neck upwards and stare at the clock as it drums away seconds in slow motion.
My son, DJ, enters the room surprising me, “Hey, Dad what’s up?”
“What’s tha matter, dad? Everything OK?”
I pull my sleeve across my eyes, “Yeah. Yeah, DJ. I’m fine. I just got, I got a pretty nice letter from a friend of my dad’s. I pause before continuing the explanation, “Do you remember when we went to the Sox World Series game against Colorado and…”
My son jumps in, rattling off a response, “Oh man, do I! Of course I remember. We crushed them! Crushed them! 13 to one, man. 13 to one! And, remember how Pedroia led off with a homer over the Green Monster? Boom! Game over. And I remember before the game, when the jets flew over us in the bleachers. You could see the blue flames! It was like, you could feel them above us. And ‘Bleacher Guy’? Remember the guy who kept chanting at everything that happened around us. What'd he call that guy next to us with the green visor? Oh yeah, how could I forget, Visor Guy!”
DJ starts pumping his arms up and down, mimicking the words of our World Series neighbor, “’Visor Guy! Visor Guy! Visor Guy!’ He was crazy. And, who was that pitching?”
My son doesn’t wait for an answer, “Oh yeah, Beckett. It was Beckett. And he struck out the side in the first. Man, that was so cool. So cool. How could I forget that, huh?”
Caught up in his excitement, I jump in, “And the ‘K’ Men? Remember those guys holding up all the ‘K’s behind us; one for each Beckett strikeout? Now they were crazy. And I remember after Pedroia hit his homer you grabbed my arm and said, “This could be the best night of my life!” I remember every detail about that game but that’s the part I remember most.”
“Yeah, that was awesome, Dad. Awesome.”
“And well, remember how I told you how I couldn’t help but get you and Gee the tickets for the Series, even though they were too expensive for us? Remember I told you about the guy that, back in 1973, gave me and my brother tickets to the Mets - A’s World Series? When I was a kid?”
“Oh, yeah, your dad’s buddy. I remember. The guy you bought the hat for. How long did it take you to find that hat? You couldn’t decide which one to buy, remember?”
“Yeah, I guess I wanted just the right one. Well, when I sent him the hat I wrote him a letter too, thanking him for providing me with one of my most wonderful childhood memories and for planting the seed for the game we went to, which just so happened, turned out to be one of the best nights of my adult life, with you and Gee.”
DJ rolls his eyes, “Kinda corny, Dad; kinda corny. Well, did he get it? Did he email you or write you back or something?”
“Yeah, he wrote me back and he, well, he told me some nice stuff about my dad I didn’t know before.”
I look up at the clock. Had it stopped? “And I, well, I’m kinda blown away by what he said.”
“So … what'd he say, Dad?”
“It’s in this little letter, here.” I smooth my hands once more over the slip of paper, still trying to flatten out the little circles that had bubbled up when I read it the first time.
“All packed into a half sheet of paper. You want to read it? It’s kinda personal.”
“Sure, dad... Wait, though. What’d you say to him? Can I see what you wrote to him?”
“Yeah, wait, I typed it up in Word. Let me find it.”
I talk as I search through My Documents, “And just think. All I did was spend a little time to write him a letter. And, and what did I get in return? Something from way down deep inside him. It’s like, I just wrote this letter and in return he gave me something better than words; something I suspect was tucked away long ago, just waiting for the chance to be launched across time. Ah-ha, yes! Here it is. Here you go, buddy. Go ahead and read it.”
November 18, 2007
Mr. Richard Joseph O’Toole*
c/o The TriState Heavy Construction Company
9225 Rockaway Beach Boulevard
Queens, NY 11693
Dear Mr. O’Toole,
At the risk of jarring your memory, in October of 1973 you were unbelievably generous to me and my brother, KJ, when you provided my father, Dick, with tickets to the Mets A’s World Series. After 30+ years, your kindness recently influenced an evening with my two children, Gee and DJ, and I thought I would share a bit of the resulting pleasure with you.
My father worked long hours when we were young; however he often found the time to bring us to scores of professional games many of which you were kind enough to provide tickets. As a result of such fond memories with my dad, I now take my two children to Sox and Celtics games on a regular basis. It is time well spent.
This season, as the Sox approached the playoffs, I often found myself smiling along with the vivid memories of the 1973 Mets Reds NLCS (in which your generosity allowed us to witness poor Bud Harrelson get whooped by Pete Rose at second base) and the Mets A’s World Series Game (in which we saw the Mets win). The World Series memory is still a highlight of my early years. I think of the game often and, as a result, could not help but persuade myself (and my wife) to grab tickets for Game One of this year’s Sox Rockies World Series.
As was the case with me in 1973, my kids were thunderstruck at the excitement and electricity associated with a World Series game. The 13-1 Sox victory capped a beautiful night and, on this night I was reminded of your generosity. Your kindness began the process which led to a breathtaking evening with my children – for without your gift in 1973 I would not have realized what a wonderful evening awaited my children at Fenway Park. I told my kids the story of your generosity and how it led to their attending the World Series game and we hope you will accept the enclosed as a symbol of our appreciation and fondest memories.
As my son finishes his read I shrug, “Not my best writing but, ya know, I just wanted to let him know how much he, well, how much his kindness from so long ago meant and, well, basically planted the seed for that awesome night we had at Fenway last month.”
“Did it hurt?”
“Did what hurt, DJ?”
“You know, what he said in the letter. When I came in you were like sad or something. Like, what it said hurt you.”
“Come here.” I pull my boy into a hug.
After first resisting, DJ rests his head on my shoulder. One, two, three seconds slowly click away on the clock above as I hold him close. By the clock’s fourth click he grows restless, fidgets and pulls back.
I smile and answer, “No. It didn’t hurt. In fact, it felt pretty good. Kinda like the beginning of that hug. You know, before you got bored of me and pulled away like a tough guy. Kinda like a warm feeling delivered from the past, traveling through time. As if it was perfectly aimed, it landed right here in this room with us.”
My son reads the one page note and smiles.
DJ looks up at the clock now clicking away at normal speed, “When’s karate?”
He doesn’t wait for an answer, “Hey, will you help me with something before karate?”
“Yeah, sure. We have plenty of time; like an hour or so before we have to head out. Why, what'd you want to do?”
He cocks his left fist in front of his face, holding an imaginary bow. He takes aim, tilting his head to the side and tries his best to close one eye.
Settling on a target, he pulls back and releases an invisible arrow, before breaking into a smile, “I wanna write someone a letter.”
*our friend's name and contact information is changed