Biff America: Faded letters of time
Vail CO, Colorado
It is a vestige of my mother. A flap of an old envelope that once had my name written on it. But what once was “Jeffrey” printed out in her neat handwriting, has paled to ‘fre’ since the ‘Jef’ and ‘y’ have discolored and vanished. I’ve come to realize that is all that remains of my mother’s handwriting.
I’ve had the flap taped to the inside of a cabinet door on my desk for 15 years. It has survived three moves.
The letters have faded so slowly I barely noticed.
I can’t remember what was contained in the packet or when my mother sent it to me. Its small size suggested it might have carried cash or a small piece of jewelry. I’m sure I’ve spent or lost whatever was inside; all that remains is a few letters of my name.
I’m not a collector. During the holidays I can be found in the post office recycling Christmas cards. I open, read and immediately recycle most of them, only taking a few home.
My mother used to write long letters in her perfect handwriting, catching me up on all that had occurred on the home front. Often she would begin her missives with the greeting, “To my happy Greyhound” (a nickname given to me by my older brother) and end it with “Your saintly Mother.”
I would take those letters home to read, often more than once. But eventually they too would end up in the trash. My name printed on the flap of that envelope is all of my mother’s handwriting that I have left … and that is slowly fading.
Of course, if I had the foresight, I would have saved a few of the letters and cards my mother sent me. But if I had foresight, I would be a different person.
I find it interesting that the one thing in life not worth debating is the one thing that humans are most often in denial of. We prepare for every eventuality but the one true eventuality.
We insure our homes for floods and fire, get our prostates checked, wear helmets while skiing and biking and eat bad tasting foods because it’s better for us, yet we forget that our lives are a “limited engagement.”
I know many people who are dead, but only one who has had their house flood.
Perhaps there is a sense of empowerment and control in knowing that you can do something about fires, floods and some illnesses, yet nothing about mortality.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we all should obsess or worry over life’s eventuality, forgetting to enjoy the present. But perhaps by remembering the finite we can better appreciate the now.
Certainly I wish I had saved a letter or two from my Mum, but mostly I wish I had been a little more attentive and connected while she lived. She died suddenly when she was relatively young. I’m guessing I wouldn’t have treated her any differently, but I might have been more grateful of our time together.
“Someday we will all be as dead as fried chicken.”
Those profound words were offered by my buddy Larry by way of a eulogy for Joe, another fallen friend of ours.
Larry said that from the pulpit. He was wearing work clothes and ” to the attending Priest’s obvious chagrin ” he pulled a can of beer out of his jacket pocket. He cracked the pop-top and took a swallow.
I think it was safe to say most people in the crowd expected Larry to offer a followup to his proclamation of mortality ” a moral, conclusion or life-lesson. Instead, he took another sip of his beer, toasted the casket, and said again, “Someday we will all be as dead as fried chicken.”
Then he sat down.
After the initial chuckle over Larry’s eulogy, I actually thought to myself, “Damn he’s right.”
Of course the best we can hope for in this life is a life sentence. If anyone has any delusions otherwise, well, they are delusional. I would suggest a good life is one where you live, love and laugh as much as possible for the time you are allowed. And more importantly, one where you leave behind your impact and influence on those who loved you. And you can only hope that will remain long after the writing on an envelope has faded.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or at http://www.backcountrymagazine.com.