Not Just for Mom
Archived Posts from this Category
Archived Posts from this Category
I’ve just been listening to messages from Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Patrick Donahoe, Postmaster General/CEO talking about the state of the US Postal Service. It’s sad news.
Senator McCaskill said that hearts were breaking in her state as 167 post offices are scheduled to close; most of those post offices in counties of 50,000 or fewer residents. And she recommended a solution.
Patrick Donahoe was explaining to USPS employees that the USPS has lost 26% of its first class mail, their most profitable business, and that this shrinking of the first class mail is the major issue resulting in the post office closures and employee cutbacks.
Last week in a television interview, the Senator asked a question and supplied an answer that caused my e-mail to buzz and shake as friends couldn’t wait to tell me, “She’s talking about just what you’ve been talking about for years! You should contact her right away!”
The Senator said, “I am not sure there has been a marketing campaign about the value of a written letter. I really believe that if someone would begin to market the value of sending a letter to someone you love; you might be surprised on how you could stabilize the first class mail.”
As my dear readers know, Make Mom Happy By Mail, the blog and the book, have been recommending just that for the past five years. From the moment I asked my mom what I could do to be a better daughter and she replied, “Just send me more mail.” I have been extolling the virtues of mail to all who would listen. And I’ve reminded them that many elderly folks don’t have, and don’t want, e-mail. They want something to hold in their hand, something to read again and again, something to brag to a friend about.
For two and a half years following Mom’s simple request for more mail, I sent her something by mail several days each week. Post cards, pictures, magazine articles, candy, books, dog toys, flower petals, and yes, even letters found their way into her big country mailbox out by the gravel road in St. Joe, Arkansas.
We called this our “Make Mom Happy By Mail” campaign. And she told me time and time again that it did just that. It also made me happy to be able to bring interesting things into her life and to discuss them with her. It made our relationship stronger, closer and more fun until the day she died. Happily, it has done the same thing for countless others across the US and from France to Japan, as they heard about our Make Mom Happy By Mail campaign and tried it for themselves.
As Senator McCaskill suggested, “…. if everyone with a living elderly relative or friend would send just one piece of first class mail to them each week, we might be surprised how we could stabilize the first class mail.” This could result in increased revenues, fewer closed post offices and more stable jobs for those not ready to retire. Something as simple as a letter could make such a difference to so many people in so many ways.
I urge you to start your own “Make Someone Happy by Mail Campaign” today for five reasons.
Shake up the world – do something big – send something by mail today.
Thank you for the many lovely responses to the Memorial Day tribute to my father. Among the messages was one from B.M. in Southern California telling a story, so appropriate for Memorial Day.
In my book, Make Mom Happy By Mail, I tell the story of a 20-year old Jewish American soldier who served in the US Army in the 42nd Rainbow Division during World War II. The 42nd Rainbow Division was among the liberators of the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945 and this young soldier was one of the first ten troops through the gate. A few years ago, his family did a lovely thing to honor their father, now in his 80’s, at the Jewish War Veterans of the United States Museum, located at 1811 R Street NW, in Washington D.C. and that story, told by his daughter, is in the chapter entitled “It’s not just Mom – It’s not just Mail.” After reading the Memorial Day article, she sent the following message I thought you might enjoy.
I wanted to let you know that my husband and I made a trip to Dachau, Germany earlier this month with my parents! They were invited to attend the 65th anniversary ceremonies of the liberation of Dachau, since my Dad was one of the first soldiers into the camp (as you may recall). My husband and I were scheduled to go to Kauai the first week of May, but when my parents told us that they wanted to go on this trip, and wanted us to accompany them, it only took a moment for us to decide to change our plans. It was such an amazing experience being there with hundreds of survivors from Italy, France, Holland, Russia, Poland, Norway, and Israel, and having so many of them hugging my father and thanking him for saving their lives! We met one couple from Amsterdam who were there in memory of their fathers – both of their fathers were best friends in high school, and were part of the Belgian Resistance. They were both arrested and taken to Dachau, where they were eventually liberated by the American troops. This couple thanked my Dad for saving their fathers’ lives, and they are now carrying on their legacy. I felt so blessed to be able to experience this WITH my father, rather than in his memory! It truly was a once-in-a lifetime experience that we will cherish forever!
Final thought: Is there something you would like to experience WITH your mom, dad, aunt, uncle or loved one, rather than in their memory? When my grandmother was on her death bed, she told me, “I always wanted to go to Hawaii!” If only I had asked her a few years earlier, “Is there anywhere you’d really like to go?”
Please send me your stories so I can share them with others.
Be Well and Bring Joy
On Memorial Day I think of the father I never met who died on March 15, 1944 when his plane crashed after a bombing raid in Germany. Those who last saw the plane reported the bomb bay doors didn’t seem to close and the plane was loosing altitude. The plane, a B-24 Liberator, was part of the 576th Bomber Squadron, 392nd Bomber group, Heavy. My father, Staff Sergeant Truman F. Roberts, U.S. Army Air Forces was a waist gunner. By all accounts, he was a smart, funny and kind young man who loved his mother and my mother. I’ve always believed he was thinking of them and of me, his unborn child, in his last moments.
Since he died before I was born, it was hard for me to think of him as a real person when I was a child. What was a fresh and passionate grief for others seemed like ancient history to me. And, since he was buried in Belgium, there wasn’t even a grave to visit to make him seem real. To his family in rural Arkansas, Europe seemed as remote as the moon and my mother just knew the grave was “somewhere in Belgium”. As a teenager, I remember worrying that he might be an unmarked grave in an unkempt cemetery so far from home and it made me sad.
In 1982, I married a very clever man who, as a ten year-old boy in 1944, had considered American flyers his heroes. He bought Liberty Stamps in school, saved tin cans and bacon grease to support the war effort and watched newsreels of American planes bombing enemy targets. He is still a student of history and especially of WWII. Not surprisingly, he was fascinated with my father’s story and the year after we were married, set out to find his grave. We were planning a trip to France for Christmas and he thought this would be a good gift for me. I thought this would be the most wonderful gift imaginable. And it was. But it took months from idea to actualization.
Since there was no internet to help in 1983, he started from scratch. As a former Marine, if there is such a thing as a former Marine, he knew of a military records center in St. Louis Missouri and thought that would be the place to start. A call to an information operator got the phone number but it took many calls to reach a real person. At last he did only to be told the records he wanted were kept in another location. “But I have to warn you, they never answer the phone number back there.” She told him.
After weeks of phoning at every hour during the work day, and as our departure date was getting closer and closer, he tried calling just at the moment people might be arriving for work. It worked! Someone answered and said “We don’t keep those records here but you can try the American Battle Monument Commission in Washington, D.C.”. Today she would have given him the website, http://www.abmc.gov. But there was no website in 1983 so the search continued by phone.
Thankfully, when he reached the American Battle Monument Commission, a bright and helpful woman answered immediately. She only asked for my father’s name and the state from which he enlisted and was back on the phone in less than a minute with the complete information. Not only did she give the name and location of the cemetery, including the row and plot number, but offered to contact the cemetery officials on our behalf. “Just let them know your travel plans and they will make hotel reservations and escort you directly to your father’s grave.” she told us.
A few weeks later, we arrived at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupre, Belgium. It is an amazingly beautiful place with 15 full time grounds keepers to make sure it always reflects the dignity of the heroes buried there. As promised, they were waiting and took us directly to my father’s grave. I took pink flowers for the grave. It was comforting to see his name on the beautiful white cross and to know that his grave was so well taken care of. I spent some quiet time alone at the graveside, thought about how far this boy from Arkansas had come and wished my mother could have been with me so we could have been a family of three, just once. I took pictures for her but it was difficult to capture the real beauty of the cemetery and the reverence and respect of everyone we met there.
So on this, and every Memorial Day, I think of my father and of the other brave young men buried around him in Neupre, Belgium and I’m grateful for his sacrifice and theirs. And I’m also grateful for the American Battle Monument Commission for maintaining the records of 176,399 American WWII casualties and for their service in helping families find their loved ones at last. And I’m thankful to my husband for the wonderful gift he gave my mother and me.
One last thought: Perhaps it would be a gift for someone to find the webpage devoted to someone they loved at American Battle Monuments Commission. I loved seeing the page devoted just to my father and will attach it here in his memory today.
Please share your stories with me so I can share them with others at www.makemomhappybymail.com
Be Well and Bring Joy
Hey, what about us! We want to hear from our kids, too!” I heard from my baby boomer friends almost as soon as I started writing Make Mom Happy By Mail. Since the idea to connect with our parents had come from my mom when she asked that I send her more mail, I hadn’t thought much beyond those in her generation. After all, they’re not busy and surely mail means more to them than to my peers I thought.
“I’d give anything to hear from my 25 year old son in New York!” the successful speaking coach mom told me.
“I love getting a call from my daughter. She tells me everything about her life” The Palm Springs golfer mom told me.
“I know it’s silly but I just wish my boys would be more thoughtful about cards for birthdays and anniversaries. When they were little, I always bought them cards to give to their dad so they know it’s important to me but they just don’t do it and I wish they would.” The high-powered attorney mom told me.
When I thought about it, I knew just what they meant. A few years ago when my son, Jack, was studying in Italy, I could hardly wait to open my computer in the morning to check e-mail to see if he’d sent me a message. I loved seeing his name on my e-mail list and always opened his message first. Where was he? What was he doing? Was he happy or sad or broke? I wanted to know it all. If he attached a picture, I studied every detail to be sure he was OK.
Once I was worried because I hadn’t heard in a week. When I sent worried e-mails, a picture labeled, “Boy on a Camel” arrived and told me he was visiting a friend in Cairo- having the time of his life. “I thought you might worry about me being in Cairo so I just laid low for a while.” He said. I was relieved and looked at that picture for a long time.
Our on-going e-mail string from that trip made a great travel log for him when the trip was over. More importantly, it made those ten weeks go a lot faster for the concerned Mom back home.
Unlike our own parents, my friends and I are delighted with e-mail messages from our children. For us, those messages carry the same thoughtfulness and connection that a hand-written letter does for our parents. I save his e-mail messages and lots of his voice messages too. Don’t mention it to my independent twenty four year old but I sometimes I replay old voice messages just for the pleasure of hearing my little boy’s voice.
It seems that parents are parents and we all value communication with our children. Are you listening Jack, Ben, Emily, Jessica, Daniel and other 20 or 30 somethings? Your Moms would love to hear from you today. E-mail is fine. A call is fine. A visit is fine.
A postcard is fine. We miss you as babies and love you as grown-ups. Please stay in touch with your mom.
Please send me your stories so I can share them with others.
Be well and bring joy