Here is an email I received in response to one of my essays.
Hi, Roedy, Last Thursday, I sent off, to my parents, what I call my Roedygrams. Two binders of about 80 pages, with about 80 pages of Thank You letters. (I tried and failed at finding vases, and I think my folks will like binders better, like your dad.)
You are referring to my essay The Greatest Gift which people usually take to be some sort of Christian parable. It is literally is about the best possible gift you can give you parents.
I had been working on them a long time, like five months. Thursday morning, I had gotten email from my brother. My mother had collapsed and was having surgery that morning.
I called my folks’ answering machine and left a message of support. Then, I took time off from my career and finished the whole Roedygram thing in about three hours. It was easy to assemble and send the two books, so my mom would have something to read in the hospital and my dad could read his at home.
I’m in my fifties, but I have lots of memories of my parents from my childhood. Some very good, some not good. It’s been taking a long long time to work through them all.
But, taking the good stuff, I prepared text files with little one liners or full pages of stuff they had done for me, separated into Dad-stuff and into Mom-stuff and into Mom+Dad-stuff. They were all over the place: the datebook in my Palm, the text editors on my computers, on my flash drives and pieces of paper.
Then I collected them into a single text document. Eventually, the text went into Microsoft Word and I inserted a Page Break between each one. Now each one was on a page by itself.
In Word, one can change the text size of the selection with just control-[ and control-]. So I went through the document and adjusted the size of each entry so it filled a page. Switching the fonts and colors gave it lots of variety and was easy.
Now I had about eighty pages of these things. I typed up a cover page that said your basic line: This is a gift, when you are feeling down, take one of the following pages and read it. I also typed up a last page that said And finally, I thank you for anything I forgot to thank you for.
For Mom’s pink book, I printed up a page that had a big pink Mom in something like a Tahoma font for the title page. For my dad’s bluish book, since he would like to be more dignified, I blew up a Courier font to about 36 points and centered the words To My Father down the page.
So I used a three hole punch and put it all together. Mom got the Mom and the Mom+Dad stuff mixed together; Dad got the Dad and Mom+Dad stuff mixed the same way.
Some of the memories… There were a few times when they saved my life, like stopping me from eating all the children’s aspirins, or rushing me to the hospital once when I had accidentally swallowed heating fuel. Each of these got a full page.
I saw to it that Mom and Dad each got about the same number of pages. I didn’t want one or the other to think they’d been given fewer thanks than the other.
* * * * *
I have hopes. I know for a fact (even though it hasn’t happened yet) that they will be delighted, relieved and thrilled with these Roedygrams. I hope they will treasure them in the way you say your parents did. And it will help them focus on the good and very good things they did as parents.
I was surprised that my Dad kept only one thing on his deathbed, my red folder. I never thought of my dad as the least bit sentimental. But even someone like him still relishes the assurance the people who knew him best thought well of him. If it would work for my dad, it should work for anyone.
* * * * *
One of the great things about your format, Roedy, is that it is open ended. Even as I printed, published, packaged and parcel posted these folders of thanks, I was still adding new entries to the text files on my Palm and on my computers. Every once in a while, I can send a new batch of thanks to my folks, with a note Please insert in the book. I can hope that they won’t only be read, but they will be kept.
In the end, it is the content that matters not the format. Each person knows his parents best and can modify the presentation to suit. As I mentioned, in my essay, my mom went out and bought an expensive vase to store her slips. What counts most is that you took the time to create something unique, with your words and to a lesser extent with your craft skills.
I have been watching in the world, Roedy, how some people have managed to make the world a better place. I believe your idea of sending these packaged thanks to parents can make a huge impact. Thank you very very much.
I am so glad you did this. Not many people have. I can’t think of anything you can do that takes so little effort to create so much joy, not to mention the positive transforming effect on yourself.
P.S. The books arrived Saturday and Dad took Mom’s book to her in the hospital. She called immediately and wants to go over the book, page by page. She sounds really happy. Thank you again, Roedy.
P.P.S. (Actually, Roedy, this is the second time our paths have crossed. Back in the mid-nineties, you briefly visited the usenet group alt.callahans and we talked just a bit about stuff.
P.P.P.S. (Note: do you want to publish the above, like the way the things can be in three ring binders? Then my one and only condition, please please, is to post it anonymously, name withheld by request.) God bless.
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