Letters Never Sent (Part 1)
This is the first of a two-part post.
Saturday, July 23, 2011 9:14 a.m.
Got your letter yesterday. Well, actually, your letters. All eleven of them.
I studied them in a way I hadn’t before: listing them by the date written, reading your diaries to learn about what was going on in your life then, and thinking about why you wrote them to me at all. But of course you addressed them to the “future Michael S. Maupin,” so I knew they were meant for me, even though they were never sent.
Except for the last letter.
By the way, it’s finally 2011. Yep, this is the December we find space aliens in Santa’s bag. Thought you’d be all excited about that.
At 9:37 p.m., on Sunday, Sept. 9, 1973, you wrote your first letter to me. You said you’d been thinking about it for a while (I suspect ever since you started the first diary in 1972). It’s likely you felt there wasn’t enough space in that tiny diary for all you wanted to write about, all the things on your mind: your dreams of becoming a famous writer, “a diplomat, a helper of mankind”; how you felt like a loner among other kids—as you wrote, “I like to be alone and think by myself, but I am not obsessed by being alone. Deep thinking leads one into a better understanding of ones self.”
Well, my young friend, I’m here to tell you that “deep thinking” also leads to woolgathering and navel-gazing…and, more often than not, a less-well-understood sense of self. But maybe that’s just 40 plus years talkin’.
There were two letters in 1973, one intended as a second part to the first, and that was going to be that.
No more letters.
But you went and wrote Letter III on Monday, Feb. 4, 1974. You suspected I’d have questions about these letters. But no other question pesters me more than your statement in that third letter: “I seem to almost always be contradicted and taken advantaged of (Now and then.) When I make a point, I’m contradicted. This is usually with my Dad. I mean—‘Don’t get me wrong’—‘I only want to know.’”
Mike, I’m here to tell you that you were experiencing a clash of contrasting temperaments.
Your father was more comfortable with black and white answers, even when the world presented him with only gray questions. You, young Jedi, genuinely loved the questions. The unknown excited you, and you embraced the insecurity of not knowing by always trying to find out. You were relentless. Maybe that’s what frustrated other people, especially your dad.
You wrote three more letters to me that year: about your summer, becoming managing editor of the junior high school paper (Dude! You’re still a managing editor. How’s them apples?), and describing your friends and their lives as junior high freshmen.
Then came 1975, when you wrote Letter VII and Letter VIII, in mid-August and October, respectively. You recapped that summer, about how you started working as a busboy at the Lafayette Club and, in the fall, began school at the senior high.
Then it occurred to me: Things weren’t real for you until you’d written them down.
Do you realize that now?