Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Importance of Thank You Notes

My latest column is mostly not mine. After my brief introduction is an actual thank you letter from my wife's cousin, Mark, to their grandmother ten years ago.

The letter speaks for itself, and honestly, I have nothing more to say. (Except, maybe, thanks for reading.)

My wife’s grandmother recently passed away, and in going through some paperwork, my mother-in-law discovered an envelope, addressed simply to Grandma H., in amongst Grandma’s important documents. The envelope held a thank you letter Grandma received from cousin Mark nearly ten years ago.

The letter illustrates three things. First, thank you letters hold great importance--Grandma kept this one for nearly a decade. Second, never underestimate the importance of a good laugh even during the most trying times. And third, cousin Mark could take my job writing this column.

We enjoyed numerous rereadings last week on family vacation, recalling Mark’s days as a graduate student, and he graciously gave me permission to share the letter, unedited. I hope it brings you some of the same joy it brought Grandma these past ten years.

Dear Grandma,

I thought I’d write you a letter to see how things are going in Wisconsin. Of course, I wish that I had some wonderfully entertaining tales from Florida to share with you, but I’m afraid that would entail using an imagination. Unfortunately, I think that I’ve been in school a sufficiently long time for them to train every bit of imagination out of me. Reality, meanwhile, is far less amusing than wonderfully entertaining tales from a tropical land. In fact, I do believe that a recounting of my exam experience today would more properly fall into the category of “Tragedy in the Swamplands,” and even that makes it sound more interesting than it was.

As of yet, I don’t believe that I’ve properly thanked you for the Christmas money. In the spirit of doing nothing at the right time, let me now, on the 24th of February in the year 2003, thank you for the Christmas check. With part of that money I recently purchased a new seat for my bicycle. It seems that bicycle seat technology has changed in the mere 6 years or so since I bought my bike; my old seat was more or less shaped like a wedge, while this one is designed to “reduce pressure points on soft tissue areas” -- precisely the weight-supporting areas with the wedge seat. Of course, the alternative way of describing the newer design if one was, say, writing to someone other than one’s grandmother, would be to “lessen pain where you don’t want it and consequently decrease the probability of impotency.” So I guess you can either say that at a minimum you saved your grandson significant discomfort, while at most you helped grow the family tree. To be honest, though, the discomfort issue is more relevant for me at the moment.

I suspect that after reading the previous paragraph you may in the future force all your children and grandchildren to sign forms promising to never tell you, much less describe in detail, the purchases that resulted from your Christmas gifts to them. Nevertheless, I figured that such an explanation might be an interesting change from the typical “Hey Grandma, thanks for the dough” sort of thank you.

I hope that you’re doing fabulously well.

With Love,

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