29 July 20XX
My Dear Lucilius:
I did not expect a response from you so soon.
The Postal Service has been cut down in your area as well? I recall you had a post office box, the same one you have had for well over 50 years. I am sure it is a pain at this point at all to go down there, perhaps much less of a pain now that your cause to go there is not as frequent.
We are, if you can believe it, almost at the end of July. I have about two months left of growing season – well, it could be as short as one (it has been, years past). I have started the process of cleaning out and freshening up the greenhouse for the inevitable return of winter.
Canning and drying continues apace. My canning skills are meager and I limit myself to what I know I can safely do: peppers, okra, tomatoes. I have had acquaintances that canned everything under the sun they grew in the garden. My skills – and my risk tolerance – are much less. I dehydrate far more than I will ever try to can.
My monthly trip to the Big Box store will be in three days. I worry that the constraints that were in place for purchasing last time will be there this time as well; I intend to fill the truck up with as much as I can on my way home.
You had asked me about my family.
It is overall a sad tale, one that I had not fully anticipated some 30 years ago.
My children are different than I. I cannot fully tell you why – yes, they are “good” in the sense that they are productive members of society, passionate about doing good, intelligent. But we hold very very different positions about a great number of things political and religious and economic. I sometimes look back and ask myself where the difference occurred. We raised them as we ourselves were raised: involved in school, involved in church, involved in some level of community activity.
Somewhere around high school for each of them, we stopped discussing things like politics and religion. You can argue that I was stubborn and should have learned to manage my temper better – which may in fact be true (I can get rather passionate about something that matters to me) – but I could not merely sit back and listen to proposals and arguments being made from a position of a lack of practical experience. And so, to preserve the peace, we simply removed all such things from the table for discussion by unspoken fiat and reserved our conversations to polite topics about generic things – I growing farther and farther apart from current events and modern culture and they growing farther and farther apart from my interests.
My wife somehow managed to keep communications and events together, at least for holidays and special occasions. Even as they moved away – and seldom returned home – she still bravely informed them about us and me and about them.
This all changed, of course, with my wife's passing.
The period right after the funeral was at the same time the hardest and the easiest it had been for years for us to communicate, lost in a common grief and the inevitable reviews of all things that she had owned or created. Perhaps preemptively and unconsciously they took items which had personal significance to them: scrapbooks, old pictures, bits and pieces that had belonged to my wife or sentimental items which had no intrinsic value to me.
After that, things essentially drifted apart. Perhaps you could argue by common agreement, perhaps by a decided choice that it was better to preserve what memories we had rather than to risk spoiling them with comments we could not erase in our minds. And my decision to relocate, while not directly contributing to the state of affairs, certainly did nothing to improve them. And once I had moved, even coming to see me became much less convenient – and in turn, I was never really “invited” out to visit them.
And then, Christmas two years gone, no follow up at all. Whatever truce had been in effect was over. I had passed beyond the realm of knowledge.
I had little enough other family at that point: my parents and in-laws had passed away long ago, my one and only sister and her family lost in the twice annual visits to our family home which became single visits and then none, my aunts and uncles disappeared and my cousins scattered and not communicative (we were never writers). And although I thought I had prepared myself for it, the final cut off of communication was much more painful than I had anticipated. I was, effectively, alone.
I have compensated as I could, of course: initially a great deal of tears and thinking, then a great deal of journaling, a brief period of convincing myself that I should just “drive out there and show up”, and then finally the very quiet acceptance of the fact that those relationships were severed through no actions of my own doing.
You will perhaps think me mad, writing on like this. On the one hand I still find it painful to recount all of these memories. There were good times growing up – maybe not great times as some had them, but good times. There were happy memories there as well – memories that I hope will go on and in some way influence their own lives and relationships with their own children (it is a sad and lonely thing, Lucilius, to wonder if you have grandchildren and to realize that most likely you will never know).
The Cabin is where it always was of course, and they know the way well enough (who would not, in this current age of technology?). And I still find myself starting up from time to time when I working outside in the garden or reading a book at the sound of a car in hopes that it will pull down my lane and old familiar faces – and new ones will spill out of the doors. But they never do, of course: the car drives by on the road and I am left again with silence of my thoughts and feel of the soil or pages in my grasp.
Of all the things I hate about modern society and culture, I hate the fact that it has destroyed my family the most.
Your Obedient Servant, Seneca