My father is 90 years old and hard-of-hearing, and calling him on the phone is difficult. I travel all over Texas for my job, so I send him a picture postcard from wherever I go. It's a nice little surprise and lets him know how much I love and miss him.
This year for my dad's 70th birthday, I promised him a letter a week for a year. Sometimes it's a long, chatty letter; sometimes it's a greeting card with a short note; sometimes it's a postcard. Whatever I send, he knows I'm thinking of him.
Several of my friends live too far away to visit, and for whatever reasons, we had lost touch. Last year I resolved to write each of them a letter every month. It doesn't matter if they respond; it just matters that I've made the effort. And when I do hear from them, they always say how much the letters have meant to them. Something in the mail that isn't asking anything of you is always nice.
Sherman Oaks, California
I write letters every Sunday afternoon. If it's sunny out, I take my cup of tea and write on the balcony. In the summer, I go to the beach. Occasionally I insert a little gift―a beautiful leaf in the fall, a pressed daisy in the spring, a recipe for rosemary bread in the winter.
Sallie Ann Westbrook
Before I started law school 10 years ago, I was an avid letter writer. But law studies and a private practice have made that impossible. Now I communicate by e-mail. Last year my mother spent the year in Prague teaching English, and she and I talked almost exclusively via e-mail. She said it was the highlight of her week to check for messages from me, and I loved hearing about all of her adventures.
My brother and I had never been close growing up, but that changed abruptly when our father had emergency bypass surgery last May. My brother and I began communicating through an instant-messaging service to compare notes on what was happening and give each other moral support. Now, even though my father has recovered, my brother and I still exchange e-mails. Our relationship has become substantially deeper.
New York, New York
My family circulates a round-robin letter via e-mail. The first person sends a note to the second, the second to the third, and so on until it returns to the first, who starts all over again.
To stay in touch with my grandmother, I regularly buy and send her note-card sets, postage stamps, and a pen. She uses these sets to write to me, and I use a special note-card set to write to her. It has become a wonderful ritual for us.
My sister and I take turns filling a box with birthday presents, newspaper clippings, remembrances from childhood, etc. We send it back and forth. As I write, I'm filling up the box with things for my brand-new niece. The first box went through the mail so often that it became more tape than box. We're now on our second one.
Ever since I moved away from home when I was 19, my mother has sent me cards, clippings from the local paper, and cartoons she cuts out from the comics. There's nothing like getting mail from home.
About 10 of my sorority sisters get together each year for a reunion. We've met in Tulsa, the Ozarks, Chicago, Indianapolis, Colorado, and Omaha. We've relived so many wonderful memories from college and are constantly creating new ones.
I always plan at least four small trips a year: one trip in May to see my family, a summer getaway to see friends in Chicago, a fall weekend with my college roommate in Atlanta, and a Christmas trip with both family and friends.
Keeping in touch with a grandmother who is thousands of miles away doesn't mean a forced phone call anymore. Last Christmas our hip grandmother sent us a Logitech camera to attach to our PC for live video calls. Now we jump on the Internet and pay her a virtual visit.
Barbara J. LaRocco
I am a Texan now living in Ireland, and I e-mail digital pictures to keep up with family and friends. I have sent photos of the day's harvest from my garden, our cat and dog doing silly things, the cacti I grew from seeds. I recently received a bouquet of flowers and e-mailed a picture of it to the friends who sent it. When one of them asked if the flowers put a smile on my face, I sent back a close-up of just that.
Lynnie Obermiller O'Connell
Foulkesmill, County Wexford, Ireland
Every three weeks or so, my two sisters and I arrange a conference call. We usually spend one or two hours laughing and catching up. It's something we all look forward to.
Even though I live close to most of my family, it still takes some work to keep in touch. So every Sunday we have a potluck dinner. We take turns hosting, and anyone, including friends and neighbors, is welcome to join us.
Mary Jane Hymas