Ask Amy: Letters should go to the archive, not the shredder
Dear Amy: My mother is 90 years old and is now considering shredding letters from our dad that he wrote to her before they were married. Dad was in the Navy.
My sisters and I would like to keep them when she is gone.
She reread all 174 letters recently and said there was nothing racy in them, so why not keep them for us?
What is your opinion on this? — Upset Daughter
Dear Daughter: My opinion is that these letters — and any letters from anyone of this era — would be wonderful to have and to read.
Because of her own perspective, your mother might not quite grasp that even quotidian accounts of life from 70 years ago would be of interest to people today.
Naturally, you and your sisters would be interested in accounts of your own early lives and the comings and goings of long-gone relatives, but it would also be cool to read about something as ordinary as, “I’ve been thinking about getting one of those Philco television sets,” or, “I can’t believe gasoline costs 30 cents a gallon!”
Accounts of people serving in the military add another dimension to the importance of these letters.
Researching your question, I read a story in Smithsonian Magazine about a remarkable man named Andrew Carroll and his heroic effort to found the “Million Letters Campaign,” with the goal to collect one million letters from military members for the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University (search for the center at chapman.edu).
Helped along through advocacy from my esteemed and legendary fellow advice-giver “Dear Abby,” this center has collected thousands of first-person military accounts of war and peacetime. Each letter is read and archived by staff members.
Perhaps in celebration of Veterans Day this year, people will be inspired to open that suitcase, shoebox, or plastic bin — and read, re-read, scan, and donate these important slices of history.
I hope your mother will respond to your desire to share this history with her.
Dear Amy: I have been in a relationship with “Bret” for over five years.
Bret moved in with me after about six months.
We used to talk about marriage and the future. Now we just do chores and yard work. We both went to school during this time and for the past three years I have been working a lot of hours.
Bret is very helpful with things around the house. He pays for almost everything.
However, I want to be married. He never brings it up. I have stopped talking about it because I get upset when I do.
We have tried counseling. He won’t say much of anything of substance.
Do I just walk away and start over, or should I stick it out?
How long is long enough to wait for marriage? — Unhappily Unmarried
Dear Unmarried: You don’t say what about marriage you find so enticing, but what you currently have seems like many marriages.
I infer that you are eager for a level of intimacy — emotional and otherwise — that you associate with marriage, but based on your experience so far, “Bret,” while a very nice guy, doesn’t seem to be built that way. Your reluctance to state your own wants and needs because you “get upset” makes me wonder if you’re built that way, too.
Even if you somehow got Bret to the altar, marriage wouldn’t fix your relationship or change him into the husband you want him to be.
You need to ask yourself if what you currently have is “enough” — emotionally and otherwise — for the long haul. If it is not, then yes, you should start fresh.
Dear Amy: “Frequent Flier” wrote a very self-serving account of what it feels like to be an adult child living at home with parents. Flier compared the experience of living at home to being roommates with parents. Thank you for pointing out that if you don’t pay rent, you are not a roommate.
I take issue with your characterization of families who have adult children living at home, however. I don’t know who you know, but everyone I know in this situation charges their kids rent. — Disappointed
Dear Disappointed: The pandemic caused many young adults to suddenly flock back home (I’ve had two living at home for several months). Because of unemployment, dislocation, and financial instability, charging (and paying) rent is not always possible. I do agree that this arrangement works best when both parties state — and meet — reasonable expectations.