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In Defense of Pen and Paper

Are pen and paper hopelessly outdated? Let’s hope not.

Like many of you, I’m glued to a keyboard for much of the day. I am not a technophobe; to the contrary, in our household we’re early adopters of a lot of gadgets.

But I suppose I am a bit of a dinosaur in that I believe there most definitely still are times when pen, paper - and snail mail - are the best option. Email is a great thing; I rely on it and I’m sure you do, too. That said, we shouldn’t be too quick to turn our backs completely on the lovely permanence of correspondence created the old fashioned way.

Believe me when I tell you handwritten notes you have received – or that you will receive in the future – may become among your most treasured possessions. If you read this blog regularly, you know that my father died suddenly early last month. We had a wonderful relationship; not only was I extremely proud of his professional accomplishments, but I also adored him.

Unfortunately, we were separated geographically by a career move that took me away from my home state a number of years ago. There have been many visits as well as regular telephone conversations along the way, but we’ve also written back and forth quite a bit over time.

Though we talked often, there were occasions when I wanted to express to him how proud I was to be his daughter, how blessed I was to have been given he and my mother as parents, and how I appreciated the upbringing they provided me. That felt to me like it needed to be conveyed via the written word: something I gave careful thought to creating, and something I knew he’d keep. He did the same with me.

The older my dad got, the more frequently he wrote (even if just to send a note), and the more eloquently he expressed his feelings when writing. I saved most everything I received, whether it was a note jotted on a sheet from a legal pad, or a lengthy greeting on a pretty blank note card. (As for those cards, I know he took great care when writing them…not just those for me, but the many, many he sent to mark birthdays and wedding anniversaries of his large circle of friends and other family members. In his retirement years, he kept a pad of paper next to him and worked diligently on drafts of the messages that would eventually be transferred to the cards.)

He was blessed with a very long life and a sharp mind to the end. Now, so abruptly, he’s gone.

While I have lots of photographs and many, many good memories of my dad, his wonderful correspondence, written in his hand, is such a bonus – especially now, as I adjust to life without him. There’s something very special about being able to read and reread the thoughts he committed to paper – and to see those messages in his handwriting.

This collection of notes, cards, and letters from my father is, to me, priceless. Had he typed and sent them via email, the messages would still be touching and I’d have been glad to have them. But it wouldn’t quite be the same.

Don’t give up pen and paper entirely.

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