Thursday, November 10, 2005

I wrote letters today

Writing letters -- ARG! It's an art I enjoyed very much as a child and teen, even into college. But these days? Writing a letter by hand is an exercise in torture for me.

It's not that I want to ignore family and friends -- I don't. I want to keep posted and in return let people know what's going on here. The real issue, to be honest, is my penmanship. It is horrible.

Now in grade school I made good grades in penmanship; I know HOW to write, but for the past 25 years or so my hands, my muscles and nerves have betrayed me. My best efforts are often so poor that I can hardly decipher my own notes. It would be impossible for anyone else to read them.

When I write a letter, then, I have to think in terms of "drawing" the words rather than "writing" them. It's a different technique that I've had to learn to cope with what's called an "essential tremor." It's something that runs in my family, in the maternal line. My great uncle Harry had it; my uncle Jean has it; I have it. I think others probably have, too, to a lesser degree, but we three are most notable for having the shakes.

"Drawing" words makes it possible to form a readable text, but it is draining to work that hard. Where it might take me 25 minutes to draw a short letter, I can type the same thing in about two minutes or less. I am a very fast typist. But typed notes don't convey the same warmth, no matter what the words are. And in my family, at least, they aren't met with the same appreciation, no matter how much I ask for understanding.

So once in a blue moon I'll stock up on cards, find some photos to add to the envelope, and I'll draw out a general message such as "I hope you like these photos of my recent trip. I hope this message finds you all happy and well. Do you have plans for the holidays? Not sure what I'll be doing here yet." Then I'll scrawl my name, get everything in the envelope, and carefully, painstakingly print the addresses.

And then, if the momentum continues, I'll actually get to the post office to mail them. After all that work, I sometimes need a nap first.

So if you are one of those people expecting a hand-written note from me this holiday season, well, you may just have to settle for an e-card with a funny cartoon on it. Not sure I can do two mailings this year!

Oh, let me add a story about the day this first became a problem for me. I remember it very clearly. It was in 1980 when I was working as a social worker for Oklahoma County DHS, determining whether people were eligible for assistance payments (welfare and food stamps). This job is not noted for being the safest profession, nor do people stay in the job for long, in most cases.

I had a client who had applied for assistance and I was making the home visit to verify information. Well, she and a man were ... well, .... occupied... when I arrived. They came to the door pulling on clothes. I asked for IDs and the guy split out the patio door.

I sat down on the brand-new conversation pit (remember, this was 1980...) and noticed all the nice, new furnishings in the apartment. Something did NOT seem right. This woman obviously had more money than most of my clients.

Well, through my investigation I found out the woman was a student in a criminal justice program at a local university, and this welfare application was her class project. She was intentionally pulling a scam with her professor's full knowledge and consent.

As I was writing up my notes, I was becoming so enraged that my hand started shaking uncontrollably. Pretty soon I was forming one letter per page. Not good.

The application was denied, of course, but the hand tremor has stuck with me. At least one of us got something out of that encounter.


Einar said...

Isn't making such applipications - that is to say, ones that include false information a crime? And from a Criminal Justice major too? eeek

Trixie said...

Yeah, that's what infuriated me so much. And to think she tried that with her prof's knowledge made it all the worse.