Letter to Papa


Yesterday, I mentioned receiving a fantastic letter from my Papa. I wrote him back, and I thought it might be interesting to post my reply here.

Dear Papa,

I filched this tablet from school, ostensibly to take notes at a conference for Georgia private school teachers on Monday (11/7). But I’m going to use some of it to write you back.

I really enjoyed your letter. I read it in one sitting. You joke about my red pen, but you are an excellent writer with a real gift for telling stories. Mom always told me that, but I guess it’s been so long since we corresponded regularly… I guess I forgot. Somehow, e-mail just isn’t the same.

Thank you for writing me. I appreciated it a great deal. It sounds like your time in the war was really interesting. I enjoyed your school stories, too. The one about the principal spanking that little girl was so awful. As teachers, we have the power to inspire lasting learning and to inspire respect and love. We also have the power to hurt. Everyone has stories about a teacher who harmed us. I don’t have any as bad as yours. Mom still hates Miss Allen from South [Middle School in Aurora, CO.] for breaking her new crayon. Wayne had Miss Allen. [Wayne is my mother’s brother.] Years later when I went to South, I had her, too. I have pleasant memories of her — I wasn’t good at art, but she encouraged me.

I read up on Gen. Buckner on the Internet. Did you know that his father, Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, Sr., was a Confederate general during the Civil War? He surrendered Ft. Donelson to U.S. Grant. He was also governor of Kentucky. Interestingly, Gen. Buckner, Jr.’s commander was Gen. MacArthur, son of Union General Arthur MacArthur. The WWII generals fought together. Their fathers “fought each other.”

Of course we had several Confederate veterans in our family:

  • Johnson Franklin Cunningham (based on a story handed down — no proof)
  • William J. Bowling (POW!)
  • John Thomas Stallings
  • Oliver S. Kennedy (Stella’s uncle)

Probably more I can’t recall off the top of my head. My college friend Greg Goodrich died in Iraq last year. He saved 10 people before he was killed. He was in a convoy & they were ambushed outside Abu Ghraib. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal. Posthumously, of course. He was a very smart man who couldn’t stomach teaching — public education is a shambles. I didn’t hear about his death until 8 months after it happened, but I wrote his dad to express my sympathy.

One of my students lost her mom to cancer last week (or week before?). Lots of sadness. She seems OK, but she’s not. She can’t be.

My car is in the shop. I’m praying it won’t be too bad. It’s leaking transmission fluid. I’m hoping maybe it just needs to be resealed. It had been shifting kind of rough in first & second gears especially.

Granna [my grandmother] said you thought I might have trouble reading your handwriting. I didn’t. I am finding that my students cannot read mine. Actually, I don’t think it’s that bad. I just don’t think they really teach it now, what with computers. They practically can’t write unless you let them do it on a computer. It’s kind of sad.

I’m really happy at my job. My students are great. Steve, the kids, and I are all going to camp in the North Georgia mountains with our school. It is a sabbath trip called a Shabbaton. I’m leading a journaling exercise. I’m told they have a hotel at the camp, but I imagine we’ll stay in the bunks. We can’t afford a hotel — probably especially after our car!

My students are pretty good kids — smart, funny. They seem to enjoy my classes. I am teaching 10th grade American Lit. and 9th grade Grammar, Composition, and Literature. I would like to teach British Lit. sometimes.

My students are going to Boston this year, as my former 10th graders did last year. I hope I can go again, but they may want to give someone else a chance. I loved it. I had so much fun. I got to see Ha. The 9th graders were going to New Orleans, but I guess that won’t happen now. Wonder what they’ll do instead.

Steve’s choir may go to England this summer. If they do, they said spouses can come. I would sure love that. Spouses wouldn’t be free, but paying for one is cheaper than two. I worry about what we could do with Dylan and Maggie. Maybe if it was arranged in advance we could get Mom to keep them.

What do you like to read? I can’t remember that we ever talked about it. Mom likes mysteries. I don’t really care about mysteries one way or the other. I have read some great books the last couple of years.

  • The Dante Club — Matthew Pearl (a series of murders based on Dante’s Inferno in 1865 Boston — only literary giants Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell can solve it!)
  • The Ghost Writer — John Harwood (a creepy Turn of the Screw type story)
  • The Egyptologist — Arthur Phillips (an ancient Egypt nut tries to leave his mark in Egyptology. It was funny!)
  • Girl in Hycinth Blue — Susan Vreeland (ownership of a painting and its story traced back from owner back to its creation.)

There’s more. That’s just a few.

My city, Roswell, is doing a “Roswell Reads” program. Residents vote on a book from several choices to read. The city is like one big book club! They’re going to try to get the author to speak at a special event. I’m going to participate, but I’ve read one of the choices already. All of them look good.

Well, I’m going to close for now. Maggie is bugging me for some Kool-Aid.

Thanks again for the letter.




One thought on “Letter to Papa

  1. Hi Dana: Iwas searching for references to my great grandfather, Oliver S. Kennedy, when your comments was pulled up by Google. Can you tell me more about your family's connection to him? He was my grandmother's (Pearl) father. They lived near Ft. Worth, Texas. Thanks

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