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As promised, just under the wire, I post the letter of reply from the younger Paula, to the Paula of today:

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Dear Paula,

Thank you so much for your letter, which I received yesterday.  The future must hold a lot of wonderful things in store – you only sent me that letter yesterday, and I got it the same day! I’m used to waiting at least a week for turn-around with the US Mail, and that’s only if I answer letters right away, which as you pointed out, I generally don’t.  I’ll try to get better, but it looks like technology makes such giant strides in communication that I won’t have to worry about that for too much longer.

I know that you will not tell me much about our future, which is probably a good thing.  Since you are just a few short weeks shy of 60, it is good that I know I’ll make it that far.  Something must have gone right!  Of course I have the obvious questions:  Will I ever fall in love? Will any man ever fall in love with me?  Will I ever marry?  Will I have children?  Will I live out my dream of singing and acting on Broadway?  If so, I’m really hoping that Stephen Sondheim will be writing a musical just for me, but I’ll settle for just being in any of his productions!  I know, I know – that’s big of me, isn’t it? You could never say I didn’t have chutzpah!  Aunt Ida still thinks I’ll be writing the next “Great American Novel.”  That’s something that seems pretty far-fetched to me, but I just thought I’d ask – do I manage to do it?  I’ll quit asking those sorts of questions.  I know you won’t tell me, but you did say that I had a wonderful life ahead.  Could it really be wonderful if not even one of those dreams comes true?

So instead of asking, I’m going to plead with you for our future.  Please tell me that I could still recognize who you are were we to meet today!  Tell me you haven’t grown old!

Tell me that you still laugh – laugh through, and in spite of, everything.  Tell me that Pepper is still with us, and that he still laughs like me, and still sings “We love you, Beatles!” Tell me that people will know you more by your laughter than your tears.  Tell me you learned how not to complain or carry on about things that cannot be changed.  Tell me that at least I learned how to be content whatever the circumstances.

Tell me that music is still at the center of your life.  Tell me you still know all of Mozart’s Köchel numbers, and can recognize them within the first two measures of each work.  Tell me that you continue to make new friends, and that the ones I have today, you still have in your time.  Tell me they are all happy, and that their lives have turned out better than they hoped or imagined.  Tell me that my parents live to a ripe old age – that maybe they are still alive, and alert, and happy.  Tell me that my Mom still drives me crazy one minute, and laughs and shares with me the next; and that my Dad is still my favorite curmudgeon, and still has that incomparable sparkle in his blue eyes!  Tell me, please!

Tell me that our brother John gets home from Viet Nam safe and sound, and that he and Kay are still happily married, and have made me an Aunt.  Tell me that our brother Dick is still one of my best friends, and that the ground he walks on is still worthy of my worship! Tell me that our relationship with John grows as we do, and that he becomes the extraordinary man who it is in him to be. Tell me that you still love them – all of them – family and friends, and that you are loved in return.

Do you still read?  Do you disappear in whatever world lies within the pages of books?  Do you still play the piano and organ?  Did you finally discipline yourself enough to practice regularly, and learn to play those pieces that you have always loved?  Did you ever get the music for and learn how to play the Brahms Intermezzo Opus 118, No. 2 that lulls you to sleep on those nights when sleep is a long time coming?  I hope you did!  Did you ever learn to play more than five chords on the guitar, or did the music you write still have to conform to those same chord progressions? You are still writing music, aren’t you?

Always, be kind and generous.  Don’t ever stop being silly – no matter what other people may say.  Silliness is not a disease that kills or negates maturity, but only enhances it, and shows the world and yourself that you are more than a one-dimensional human being.  Tell stories, and embellish when it’s  needed to make the story even better, and never tell a story the same way twice!  Adam Clayton Powell has always reminded me to “Keep the faith, baby!”  Well, have you kept yours?  Have you grown in your relationship with God, and has that relationship fortified you in times of trouble or sorrow, and lifted you even higher during those times of joy?

So much I don’t want you to have left behind!  Don’t ever get too serious, and always be the first to laugh at yourself. I had to learn that long ago, and it eased my way through a lot of dark days.  You have kept hold of that, haven’t you? Tell me that you still dream in Technicolor, and that those dreams stay with you long enough to see them through.

Six years ago I made the decision to live, in spite of how dead I was inside, and how much I wanted to be over the torture of living every day.  Ever since I made that choice, my life has gotten better – sometimes in increments so small they are only visible in retrospect, and other times obvious to all who know me!  Tell me you won’t ever give up again.  Let me continue to live in you – except with all the weaknesses eradicated!

Most of all, Paula, tell me that you are happy, and that the people around you are happy too, and that you are in some small way responsible for that.  I’m asking this because I know that the gift of making people smile  has kept me alive in the darkest times.  So, promise me, please, that you are happy, and that you truly can rejoice always in the life-giving faith you have been blessed with.

I love you too, Paula.  I was so glad to hear from you, and to know that at this point in my life, filled with questions and decisions to make, that I have a life to look forward to.  Our Mom has four words for us – always, for as long as I can remember, and I repeat them to myself now, even as I tell them to you:  “Remember who you are.”  Good advice.

With love for you and hope for the future, I am,
Your always-friend,
Paula

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So, dear Gentle Readers, what do you have to tell yourself, both then and now? Two different perspectives – one of memories, and the other of future hopes and dreams.  Wonder what I’ll have to say to myself about 20 or 30 years from now?

Until then, my prayer and my wish for us all is enough. . .

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