Pen Pals


I woke up early this morning to read childhood letters from my grandfather. Major Lawrence Daniels USAF passed away last night at age 95. His over use of dashes and spelling in all capital letters for emphasis has me grinning from ear to ear.

As a child I was desperate for pen pals. Yes DESPERATE. I’d make any and everyone write me letters;  cousins, babysitters, and even a Grandfather who lived in California. I don’t know if I had a deep desire to be heard or if I simply just liked the act of writing and mailing a letter. I’ll let a phycologist figure that one out. But I saved EVERY letter I ever received from EVERY SINGLE PERSON that wrote me. So, here I am in my 30’s at 6 am looking at the whole of my relationship with my grandfather spread across the glass kitchen table in various forms of postcards and stationary.

The letters I liked most as a child told stories and involved animals. As an adult I am drawn to the little bits of history he left me. One post card he sent me is of an airplane B-24J. As a 10 year old girl I know I didn’t care for this letter, but as an adult it feels like a treasure as I read his simple description:

“I flew this airplane during World War II. Sometimes as the navigator, or bombardier, or aerial gunner – 50 missions in Europe and never got hurt – lucky Grandpa.” 1996



There is humor in his letters:

“So you have a new kitten and don’t know what to name him – name him  “nothing” or  “non cat” or “no name” or “what’s your name cat” or “who are you cat.” August 13th, 1996


There is also subtle messages of hope and change:

“I went to Mexico by bus about 2 months ago – But it’s kind of scary there because so many people are so poor – and people can’t find jobs like in America – So some turn to stealing. I think with your smart brain, giving nature, character, and personality you will be a big asset to the world and people.” June 10, 1998


I am in a part of life where the actors on the stage of my childhood memories are now physically dying but I find as the life cycle takes its natural course very little tears are shed. It is simple sadness that lends more towards understanding. This is the path. Passing feels acceptable. It’s not jarring or shattering like it once felt.

Grandpa you once wrote “I will answer your letters quick next time – so don’t give up on your Grandpa Dan.” I am still going to hold you to that.


Five Take Flight Faves

  • Rebecca Gibson
    Posted at 14:46h, 21 September Reply

    Wow! Those are some precious precious memories/letters!

    • Kenzie Tillotson
      Posted at 14:54h, 21 September Reply

      They are for sure! they are really funny to read now too! I realize that i harassed my poor grandfather and constantly asked him to write be back faster 😂

  • Trina
    Posted at 16:49h, 21 September Reply

    This is beautiful Kenzie! What I would give to have such a tangible treasure from my grandpa. Sniff them in and let your heart celebrate your roots as you continue to be “a big asset to the world and people” ❤️ xox LOVE YOU

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