My father and I don't exchange letters again until I'm a freshman in college and have, for the first time in my life, an address separate from that of the rest of my family. At school, there's no one other than the postmaster to witness who might send me mail, or how often.
The letters my father writes me are stiff, formal, unimaginative. They betray little of the man himself, but propound tedious theories of education and aesthetics. As with the letters he sent when I was small, their purpose is to instruct. When I read them, standing in the drafty corridor outside my post-office box, I am consumed by frustration. Can anyone really talk and think this way? Is he erudite, or is he what my grandmother would call a "crashing bore"?
Following my father's example, I write careful, pinched responses that require drafts and redrafts, the final copies folded carefully in thirds and sealed in spotless white envelopes.