You are probably wondering why I am writing this letter. Usually I save the letter writing for the anniversary of the day you died, sort of a look back on the year gone by, but today I ran into D at the grocery store and realized that there are still some stories that only you would understand. Since the celestial phone appears to be out of order, I turned to my old staple, the keyboard, to update you on some news.
Our friend D has put her husband M into a full time care facility. He has been diagnosed with a complicated mix of dementia and Parkinson's disease. I haven't seen D in years and as we stood in the aisle catching up on marriages, babies, business, fitness, and all things small town...I asked, "How is M?" Her face fell and she told me about his new home like she was confessing a sin. As she stood quietly telling me the story of their medical journey, my mind flashed to our dinner out with them at that Italian place. Remember the one where the portions were so big we nearly rolled away from the table? The next memory frame was of the four of us riding bicycles down the trail getting them ready for that trip to Holland. You were so patient with M who was already struggling with memory loss and a sinking self esteem. I remember the nights you and I wondered about how long D would be able to take care of him by herself. As we lay in our dark room discussing the inevitability of what D and M would eventually face, we held each other a little closer as if to ward off the coming travesties of disease and mortality. All of this flashed in my brain as I stood between the chips and the sauces searching for the right words to let D know that we believe she is doing everything humanly possible to care for M.
As I walked away from our dear friend I turned to talk to you. I felt you next to me, and knew that for a moment we were standing side by side reaching out to someone we care about who is in a pain we knew would come. All the way home from the store I felt this need to call you. I wanted to ask you how it could be so long since we talked to M and D; relay the ins and outs of the story so you could ask questions that would identify any details I missed, and I wanted to revisit the days when we held each other a little tighter to ward off the long shadow of future trouble. But you and I have come to know the unpredictability of the future rather well, and we have been schooled in the reality that sometimes the shadows we don't expect are the ones that overtake us. Would we ever have thought that poor D would outlive strong, healthy, prime of your life you? Six years ago that idea would have been unthinkable, but what did we know then?
After fighting with an unsettled feeling all day, I sat down here to let you know that there are still days when you are the only one who will understand what I have to say. There are parts of my history so intertwined with yours that no amount of explaining to another will yield the same result as a good sit down chat with you. For a long, long time this realization was a searingly painful part of my everyday reality. But over the past five years I have learned to be grateful that you and I share a portion of my life that will never be repeated. As I forge my way forward into a future that unfolds with new wonder every day, I take comfort in knowing that there are parts of my past that belong only to us.
I love you,