Dear Sweet Iris,
I think of you. I take out your letter, but it’s been difficult to answer. I keep waiting for news, some lovely little tidbit of news which would make you smile. The wait is long.
I look. I laugh. I work and sleep. Nice people here in Florida. Nice weather. Nice new place to live. My hair is white and I get senior citizen discounts. I am 56 years old. My mind still works and so does my body. But it doesn’t know what to do. There is no script, no yellow brick road.
What sense could there be in things? I have come through countries, centuries, of difficult sleep and hard riding and still I do not know the sense of things when I see it.
I feel so lonely, like childhood again.
Someone has been gained and lost, someone of value. There is no question I covet his conversation. There is no question I am someone starving. I awake and I am alone.
I nevertheless keep walking, talking, painting my face. Bought a new car, got a new job, lost a few pounds and gained a few more. Met some lovely people and a few stinkers. Paid a lot of bills and always there are more.
Made lists and lists of money – how much until next year? The next five years? The next ten? How long will I live? How will I live? Why will I live?
And will it have been worth it after all?
Dear Sweet Iris,
You sound so bright, so happy, so more-than-fulfilled with all those great boys that I envy you every morning. I too had a large boisterous demanding loving screaming laughing menagerie, and the years passed too fast. Where was I? Why didn’t I stop every day and examine my magic life and realize how rare and exquisite I was among women, to know such joy? I hope you do.
I had a romance which lasted 35 years – he saw me as beautiful and brilliant, and I was.
I have been asked to edit a small alternative newspaper here. I still paint. I have also turned into a seamstress.
So here I am, beginning to discover new pieces of me, for the first time in my life. When you’re alone, and you contemplate your navel for a long time (as I did, lying in bed for months at a time, undecided whether to live or die) you must re-birth. I stand aside in my imagination in the corner of the room, wondering who this overweight, middle aged white-haired woman really is and will become. I have, for the time being, decided to live, albeit without George and without the woman whom I used to be.
Somewhere in the past awful eight years, I became a Senior Citizen – an invisible part of this American life. I have been determined not to be a cartoon – a fat widow with a French poodle – but there you are, and that’s what I am.
Nevertheless, I have discovered I can still hold a valuable job for which someone will pay a great deal (this is a really, really nice feeling), my opinions still count for something, my kids still love me and I cook a mean chicken soup.
I fantasize about your kitchen on a frosty morning, with oatmeal and galoshes and school books and ice skates and mufflers and mittens and everyone listening intently hoping there will be a “snow day” and they can all rush back to the sofas and watch cartoons. Ohio mornings with a house full of your loved ones are simply too beautiful to be captured by Norman Rockwell or any other artist.
Stay well, dear cousin. Hold on tight to your magic. And remember me. I’m turning into a whole new person. And for the first time in many years, I have decided to live.
Love to all,
Arleen lived another 18 years – all without her beloved George.
Re-reading her letters, I’ve used up all my Kleenex. Time to Stop.
Time to Pause. Contemplate. Sigh. Hug. And Savor those bygone times.