A Tale of Two Letters?
I guess there’s a lesson everywhere if you look hard enough or are just plain lucky enough to just stumble upon it. Sometimes the distance between tears and laughter can be very small indeed
The Tear Part
For any of you who might’ve read my previous daylog, you’ll know that I was hoping for many things. Even though most of ‘em were of a pretty simple nature, sometimes the most simplest of things can either turn to the most complicated or, in the absence of that, can be the most enjoyable. This weekend probably falls somewhere in the middle of that equation and if I’ve got my priorities in order, that’s a pretty good place to be.
The day started out easy enough. Well, that’s only if you consider boxing and sorting upwards of 150 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies and making the necessary deliveries. Yeah, I know that’s not exactly the kinda thing that spy novels are based on but it works for me. We wandered around the neighborhood going house to house, dropping off the munchables, making small talk and collecting proceeds. After resting up for a bit and having a bite to eat, I was hit by (what was for me) a little dose of inspiration.
I’ve got a very good friend who’s a professor of geology at Ohio State University. He has traveled the world, written various articles and is in the process of getting his book published. His wife is a grad student who just returned after about 5 or 6 months in Mexico where she was living off a grant she had received in order to study waste management.
I thought a nice dinner was in order, we’d catch up on recent travels, have some cocktails and me and borgette would hear some stories about the world and its people.
After the plates were cleared, I tried to steer the conversation in just that direction. I asked the prof’s wife about how her recent journey to Mexico was, what their feelings towards Americans were, how they felt about George W. Bush, the war in Iraq and other matters of what I thought might of general interest.
I guess borgette wasn’t finding all of this adult talk too stimulating. Oh, she listened politely and all that but I could tell her mind was on other matters. I asked her what was on her mind and she replied that she’d like to look at old pictures of me when I was a kid. I wasn’t really feeling up to taking a stroll down memory lane and I thought my company would find the topic boring. In fact, it turned out to be quite the opposite.
She climbed up on a chair, took down and old photo album that consisted of black and whites ranging from the 1930’s through the mid 1960’s. Interspersed amongst the older ones were pictures of me in baseball uniforms, football uniforms, first communions, graduation from grade school and many others. She was flipping through the album, asking questions about who certain people were and when the photo was taken. I noticed that my company, to their credit, was also taking notice and was waiting to hear answers and look at the photo’s from a time in my life that I thought I had long since forgotten.
This went on for a while until we came across a picture of my father later in his life. Along side the picture, there was a folded piece of paper. It was a little creased and yellowed by age. We took it out and carefully unfolded it. As it turns out it was a letter he had written to my mom a couple of days before he died. Here’s what he had to say.
I have no pain whatsoever. I promise to love you forever and a day. If I am asleep in the morning, please don’t awake me.
Yours from here to hell and eternity.
I hadn’t seen that note in at least 10 years and I kind of welled up. When I do get around to thinking of him, it’s usually not with the fondest of memories. I guess that over the years and through the tears my heart had somehow hardened to the point where I couldn’t say or think anything nice of the man. Maybe it’s a little bout of selective memory on my part. Maybe it’s the scared words of a dying man who was for once, looking for some peace. It’s a shame he didn’t say that kind of thing more often.
Needless to say, the conversation kind of ground to a halt for a little bit. It was getting late, people were getting tired and it was time for my kid to go to bed and for company to go home. As I escorted them to the door, I apologized for the trip down memory lane. As it turns out, no apologies were necessary. They said they had a great time and thanks were exchanged.
Wanna know what I think?
Here I was, expecting to be regaled with stories of world travels and different cultures and we wound up talking about distant memories. I think they were actually relieved to hear stories from somebody else lives than to tell some of their own. I think they might get tired of doing that. Sure, it’s interesting, informative and educational but it might lack the personal details that are the basis for forming friendships. I somehow felt closer to them and I hope they feel the same towards me. I guess sometimes the best stories are those that come from close to home rather than from far, far away.
The Laughter Part
The house was now quiet and I was alone with my thoughts. I cracked open a beer, took a look around and decided that inactivity would not be a good thing. I put on some music, did the dishes and was in the process of doing some general straightening up when I came across borgette’s journal. There’s nothing of a private nature contained in there so I didn’t feel like I was violating her confidentiality or anything. She’s got another stashed away for those sorts of things.
Anyway, I was idly thumbing through her selected writing when I came across one that caught my eye. By the looks of the penmanship, it must’ve been at least a year or two old.
I’ve been at my moms house. We were in the yard and a skunk came up. I wish it would have peed on my mom.
That was it, the end. No details about what prompted her to write that and no further explanation in the following entries was forthcoming. I was left to hazard a guess.
But first I gotta tell ya, I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard even though it was mostly to myself. Being the single Dad type, I sometimes feel that I’m the one destined to play the villain. Turns out, an eight year old kid can make villains out of just about anybody at the drop of hat.
I’m sure she’s forgotten about her entry much the same as I had forgotten about my fathers note. I was considering asking her about the circumstances which prompted the missive but I think I’ let sleeping dogs lie. Maybe she’ll stumble across it years from now in circumstances similar to those in which I found my father’s note and maybe it’ll cause her to think. And to smile...
(Somewhere John Prine must be laughing his ass off…)