After your bus left, I couldn’t face the apartment, so went to the cycle shop. Maybe mindless people could make me forget. No hope. I finally got the strength to sulk back to the pad. I cleaned up and everything reminded me of you. You in records, dishes, packages, New York Times, fan, closet…me.
I had to leave and went to the Royal Palms. As I entered, “Don’t You Want Somebody to Love” flooded the place. Then “Groovin’.’’ It was too much. I went home, drank too much, and cried. Then I wrote this letter….
Depressed, I went outside to smoke weed. Ineffective. No sharing. No Elaine, no fun, no joy, no music, no desire. I wonder how life can work without you.
Love always, Vic
July 12, 2020
Dear V within my heart and memory, wherever you may be,
You wrote this letter 53 years ago. My response from then is gone. I have many handwritten letters from you but have only read a few since you died 12 years ago. I opened the manila file that says “Vic’s Letters” and looked for the letter you wrote when I left Ithaca to go to graduate school. I wanted to be with you, but you were afraid to commit. My heart was broken, but I left anyway. You needed space to figure it out. I needed to step into a new life at Berkeley. That’s what I had wanted—before I met you.
You spent that summer traveling and going to a conference in Germany. You wrote many letters, all filled with longing. When you returned to Ithaca in September, you asked me to come back. Yes! I wanted our love more than graduate school. Your letters were a lure.
Opening each love letter now means opening grief. I miss you the way I missed you in California and the way you missed me on that trip. The ache softened in time, but it’s always there. An emptiness that wants your beating heart. You still support me with our home and money we saved for retirement. You support me inwardly in dreams, in memory, in my continuing love.
There were times in our 42 years together when you thought, “Why did I marry this bitch?” Or I thought “This guy takes up too much space.” We didn’t avoid the hard stuff and we knew how to talk things through and forgive.
You called our love the Sacred Path of Marriage. Our souls connected and trusted the bond would hold. We made it a priority to protect that bond.
I didn’t know it would hold after you died, but why shouldn’t it?
I walk with dogs you never met on trails you created. I hang my garden tools in the barn you designed and loved. The barn smells like chainsaw oil and drying firewood the way it did when you were here. I live in the house where we lived and loved.
In some letters, you wrote about Vietnam and racism. The world is even crazier now and it’s hard to endure alone. I have our sons, two soulful men, and friends and dogs, and deep roots, but I miss you every day.
Do you have old letters from someone you love? Does reading them soften your grief or open wounds too hard to endure? I’m reading Vic’s letters slowly, because each one takes me on an emotional journey. It takes time to digest the feelings and absorb the gratitude. For other posts about a love note found by accident at a time when I needed Vic’s support, see A Love Note from Beyond. For my advice to a dying man who asked me what he could do to support his partner, see Please Leave Love Notes When You Die.