Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Letter

Dear Jill,

I know that you never had any use for e-mail, because you thought that only paper and ink constituted a real letter (and you wrote at least one letter a day to someone or other, it seemed), but I don’t know the zip code for Heaven, so I’ll have to communicate through cyberspace.

The weather at the beach has been abominable – a soggy summer following a dreary spring following a beastly winter. They say that in June we had a period in which it rained 23 out of 27 days, but I don’t remember even four rainless days. On the fourth of July, a Saturday, the beach population was the smallest I’ve ever seen on that holiday. The merchants are ready to commit mass suicide.

Our children and their children have been here every weekend. One weekend there were nine of them, which is one more than the place sleeps, but we managed. And they leave the house in immaculate condition, because you taught them the importance of keeping the guest rooms tidy, since they are the first thing a visitor sees, the “windows on the house” you called them.

That’s not all you taught them. As a matter of fact, you taught us all the entire book of virtues. You left us a moral compass, and whenever we come across a dilemma, we know a simple way forward: WWJD. What would Jill do?

Cathy still comes every month to give the house a top-to-bottom cleaning. The new upper deck is complete, the lower decks have been painted, a new post-and-rail fence has been ordered, the gardens have been weeded. You’d be proud.

Food. Well, I still can’t cook at all, but I am not starving. The neighbors have been kind (what’s that line about “depending on the kindness of strangers”?), the TV dinners aren’t bad, and once in a while I rustle up franks and beans or spaghetti. The freezer has been emptied of all the old food and defrosted. I really don’t need a freezer, any more than I need the new car I bought while you were in the hospital. That was to have been your car, but now this house has more cars than people. In fact, it has more of everything than people, and if this were the Russia of Dr. Zhivago, some commissar would force me to share the space with the masses.

I went with Lucy and her gang to see a play at the Grange Hall the other night. It was essentially a solo performance, based on the music of Patsy Cline, and it was excellent. You’d have loved it, because the lead’s voice was good and the notes were all true.

You still get a lot of mail. Magazines like Real Simple, solicitations from politicians, surveys (which are really solicitations), catalogs, etc. In fact, you get more mail than I do, which is pretty funny when you think about it. I throw most of it in the trash unopened.

Your desk and sewing machine and all those bobbins and spools and yarn are as they were when you left. They will probably stay that way for a long time. The same goes for your pictures on the walls and the knick-knacks on the shelves and all those crossword-puzzle books. I don’t dare touch any of it, because I know you are watching.

The days pass quickly – and silently, when I am alone. I talk to you often, out of habit and because, well, just because.

It’s time to turn in now. I think of you all the time, and I wish you were here.