I’ve been on a huge letter kick lately. Handwritten letters, typed up 4 or 5 page letters, and postcards, and more letters with funny pictures or bumper stickers affixed to them. I’ve written people I have not written in ages. I feel as if i’m out of my depressed slump. I have written David James Duncan letters and he’s written back twice now. My sister in law and my nephews and my niece…my mom and dad…my daughters…old friends in Argentina and Montreal…old carpenter buddies…
yesterday i wrote a letter to this girl that i used to babysit. I was 19 and she and her brother were 9 and 7. This extremely wealthy couple hired me to watch and caretake their home and kids and pets for 5 days of the week for roughly 40-50 hours per week. We could dowhatever we wanted, so long as the grass was mowed, the chicken coop cleaned and the chickens fed, the pasture mowed (about 4 acres) and whatever other chores they’d have me do…laundry, etc …
Fast Forward 22 years…she is getting married…and i have read twice now Brian Doyle’s new anthology called “One Long River of Song” and so i wanted to send it to her.
here is my letter. i would apologize for the wall of text…but i don’t feel bad …and i don’t feel sorry. i’m taking a page out of saf’s notebook and throwing this at the internet wall and letting stick…slide down and land anywhere.
My dear Alissa,
To say I hope this finds you well would be an understatement…and also futile as I know, by following you on Facebook, that you are indeed quite well. And engaged to be married!!!
Is he funny? He must be. Is he handsome? He must be. Is he witty and clever and does he drive you crazy with his idiosyncrasies? He must be. At the end of a long and arduous day, does the sight of him make you pause, smile, and give thanks to have a partner that you know feels the same way about you? He must be.
This is a wonderful thing. This is life. It ain’t romantic, but the sexiest and the coolest thing you can get in life is not someone who drives you wild with lustful passion, but someone that sticks it out with you through thick and thin. Someone that is capable of compromise, capable of shutting the fuck up when they have to and then in the same turn not shutting the fuck up and standing up for their convictions but then only backing down or back pedaling when they know some stupid words fell out of their mouth. That’s romance to me. It ain’t flowers. It ain’t thoughtful consumer goods, and it ain’t love letters (although, let’s be honest, those ARE nice). Intimacy is ultimately a string of heartfelt words that are put into action. Heartfelt being vulnerability and vulnerability being the trust you put in someone for the care of your soul and shared experience we call a life.
I recently read this book over the summer, and then re-read it again. It has stuck with me like no other book in recent years. In fact, it has sparked a whole new feeling of Rod feeling like Rod again!!! I think they call that inspiration. Perspiration? Same difference as far as I can tell.
Anyway, I wanted to write and let you know that this book made me think of you and Clay. And then I wanted to give this book to you because I just know, from the very first sentence, that you’re gonna love it. That most splendid summer of watching over you and Clay still remains and will always remain one of my fondest memories of my life. I can still remember in 1998 my Algebra II teacher telling me that I sucked at math and that the second semester I was gonna be a student aide over at Muldown Elementary. And so, I would walk over and help “aide” kindergarteners—your brother Clay being one of them. I also remember my last day as an aide and after having garnered a hand drawn letter from each one of those kids, I had to leave quickly and find a bathroom so I could cry…I was overwhelmed with love and loss. Fast forward and I would be lucky enough to land the dream job of a lifetime!!! It was just meant to be. I was born and my path led me to you and Clay!!! How neat is that?
You two were the first kids I ever truly first loved. And you were good practice for being a father in my later years!!! I so enjoyed helping you search for Cheddar the kitty… and sweet ol’ Reba would fetch stick after stick after stick after stick….And basketball for days!!! No, you did not imagine it, I really was a fantastic shot—I still am, but nowhere near as polished as I was then. I played a ton of pick-up basketball in my 20’s. I remember most loving to make you laugh We’d fart, tell jokes, chortle, I’d tell stories about talking raccoons and then we’d eat mac and jack and then cookies and then I’d make a mess of burnt toast and Cindy would come home from tennis and be like what the fuck is this? I’d clean it up and we’d go play video games and then head to the lake and our little sun-drenched bodies would glisten with life. We’d make homemade cookies and take naps and play more video games and watch Disney on DVD’s or maybe it was VHS??? The most amazing summer—full of love, laughter, some tears, some fine memories, dogs and cats, water, whiffle ball, basketball, fresh cut grass with the hint of gasoline exhaust, and Garth Brooks and some trips to Dairy Queen, a hike up Big Mountain with Rachel, and a summer full of wonder and words and sunburns and long-drawn-out discussions on what it meant to be “good” or so I recall. I do hope my love of irony, sarcasm, and nonsense made its way inside your heart and your brain. Sarcasm is both my blessing and my curse…but I treat it more as a gift and try to harness it. I joke too often and tease frequently—at my expense or others’. Even reflecting and looking back, I know that was the case with you and Clay.
You and Clay are a part of me always. No amount of time can take that away. I wanted you to know how very much I love and appreciate you and thank you for the gifts you gave me.
“Everything’s a wheel, turning and turning, never stopping. The frogs is part of it, and the bugs, and the fish, and the wood thrush, too. And people. But never the same ones. Always coming in new, always growing and changing, and always moving on. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. That’s the way it is.”
― Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting
P.S. Give your mom, dad, Clay, Charlie, and fiancé a big smooch from me or a wet willy…whatevs