am you, at 36 years of age. I am writing this letter to you because time seems to be passing so quickly and I want you to remember the small moments that went into making a wonderful life.
If you are reading this it means that you made it to your 86th birthday. Congratulations. I hope that our son has given this to you, as I will instruct him to do when he’s a bit older. Today, as I write this, he is six weeks old.
So far in my life I’ve experienced loss and sorrow, with big stretches of happiness and joy in between. There is a part of my life that is less without my father here and I often wish he were alive to meet my husband and son. I know he would be happy that I have so much love in my life. Even though he is gone, I still feel him around me: In the sawing and hammering I hear as my husband renovates the second floor of our house, in the crackling of the fire and the ticking of the clock as I type this letter. Words, sounds, experiences that I associate with him still exist in my daily life and they work to keep something of him alive in me. Can you remember the way he chuckled when he made a good chess move? Or the way his artist’s hands, with long graceful fingers, handled every object that he touched with gentleness and care? Do you still remember his face and his expressions as vividly as I do now?
Last night we had our staff Christmas party. Do you remember the great times we had starting The Women’s Post? I’m expecting it will be a national daily newspaper by the time you read this letter. But now, as I write, the newspaper is going into its third year. Our team is small, but efficient. Even now we have the best writers in the country and we are all very close. Last night’s party was filled with excellent conversation and much laughter.
Today I sit in our half-finished living room with our son sleeping in the bassinet beside me. I doubt very much that I’ll be living here in 50 years. Do you remember the house? It sits on a corner lot and the living room has an alcove of windows on the south wall and another row of windows on the east wall. The ceilings are high and there is dark wood panelling covering the lower half of the room. The panelling isn’t quite finished and my husband still has to build the bookshelves and the mantle for the fireplace. There is a fire burning now and an old clock ticks in the front hall. The Christmas tree sits in the window alcove.
Our mother has just left after spending the night here. I hate to imagine the future without her, but in 50 years I know she will be gone from my life and I want you to read this and remember the way she was this morning at breakfast. Her hair is cropped short and she looks as carefree as she behaves. No perhaps carefree isn’t the word, it’s more that she is filled with life and interested in each moment. She enjoys every conversation she has and seems to find something good in everyone. By the time you read this I hope I have learned to be as graceful and strong as she is.
I wonder if Greg will still be alive if I reach 86? If you are reading this letter and he isn’t, then at this point your eyes will probably fill with tears. Mine are right now just thinking about it. But try to think of all the joy-filled moments. Do you remember how he taught you to ski at Mont Tremblant? You woke up one morning to a snowstorm and decided to ski down the north side. The wind was whipping the snow up at the top of the mountain but the view was beautiful. Every tree branch was covered in snow. It was the perfect winter wonderland.
Or remember the winter holidays spent at the cottage, the stillness of the forest broken by the call of a chickadee, the crackle of the fire burning in the hearth and the smell of hot apple cider after a day of skating. Remember the way Greg used to fall asleep in his chair by the fire with a book in his hand.
Can you remember what you felt the day that your son was born? Can you picture Greg walking into the operating room? His eyes were filled with worry and when he asked how I was, I told him I was horny and the worry on his face vanished instantly as he broke into a smile. Do you remember the music they played in the operating room? It was Enya. You should get your son to play it for you. Do you remember how delicate and tiny your son looked when they placed him in your arms? And how life suddenly seemed much more dangerous than ever before?
My father used to say that there is nothing good about growing old and that the only way to handle it is to do it as gracefully as possible. At 36 I still see more ahead of me than behind. I hope that when you read this, you’ll be able to see further in both directions.