Dear Peter and Susan,
Dear Peter and Susan,
I have before me a Christmas card you sent to me and Gavin in 2006 from your home in Italy. While it was addressed partly to me, you'd never met me, and Carolyn, I'm not sure Gavin had ever met you. But I feel obliged to write you, anyway, and to be familiar.
You see, widows do the strangest things. For some reason, your red card, "Buon Natale," has been asking me to respond for nearly five years. I don't know why; It isn't that different from many of the cards we received the previous year, and most of the cards from 2006, I responded to right away.
Yours, I've held onto as if it mattered, and as if I could do something about it.
But your Christmas card from 2006 arrived six months after Gavin died. There was one other person who didn't know, one other holiday card inquiring, GAVIN HOW IS YOUR HEALTH? I had the heart to answer neither; but at some point, she received one of my many memorial emails at a defunct address and gently we talked it through with less drama than I'd expected (she was always dramatic: her notice I really dreaded). Yours was the only "regret to inform" letter that remained. If I could have found you easily online (still can't… what am I doing wrong? Or is your life really idyllic?) I might have said something sooner.
It's very hard to have this duty, and yet, harder to discharge it.
And why? Other than your bright card, I know nearly nothing of you. You were friends before Gavin and I met. I know you, Peter, are handsome, happy, easygoing, and brilliant. You work(ed) in communications and I had a fantasy you could straighten my career out. It's a frail image. The main picture that comes is a fantasy of the Italian mountains, wine, and good friends in the golden light: Gavin and I really hoped to come visit you in your semi-retirement, in Italy. It was going to be lovely: it was a "someday."
And now that I've no thread to you, I suppose that dream is dead, too. Perhaps keeping this glossy red rectangle on my desk, in a pile, lost with a hundred other things that may or may not be of tremendous consequence (I didn't know when I saved them "special," or lost them, which of those two I was doing — and I still don't) was my way of trying to keep that line open, to keep alive some little hope of someday being invited to your home in Piemonte. Or perhaps it's my perverse way of holding onto the mere memory of having once dreamed of five days outside (is it?) Torino.
(Did Gavin ever tell you of my follies, that for many years I manufactured by hand, in my own artist's garret, the Socks of Turin?)
Yes, I feel some guilt over not "telling you" (doubtless you knew by now, somehow, even across the ocean?), over failing in my widowly duties. But I'm also proud that as many jobs as I've neglected in five years our daughter, our most important "someday," is alive and well, and learning to read.
And so it is without the slightest desire to cadge an invitation from strangers, even to Paradise, that I am writing to connect with you around the loss of our own dear Gavin.
I'm very sorry for your loss, and very sorry to be introducing myself in this cowardly, moved-on new life way. These letters should be written by the proud but broken wife of the departed while she's still in her weeds, so she can take a humble tone but stay a little bit official. In both my old and my new lives, it seems I hardly ever do things the way one should.
I am very active online — as is Gavin's career — and would be happy to stay in touch, as long as it's okay with you that this feeble hello from a stranger is something only barely connected with Gavin's widow, but more from a new person who had a good friend in common at a different time. If there's anything else we share, it will all be a surprise.