What we have to look forward to, if we’re lucky.
This isn’t funny. Sorry. I guess you ought to stop reading now if that’s what you wanted, unless you’d like to laugh at how bad the prose is. I’d write about my exploits with the current girl I’m seeing, which have been filled with a fair amount of humor, but things have actually been going rather well. Also, she sort of reads my KAB posts, and I don’t think she’d appreciate me talking about all the awesome sex we’ve been having. Like, seriously, the sex is fantastic.
Off to my right I could see the letter, written with what must have been a very expensive pen, maybe a Waterman, which I’ve been wanting to get. The letters were elegant, but the strokes were heavy and thick, a deep lacquer against the well preserved paper. They would likely seem out of place in a woman’s diary, where the script often bubbles and ebbs across the page. They were more chiseled and compact, set in place with a heavy hand. I could see where sharp flicks of the wrist sent the ends of characters to trail thin and vanish. Feminine cursive does not flow like this. This was precise but not pretty, as if it was oftentimes much worse, and a special effort had been taken to make it legible. It was the style of a man who was far too busy being alive to care about his print. It was penned by a doctor.
I do not stand beside the giants of logical deduction. I am not Sherlock Holmes. I am not even Hercule Poirot. We were all briefed on the letter beforehand. We knew who wrote it before it was taken from its resting spot, likely among the stale air and cobwebs of an old suitcase or shoebox, tucked away and forgotten about until now. Encompassing me was my other family, whom I have come to love and whose faults I accept without hesitation or scorn. I embrace their shortcomings as if they are my own. I do the same with my family, always have.
An old woman, bitter with age and blindness, authoritative only slightly less so than the over-controlling mother. The father, self pitying and remorseful, enjoying his alcohol more than he thinks he ought to. An aunt who never had children, saddened by the knowledge of being alone. Two younger brothers, both arrogant as hell. My best friend, standing by his mother’s side, looking down upon the letter. His faults I know better than anyone and all of them I see in myself.
Everyone in the room was horrible and human, covered by a weak facade, a smile, a countenance none too convincing, rife with imperfection, except for a little old man who sat playing with the family mutt. Gravity had taken a heavy toll on the old fool. Undoubtedly he once stood upright and proud, six feet tall at least, but was now diminished to the likes of Hephaestus, crooked and bent, capable of walking only with the use of a cane.
The dog’s head was on his lap while he stroked her ears. That mutt was as old as he was. Sometimes she had to scoot her hind legs across the floor and couldn’t see much either; her eyes were glazed over with white age. That thing used to scare me something awful ten years ago, but by then she paid me little mind and simply licked my face if she found the time. I liked that animal. She’s dead now.
But the old man and the dog were forlorn shadows, drifting slowly towards the end of dusk, waiting for the light to falter. Every time he saw her it was for the first time. As we age, our bodies and minds grow decrepit at different rates. The wife and the dog were blind, while the old man couldn’t remember. He would tell me stories of his childhood, and even things up to a few years ago, and they sounded true and complete as far as I could tell, but then his memory failed him completely. Encapsulated in his ignorance of the comings and goings of those around him was his innocence. Humble. Accepting. Polite. Gracious. Generous. Whatever mistakes he ever made in life were lost now in the fog of time. The lens through which I view the world had no explanation for his existence. We should all stand as monuments to our ugliness.
“Whose birthday is it dear?” asked the old man.
The mother responded, speaking loudly and clearly so he could hear, already with droplets welling up in her eyes. “It’s your grandson Victor’s birthday. He’s twenty-one now. I’m about to read a letter you wrote to him when he was only two months old. You made me save it Daddy until he was twenty-one. I’m lucky I found it and I never read it just like you asked. This is really precious Daddy.”
The whole family nodded and agreed without saying anything.
“Well I don’t remember doing that,” replied the old man indignantly.
“Maybe you will once you hear it a bit,” said the mother.
And so she began. The letter in its entirety was read aloud to a silent audience. In the other room, I could hear the long arm of the family’s pendulum clock resonating its faithful rhythm.
The grandfather’s face stared in blissful confusion for a while, the rain of words pouring over him, taking no shape and meaning nothing for some time. But slowly, very slowly, he began to find something in the wind. It was only a distant murmur to start. Voices drifted amongst the breeze. Something was coming in that dusk of his. His face tightened. Memories from long ago.
“Wait, I remember this,” he whispered.
Words. Respect. Future. Life.
I saw the past growing inside him.
Louder now, “No, wait, I know. I wrote this.”
More words. Care. Family. Responsibility.
A song he sang long ago. Music in the wind.
“Victor? Victor?” he begged.
And finally love.
A crescendo of noise filled his head.
I saw the past burst inside him.
The wind howled in his ears.
The rain poured over him, into him, and out of his eyes.
“Where’s my grandson?”
My best friend walked over to his grandfather and took his hand.
“I do. I remember writing that,” said the old man. “I meant every word. You know I loved you the moment I saw you.”
“I know. I love you too.”
“I’m so sorry. I’ll have forgotten this in just a few moments.”
“I know Grandpa.” He stood resolutely, unmoving. Utterly stoic. No emotion. “That’s okay.” He bent over and whispered something in his grandfather’s ear.
The sun began to sink below the trees on the far end of the family’s field. Shadows ran rampant through the dining room until they were finally swept away by the glow of incandescent lights. An old man took a break from petting an old dog and looked at the balloons in bewilderment.
“Whose birthday is it dear?”