Letter to Robert: Just Call Me Lonesome
There are none of your letters to me in existence any more: they were destroyed by water damage when we were in San Diego. I do have a Valentine’s Day note you left me which is a red heart drawn on a small white square of paper and the message is ‘Happy Valentine’s Day, darling, I love you’ and then underneath that was another note ‘will you print this off for me?’ (you were in Trinity doing your degree at the time). I carry it in my organiser and treasure it more than I can tell you.
You know how much I miss you being at home with me where you should be, and that I would give everything and do anything to have you home, to turn back the clock and get back the last eleven months, but when I try to tell you this it makes me upset and I hate being like that with you. So I’m writing it instead. Then I can be as upset as I like.
It’s hard to gauge if you know when I’m sad or emotional: sometimes you react by moving your head and looking towards me and sometimes you don’t. It’s not a risk I want to take, upsetting you because I can’t help crying. Normally my snuffling takes place when I’m looking out the window or bending over the guitar, and I hope you don’t hear or see it. You know I’m an emotional person so I guess you’d expect that.
And of course you wouldn’t want me to breeze through this disaster: you used to tease me by saying that when you died you wanted your ashes on the mantelpiece where you could ‘keep an eye’ on me and ‘see off any interlopers’, putting them off with your presence. All the time knowing full well that I love you and only you. There would be no need to see off anyone.
Many things I miss from our life together are so domestic they sound mundane: watching University Challenge and trying to answer as many questions as you; cooking your favourite meal of steak and mashed potato on your night off; tweaking your toes when they stick up over the arm of the couch; seeing you come home with the end of your ice cream cone which you always kept for Paulie.
I miss your help in the house – all the bits and pieces you did that I took for granted like watering the plants, washing up, vacuuming. I miss seeing you playing chess on the laptop (because I don’t play) or simply sitting thinking. And I miss our time with Paulie – I can’t give her the attention she needs right now because I want to be with you as much as I can. She is still on holidays with Ritamary. For weeks after you went into hospital she’d ask ‘where’s Bob?’ and I’d answer ‘he’s in the hospital’. She’d say ‘okay…’ but she wasn’t happy.
And it’s not as if I didn’t count my blessings. I knew I was lucky. I thanked God for all the happiness you bring into my life and the love that seems to renew and grow stronger all the time. It’s not because you buy me things or make grandiose gestures, that isn’t you – or us, really: we don’t do the gift thing necessarily. What I love is the cup of tea when I’m tired or the way you looked after me when I broke my arm: you never once complained or sighed when I asked for something. It’s the way you look out for me, worry about me if I am late or text me to hurry home. Our casual affection for each other. And you call me sweetheart.
Not knowing how you feel is so strange because, although none of us ever know exactly how another person feels, you and I had come to a stage where we could intuit quite a lot about each-other. Now I hold you in my arms and wonder if you’re sad or happy or worried and if you are, I’d like to reassure and comfort you. I was never afraid when you were near me – you’re so strong and tall and certain of yourself. Nowadays I feel like I’m made of fear, it’s my constant companion.
But you’re still with me in so many important ways and I know you love me still. It’s there in your eyes just as it always has been. I’m proud of you, you’re my hero the way you’ve worked so hard to get better and you help me to be strong. Hurry home, sweetheart.