A letter from Mick to Betsy
I’m writing you this letter in a rare moment of clarity. As you well know, these don’t come so often these days. It’s a bit like trying to listen to the radio in the car when the reception’s bad. All those precious memories just flicker on and off.
I hope you’ll actually get to read this.
It’s possible I will put it down somewhere and the fog will descend. I’ll forget I even wrote it, and that will be that.
Still, if that happens, I’m sure you’ll find it one quiet weekday afternoon, just like you still find the remains of the cheese and pickle sandwiches I leave behind the bookshelves sometimes. I’m sorry about that, I know it makes you cross.
Perhaps you’ll uncover this letter, long after I’m gone and you’re moving house. You will have removed the curtains and the blinds, light will pour through the kitchen windows and you’ll spot it, taped to the back of the fridge. You’ll make a cup of tea, and you’ll sit down read it, and you’ll be reminded of just how much I loved you.
I hope you’ll feel free, and happy when I’m gone. I’d never want you to be sad.
Do you feel free, Betsy?
When we married all those years ago, the vicar was droning on, reading this and that from the bible and I didn’t half start to zone out, love. I remember you squeezing my hands and giving me a look and so I tried harder to listen.
He went on to say some nice things about being together for the rest of our lives, in health and sickness, for better and for worse. Do you remember? I know we were all just desperate to get to the pub for a good old knees up.
We were so young then. We half listened, and wholly agreed. We made those promises in front of our family and friends, but they never meant too much until recently.
I was a healthy, young lad back then – ‘fit as a butcher’s dog’ my father used to say. But look at me now. I’m a mere sliver of what I used to be. Many of my best qualities have fled, one by one like thieves out the back door – taking parts of me and hoping we wouldn’t notice.
I wonder sometimes… if you knew of all that you’d have to handle, with this horrible illness, would you have still gone through with it?
I’m sure you would. I’d like to think you would. I can’t see you having walked away, leaving me standing there by the altar, my heart exploding with love.
Thank you for everything. For not just seeing me as my illness, and looking past all that to the man you fell in love with all those years ago. I couldn’t have asked for a better wife. You, with all your kindness and patience, you’ve never let me down once.
Sometimes, when I look at you and I can’t quite place your name, it feels like my heart is breaking. A smudge appears, more fragments slip away and memories are gone forever, like in iceberg slipping into the sea. You and I become shards of broken glass. A puzzle I cannot piece together.
But when the focus comes back, so do technicolour souvenirs of the happiest days of our life, and it’s glorious. I’ll never forget when Jake was born, and how peaceful he looked as he slept. We leant over his cot in the darkness, looked up at each other and smiled, your hand in mine. When that happens, when those memories return, I cannot feel sad about how things turned out.
How can I feel sad Betsy Bruce, when I’ve been able to love you every day for the past fifty or so years?
I hope you’ll feel free and happy when I’m gone.
I hope you go into town whenever you can, and eat great slabs of your favourite cake (is it carrot? I’m sorry, it’s happening again and I can’t remember…) in that café you love so much. I hope you spend hours in the library leafing through the books, and walk in the park when the sun shines.
Do you feel free Betsy?
Yours, always and forever,
Your husband Mick