I hate mailboxes. In days past, they brought personal news along with bills and advertisements. A handwritten letter stimulated excitement because someone took pen and paper and conveyed their thoughts. A handwritten note represented time and effort. My Dad's generation cherished letters and saved them for decades as stored memories. Nothing good ever comes in the mailbox anymore and today was no exception.
The hand-addressed letter protruded from my cobweb-plastered mailbox, and I recognized my father's handwriting. A pang of excitement fluttered until I discarded it into the same emotional trash heap I had placed our relationship when he abandoned me a year ago for the tropics.
Sleepless, I wrestled in my mind until three a.m. Angry, I stomped into the kitchen, retrieved the unopened letter from the garbage can, and ripped open the seal.
My decision to move to the British Virgin Islands was difficult for you to accept. I understand that. The distance from you is difficult, but it was the best choice I could make for my chronic illness. The spa care and housing facilities are lovely. Walking on the warm white beach every morning and the foaming blue surf is miraculous on my feet. The locally grown vegetables, the refined menu of daily catches from the sea, and the Doctors on staff make me stronger every day. Experimental medicines? Yes. But the results have been miraculous. You told me that if I chose this path, you would not visit and told me goodbye at the airport. Please change your mind about the news I will share.
I met a woman. She is wonderful. It's like we've known each other our entire lives. She is beautiful, and we are the talk of the spa. They are jealous that we can find love in the waning years of our lives. I start a sentence, and she can finish it. Yes, son, I have found true love after all these years. After so many years of heartache and distrust for women. I am excited about the future.
We are to be married on the first Saturday in March. If you can find it in your heart, there is nothing I want more than for you to be here and celebrate this moment with us.
I wadded the paper and slammed dunked it into the can. How dare he? My Dad abandoned his only son for experimental treatment in the tropics. Not a word from him in a year after cashing out the business and leaving me unemployed. Not a returned email or phone call for the past year. Every time I called, the staff took a message and made the well-rehearsed statement, "He's in a session and can't talk right now." Not one call or email had been returned. After three months, I gave up on him just like he'd given up on me.
I had no family left beyond a half-sister in California three thousand miles away. I discovered her on Twenty-Three and Me. The extent of our relationship was a few exchanged emails and an uncomfortable connection because of our mother. I'm confident she was afraid I'd ask questions about her Mom she didn't want to answer. We exchanged holiday photos of us and our spouses with a false promise to meet someday. We wouldn't, but I printed the picture, stuck it to the fridge, and pretended I had at least one family member in the world that gave a damn.
My mother had divorced my Dad thirty years ago after accusing him of infidelity. A close friend of hers, jealous of their marriage, had spiked the relationship with lies that were disproven, but the damage had been done. Heartbroken, he had never remarried. He forbade anyone to ever speak of her again in his presence. Embarrassed, my mother had run away to California, remarried, and my half-sister was born. I was three years old and never saw my mother again.
I guess I looked too much like my Dad.
After much thought, I decided I had to go to the British Virgin Islands and intervene. Either my Dad had lost the rest of his mind or was being played by a gold digger. My bet was on the former. His ability to forget the past and jump into the future astounded me.
If you crossed a bumblebee with a butterfly, that would be my mom. My mother is crazy in a multitude of ways. She has always been spontaneous and emotional. She was fun but also exhausting. Four years after I was born, she took me to Disneyland and called my father to inform him we weren't coming home. The divorce made my mom a multi-millionaire, and she made sure our small town knew it. While I finished school, launched my Accounting career, and married, she traveled worldwide. Some trips took her away for months without any communication. She came from a generation that didn't believe in email and lived in her own world.
A year ago, she informed me she had sold the estate and was moving to a spa in the British Virgin Islands renowned for its experimental treatments for several chronic diseases.
I have my own life to live with my family; if she is happy and safe, I can live with it. She refused to talk about her ailment, and I decided not to argue with her rare silence. The few times we spoke on the phone over the past year, the conversations were brief and full of, "I'm fine. I'm wonderful. It's beautiful here." She never asked about her grandson or my husband. It's like she had forgotten us.
The letter in my mailbox with my mother's handwriting startled me when I arrived home from work. I could not recall her ever sending me a letter or postcard. I stood in the driveway cradling a bag of groceries and ripped the envelope open.
I know I haven't been the mother you wanted me to be, but it is who I am. You have made a good life for yourself and don't seem the worse for it. I love it here in the tropics and enjoy their specialized medical care. The doctors here are miracle workers. We have daily excursions under the guidance of the staff for afternoon teas and sunset cruises. The islanders are very British and pleasant. The cuisine is delectable.
I met a man. He is the most wonderful gentleman and handsome. It's like I've known him my whole life. I have never met a man like him, and I love him. One of us starts a sentence, and the other finishes it. We dine together and take excursions together. Yesterday we took a ferry from Tortola to the Baths on Virgin Gorda and spent the night on the North Inlet. I felt like a teenager when we snuck from our rooms and kissed under the stars. The newness of our connection seals the past behind us, and creates a whole new future.
We are getting married on the first Saturday in March. I'd be ecstatic if you would come and be my maid of honor.
The groceries slipped from my arms and scattered across the driveway. The eggs took the worst of it and splattered on my shoes. My mother was very intelligent, but sometimes she acted plain stupid. I recognized her mind was slipping but not to this level. Typical Mom. I told you she was crazy, and now there was hard evidence. Who was this man? A gold-digger after her millions?
Selfish and self-centered was a more appropriate indictment of her. My Mom expects me to stop my career, leave my family, and be her maid of honor at a wedding to a man she has just met. Who is this man? Is he aware of her medical condition? I have never heard her gush about any man beyond how much money he might have and what celebrity he might know.
My mom exhibited a strange ability to forget the past and leap into the future without regard for anyone else. Just like she had forgotten her first marriage and never spoke of him.
My husband and I discussed the impending wedding and agreed that I needed to investigate and try to stop this crazed act of my mother in its tracks.
Two Weeks Later
Matthew stepped off the commuter plane on Bear Island, BVI, into the ninety-degree heat. He hired a taxi for the winding coastal drive to Road Town that would leave the most avid New Yorker harried. An hour later, he arrived at the senior facility. The grounds were landscaped and manicured to reflect wealth. Coconut trees circled a front lawn with a cascading fountain at its center. A sculpted sign read The Spa in bold letters. In smaller characters below, it read, Center for Cognitive Decline.
His taxi stopped in front of a reception building that competed with the Ritz-Carleton behind another vehicle. A young woman stood at the curb as a porter retrieved her bags.
Matthew, in disbelief, pushed the door open and sprung to the sidewalk.
"Lori, is that you?" to the half-sister he had never met. Lori turned to him and recognized him from their exchange of photos after their Twenty-Three and Me connection.
"Matthew? Oh, my god. Please don't tell me you are here for wedding."
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905.
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About the Creator
Since reading Tolkien in Middle school, I have been fascinated with creating, reading, and hearing art through story’s and music. I am a perpetual student of writing and life.
J. Scott Wade owns all work contained here.
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