A Lifetime isn't long enough to Love You
The following is a letter I wrote to Jamie back in September of 1998. We were together from 1974 to 1986. I hadn't seen him since then so writing to him was a step out of my comfort zone. I was writing in response to a letter he had sent me a year or two earlier. He visited me and my son, Chris, in 2002 and we have stayed in communication since that time. What I said to him more than a decade ago is so much of what I want to say now upon his death.
I thought, if I began now, this letter might wend its way to you by the 16th in time for your birthday. I know you never celebrated them much but you know I always did. Over the years I have continued to remember your day, grateful that you were born and shared such a significant part of your life with me.
To begin I owe you an explanation for why I have been silent. It was not at all because of you but rather out of loyalty to my husband that I chose not to respond when you wrote. He always had deep, somewhat jealous, feelings about my relationship with you and, had I written back, it would have caused him pain. So what's changed? We are separated, soon to be divorced, and I am living alone at the house now. I have come through a great deal of sadness about it and am just turning the corner beginning to envision my life moving on in a new direction.
Writing has become a major part of my life over the past two years. The industry books are easy to do but my real passion is my own more personal work - like reflecting back about my life with you. I'm attempting to tell it as a story that exemplifies the crescendos and diminution of life and relationships. Believe me, this project has been more than therapeutic for me as I struggled with grieving the end of our life together.
So now I can tell you how glad I was to hear from you. Your last letter was filled with a range of emotions from one end of the spectrum to the other. That shouldn't be so surprising to me. Whatever kept us apart, we made up for in passion and strong emotions. It meant the world to me to have you say that I was a good wife. I have followed your life, somewhat, hearing things from time to time. The day I stumbled on your latest book "A Lifetime Isn't Long Enough to Love You" it was like walking down memory lane: Phil and Nina, Van, a dog named Sandy, your brother Bob, Uncle Jim, the day your Mother died, even Patty doing the cover photo. But when I happened on the poem "Always in my Heart" while standing in a San Francisco bookstore, a tear ran down my cheek. I knew, without a doubt, that poem was written for me.
I know you are still writing, that you spent some time in Mexico, and that you still love to wander - maybe not quite as much as before. You sound at peace with yourself and as happy as a melancholic Irish poet can get. Your poetry just keeps getting better. Sometimes I wish I still had an audio cassette of Street Music. Chris wore out the only copy I had. Chris is doing well...finally. He's 25 now and living in an apartment not far from me. He's in his last year of college and has been working the last four years at the homeless project I helped establish while I was serving on the County Commission.
Mom and Lin still live here in Reno. Mom has been working with me in the office this past year or so. She works mornings keeping our books, answering the phone, and managing the office at home. I really like having her near and I think she'll continue to do that for me. With Mark's daughter, Amy, working in the office with us, we've had three generations working together.... One of the things I miss most about the breakup I'm going through now is my sense of family. For one brief shining moment there was Camelot. I've had a real family with a husband-wife-daughter-son-dog-cat and parents visiting for Sunday dinner. It was everything I never had as a child and always dreamed of experiencing.
I started to send this to the Lake Bluff address but called first to discover you had moved...with no forwarding address - just like one of your poems of long ago described. So I hope this reaches you. It is important to me that you know how much you have mattered in my life. Moya Lear and I have stayed close and we talk about you from time to time. She was crushed over our breakup. But not nearly as much as I. The loss of you was almost unbearable for me. I was so vulnerable and needy at that time. I've gained a great deal of inner strength since those days working daily to be guided by my spirit in all that I say and do. My life is half over and I have so much I still want to do to make a difference. I feel like I've only just begun to figure things out. Now I want to share what I've learned and maybe help others discover better ways to live more meaningful lives. That's the underlying purpose of the book I'm currently working on.
Writing to you feels like no time has passed. I guess it is because you are so much a part of me and have been for the past quarter of a century. I am going to be spending time in Chicago over the next few months. I am scheduled to teach again at UIC sometime next semester. I would love to see you. Of course I'm presuming that you have stayed somewhere in the Chicago area. You may not be there. By now you could be living with the aborigines in Australia or with the pigmies wherever they live. But whatever part of the world you have chosen to call home, you will always be among the men too gentle to live among wolves.
I will always remember that day in May of 1974 when I walked up the stairs of the Dolores Street house and there you were standing at the top. My heart skipped a beat that instant when my eyes met yours and has never been quite the same since. I was in San Francisco last month and stopped by the house for old times sake. Some girls living in the downstairs unit were having a sidewalk sale and they took me through the house - even downstairs where the hot tub is. It stopped working years ago but they were dying to hear the story of how that came to be there. From that moment that we met I have always loved you and whether we were together or apart, I prayed that you would find peace within yourself. You are a very special man not just to me but to people the world over. I met a lady standing in line at the DMV here in Reno who had just moved from Chicago. She treated me like a celebrity because I knew you. Little did she know how well I knew you.
So I'll say goodbye for now, my friend. I wish you the happiest of birthdays. Even though you haven't heard from me, you must have known that I never stopped caring about you. Writing about our life together brings back so many memories. The good ones are the only ones I allow to linger in the gossamer threads that link my heart to yours. I love you, Jamie, and, like you, I, too, will always be grateful that you came into my life and into my heart. No matter what happens you will remain there forever.
With so much love,