FROM: Abby K. Phelps [email@example.com]
DATE: November 26, 2013 8:16a MST
SUBJECT: These are not the worst of times...
I think I've asked you this before, but do you know that Billy Joel song Summer Highland Falls? I know you do. We've talked about it. It's running on constant loop through my mind and in my house today.
I was sure I was going to get through it all this year. The book is out there, and I thought, "Okay - I'm not hiding anymore. I can breathe." But I just wasn't prepared for the dreams to come back, Alec. When my mind just can't take anymore, it turns to dreams. Well, why am I telling you that? You were the one who told ME that's what I do.
Yesterday would have been John's 53rd birthday. I thought I was prepared, in the days leading up to it. I mean, his birthday comes around every year, and every year, I brace myself for the worst. But this year… It's been 50 years since President Kennedy was shot, and 50 years since little John Jr. saluted his father's casket. And this year, more than ever before, I can't escape that image. And in so many ways, I feel like that image shouldn't bother me - after all, that is part of John's legacy. It is a glimpse of something he didn't remember, and a tribute to a past he'd long ago made peace with. Usually, that's how I look at it. But this year…
I dreamt that he was here. In my dream, I awoke to the smell of coffee and eggs, and I smiled because I knew it was him. And it wasn't like he was suddenly back with me, and it wasn't like I got to go back in time - he was just there, like he'd been ever morning for the last 15 years. I got out of bed and walked into the kitchen - and there was John at 53. It's funny - I thought he would always be 39 in my mind. Or 30. Or 20. The past is so vivid, and the present is desolate, but to have access to the future? It felt like a painful, heartbreaking, life-altering gift. "About time you wake up," he said with a flirtatious smile as I walked over to him. "Sorry," I teased, "I was just contemplating whether or not it was time to leave you for a younger man." He laughed and then started to say something, but I don't know what it was because he got interrupted by kids - one boy I recognized, a couple I didn't. Were we grandparents? - and a dog. And when I saw the dog I knew we didn't live in the city. And suddenly I knew - we lived in Simsbury. Everything about my life screamed home, and I never wanted it to end, but I also had no reason to fear that it would.
But it did, of course. And I spent the day watching an image - 50 years that image has been a part of the collective heart of the world - of the love of my life, my soul mate, saying goodbye to the father he would go on to mostly forget. And all I could see was Sam. But Sam didn't even get the opportunity to forget John. That's not fair, Alec.
Yesterday was not a good day. And before yesterday, I probably would have coped by running away to "Abby World." Isn't that what Avery calls it? Everyone is happy, and I have Chris. That's Abby World, right? But yesterday Abby World ceased to exist. At least for now. It's time to shut this down for a while. These are not the best of times, but they're the only times I've ever known. Isn't that how the song goes? All I know now is reality. And I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. But I do know that it's not something I know how to handle anymore.
Tell my story for me, Alec. You and Avery, tell the story. Tell the story of John and me. Avery set out to write a book - that's what it was going to all be eventually anyway, right? Now's the time. Tell my story - the real story. It's a good story, Alec, but I can't bear to tell it. I can't bear to remember. Make Avery tell the story, Alec, and if she won't do it for me, make sure she does it for John.