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Love letter on an index card

My wife had hundreds of books, and most were given to Goodwill after she died. I kept a short shelf of her favorites, the books she re-read over and over — the Game of Thrones books by George R R Martin, everything by Jane Austen, and a few by Kurt Vonnegut.

In Stephanie's honor I tried reading them after she died, but they're not for me. Books should be read, not merely ornamental on a shelf in a shrine, so I've put her books in the charity box. Sorry, love.

Boxing up Pride and Prejudice, an index card stuck out from page 131, and hey, that's my bad penmanship. 

Stephanie & I left each other notes all the time, usually on index cards. Pizza tonight? Or, Don't forget, doctor's appointment this afternoon. Being anti-sentimental, I never saved her notes to me, but to my amazement, she saved one of mine to her:

Stephanie, Love

The cat is sleeping at your elbow, so cute, so happy you're home — as am I. Running errands. Please call if you'd like something from out in the world.

From the line "so happy you're home," this must've been written just after she'd been discharged from one of her lengthy hospital stays. She'd kept the note, used it as a bookmark, and it was faded and yellowed, the bottom of the card frayed. I'd never thought about it after writing it, but she'd kept that card for years. It must've meant as much to her then as it means to me this morning.

Flipping through her other books, more index cards fluttered out — notes from me to her, from so many years ago, which she'd never mentioned she'd kept. I've lost her page in all of those books, by taking those cards back…

Stephanie —
I love you. Things will be good. Call me if you want.

"Things will be good," I wrote. We must've been dealing with worries at that point, either worries about money or worries about her health. 

Stephanie —
Holy moly I love you! I'll be home by noon. Maybe we can go to lunch? Pet the cat! Kissy-kissy!

and...

Stephanie —
Remember always, I am head over heels in love with you. Schmooks!

and...

Stephanie —
Of all the humans, you're my favorite. The forecast is sunshine, all day — would you like to go to Olbrich Gardens? I you.

She owned a dozen bookmarks manufactured as bookmarks, with pithy quotes, nicely laminated, but those aren't in her books. And we always had random pieces of paper lying around — post cards, receipts, bills — that would've worked as pageholders. Yet in a moment's decision, several times, she used my notes instead. This morning that's making me cry, but it's a happy cry.

And I wonder, were there notes in her other books, in the boxes given to Goodwill? It hadn't occurred to me then to flip through those books, so I'll never know, but I hope some stranger bought one of those books for 50¢ or a dollar, and found a love letter on an index card.

The notes were intended as a hug, to say 'good morning' to her, in case she woke while I was out. I never imagined I'd see those notes again, in some diminished future without her, and she'd hug me back.

2/22/2022  

itsdougholland.com
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12 comments:

  1. Doug usually it's your other blog where I have to cry all the time but this made me cry too. Like you said yesterday if it effects the soul it must be art. Thank you for sharing this from inside you. Beautiful.

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    1. Why, thanks. Always a pleasure to make people sad.

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  2. I know it's not the same, but big hugs to you.

    And a question - do you remember what I wrote about Pride and Prejudice in my zine? It was so cynical, that it mad you AND the long-lost ghost of Fred Woodworth laugh.

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    1. Nope, I don't remember. Remind me — I'm sure you hated it, and I'm sure whatever you wrote was amusing.

      I hated it, too, until Steph made me watch a few movie versions, and I became a fan. It's delightful, in that British uppercrust too-many-manners way. Still couldn't read the novel, though.

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    2. I did a series of "reviews of books I've never read." It was juvenile, and I wouldn't do it now, and I can't remember specifically what I said, but it was disdainful of the English class structure. But it got some laffs!

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  3. It must be bittersweet for you to find those cards and they no doubt brought a tear or two to your eye as they did mine.

    But THANK YOU for sharing that and giving me that idea! My man and I have been together now almost 14 years and while we occasionally leave little surprises like that for each other, it is now my mission to do that much more frequently—even though he isn't really much of a traditional reader (everything is on a screen, y'know). But I will find a way to surprise and delight!

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    1. Ah, now you're making me cry, Mr Mark. I'd just say, keep the notes, or whatever your equivalent surprises and delights might be. All the little sweetnesses become so much bigger, looking back.

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  4. Doug, your politics is lightweight and I could do without it, but when you write something like this that's why I keep reading.

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