14 February 20XX +1
My Dear Lucilius:
Valentine’s Day again.
As you can imagine, I have not really celebrated Valentine’s Day in several (read “many”) years. For the last few of course, there has really been no-one to celebrate them for or with. Prior to that, even when my wife was still alive, Valentine’s Day was a low key event. Gone were the days of extravagant gifts and flowery cards; we had moved to a simple understated card and perhaps a dinner out. At some point one’s house is full and one is older: what can one give a wife that she cannot buy for herself?
One of the great questions – you yourself quizzed me on it more than once - was why, after my wife’s passing, I never really showed interest in establishing another relationship. I do not know that I was capable of answering such a question then, but I have had plenty of opportunity to ponder the issue.
You yourself always avoided the question for years, if you will recall, with the same sort of distant “looking away” in your eyes. “Life was not stable” was your answer for years, perhaps even years beyond when life had become stable for you (if you had been able to see it as I was). I never really pressed you on it (perhaps I should have) until you found out you were ready to discuss it – and then as if by magic, Augusta appeared.
And now, I find myself on the other side of that equation.
My answer, if I were there now and we were sitting in the town square, eating frozen yogurt (as we were wont to do on Friday evenings), would simply be that I could not bear the strain and risk of a relationship.
I had a fairly good marriage, and one that – like most of them, I suspect – worked reasonably well over the years with inevitable bumps and occasional disagreements. But for the most part it was the form of married bliss which the successfully married maintain although they never seem to be able to enunciate what it is or how they have done it.
The last year of our marriage with the cancer was, simply put, awful. You know. You were there via electronic communications for all of it. And after it was all said and done, the bills sorted out and the house cleaned and the monument raised, there was simply no energy nor interest in doing anything else.
I did try once or twice – I do not think I ever spoke to you of this before. They were all effectively prescreened by acquaintances here, by those in our then church or my wife’s friends that thought that I needed something to “fill the gap”. Well meaning, of course. And arguably, I was precisely in a place where I would have been a “desirable package” (as I was told): late-50’s, financial secure, children now gone, and single.
You laugh, as I did. The thought of me being “marketable” strains credulity, does it not?
And yet Lucilius, what I found when I went out on the carefully arranged forays, was that I was less of a potential interest and more of a potential resource.
I had, as they say, “great potential” as a dating partner – because of all of the things listed above. But, it seems, precisely because of these items, I got the sense that there was neither interest nor attraction except in how I would help others in their lives. Not in my own.
Be it right or wrong, it was an risk I was not willing to take.
I know Lucilius, I know – Love is inherently a risk. But given where I was in my life, something that represented a risk not just to my emotions but (literally) to what we had spent a lifetime building was more than I could logically put on the line. And so I withdrew after those initial forays into what has become (essentially) a monkish sort of lifestyle.
Do not grieve for me. These last years, although in that sense lonely, have been good. While perhaps not having the personal closeness of an individual, I have also not been subjected to the vagaries of an emotional hurricane. My patterns of life have become comfortable for me, even if perhaps a bit isolated.
Does that mean the tale is fully written? It is hard, given the current circumstances, to believe anything but – yet I am mindful of your own experience when, in the midst of everything that completely seemed as if nothing could have occurred, something occurred.
Life – and perhaps love in this case - as they say, always finds a way.
Your Obedient Servant, Seneca