A service has been invented through which you can send messages to people in the future. To whom would you send something, and what would you write?
You are old now, and failing. Do not grieve. Do not rail against your aged bones or mourn the things you have not done. You have had a good life.
I am writing to you now, to remind you of some of the living that we did. Does it seem so long ago and far away now? Perhaps our worst fears have come to pass and our memories fail you fast. Hold this letter close, dear Beth, and read it time and again if need be; keep me alive in your mind and do not give in to the passing years. Whilst I write this, and you are there to read my words, the girl that once we were lives still inside us.
Do you still find it sad that the girl we once were took so long to find her life? That was heart-rending and such a waste – but oh, my, she did make up for it, didn’t she! The things that she did; the achievements, the loving, the learning, and all that writing. She seemed always to be writing, that younger Beth, in some kind of desperation to make her mark on the world I suppose. Always with that need to prove our mother wrong.
Do you remember stamping our foot and blurting through angry tears “I am not stupid, I’m NOT!” Why was it that we never met her expectations, no matter what we did or how we triumphed. Never a word of praise, no matter what we did. Not even when we won that prize. Do you recollect that first year of our Open University Degree, when they telephoned to say that there was an Award for the best student on the course and reminisce on the pride we felt on learning that no woman had won the Technology prize before. We were the first. Do you remember the trophy and that big fat cheque; do you recall the beautiful opal ring that came from it. That ring became our Luck Piece; it went to every exam and every job interview and it never, ever failed us.
Do you remember the poem we wrote on the writing course, when we used the ring as inspiration? I have included it with this letter.
I am enclosing that ring with this letter too. The life that we are living here and now as I write does not call for personal adornment and I fear that the ring will be lost if not cared for. I want to be buried with that ring on my finger (making damn certain our twin does not get her acquisitive wee grasp on it), so I am sending it ahead. It is the most precious thing that we have ever owned. When you wear it, remember me as we are now, and as we were when we bought it, that day in Barnard Castle in the last century.
That was the start of it all, really. The time when life began for real. It was only a few years later when we finally stood up to our mother and told her that I was a big girl now and not to be bullied any longer. As I write this letter, it is 26 years since that happened; she still does not speak to me, did she ever welcome us back to her before she died. and did we care, either way, by then?
So, life began in the Thirties and didn’t we let rip! Whoever would have thought a career would come our way, or Academic Honours. Lovers too! Liberation came late in our life but we had such fun being a thoroughly disreputable forty-something. In fact that part of our life was very physical; do you recollect all those hours in the gym, the hills we climbed, the paint-balling day, the army assault course?
The other surprise of our life, at about the same time, was discovering our love of teaching. Wasn’t that a turn up! All those Summer Schools; all those lovely students, so many wonderful people who taught us very much more than we taught them.
Then there was Steven. There we were, being happily single and doing our own thing and suddenly we were tamed. Steve swept into our life so quickly; how could we ever have anticipated what was to come. It was a rocky ride while we waited out his divorce but finally we came to a place of great peace and contentment.
I hope that he is still there, by your side as you read this letter from me, supporting you and loving you as he has always done for me. One of the benefits of taking on a younger man should be that he is still beside one when old age arrives. Don’t be proud, Beth, let him help you with the things that you can no longer manage; you can be so obstinate and independent, but do allow him to show his love by letting him care for you.
As I write this letter, we are in that part of our life where we have fled the rat-race, given up our career and are living on peanuts on a wild Scottish isle. The pension is in sight, though not yet here. We are still young enough to have fun and to love and to learn and that is really all that our life has been about. I want to believe that you are still here, in this home that we forged on our island, perhaps still at your spinning wheel and with Steve at your side. I trust that you are blessed with good health and enough money to get by and to remain independent in that home. Above all else, I hope that we still have our wits about us.
Live well, and be happy
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