My Dearest Bobby,
It’s been almost half a century since we last saw each other or since we shared about our lives and yet I looked for you several years back when I found myself in a new city without friends. How I had missed you! You drove west on a cross-country adventure right after college. You went looking for John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High. I went looking for myself on the little Caribbean Island where my parents were born.
The last time you wrote me, you told me that you finally understood when I spoke to you of my special love for Edward. You wrote that you had found someone extraordinary and felt like you were on cloud nine. “This is the one,” you wrote. I was so happy for you. You deserved to be loved to the max. I never heard from you again; not even when I wrote to tell you of Edward’s unexpected passing. I always wondered about that. Did you get my letter? It was before Facebook, and those things happened. I know if you would have gotten it, you would have reached out. You were always there for me.
Let me tell you that there must be a gazillion Robert J. Smiths on Facebook. I remembered Robert J was a family name on one of the islands of the Canadian Maritime provinces where your parents were from. I tried so many variations to try to filter and convince the algorithms to give you up. Finally a Robert J from New York currently living in the Rocky Mountains! The profile picture was a portrait of one of the presidents. The profile said this Robert J was a computer guy at some Rocky Mountain University, not a famous photojournalist traveling the world in search of a story.
Although this Robert J was not the photojournalist you had dreamed of becoming, there were random sarcastic yet funny comments in reference to some inside joke among your friends. You were always amusing with a sharp wit. The information available on the public profile gave me an indication that I may have found the right person. It seems this Robert J was an activist like my Bobby who inspired and motivated us to march and protest many things while we were in high school. I remember the cold, wet days we spent in front of the local state-run mental hospital to oppose the abuse and demand better community options for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. We recycled and protested about pollution while you documented it with photos for the school paper.
It seemed like this Robert J was also a patron of the arts. I remember how we spent that summer exploring all the little museums in the city. The haunting photos you took at the Cloisters were amazing. It was exciting watching them develop in the makeshift darkroom in your parents’ apartment. Then I saw your smiling face; still looking like a cherub with curly gray hair. Even in the black and white photo, your eyes seemed to sparkle as you sipped from a glass in the back seat of a limo with your wife. She looked nice. I was glad to see you so happy; I didn’t bother with the friend request.
About a year later I tried again. This time it was just one status post update. You were glad it would be your last radiation treatment. You had just started chemotherapy on Brain Cancer Awareness Day. How ironic. So many memories came rushing at me. I said a prayer but didn’t contact you. I wish I had.
Months later around your birthday, I checked a third time, but when nothing new had been posted, I looked for your wife. Did I just become a stalker? I didn’t care; I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. I saw the condolences on her page. So many people were acknowledging how wonderful you were and how you touched their lives. They all loved you as I did. I saw her favorite picture of you that she posted for your birthday. She wanted to reassure her friends that she was coping well and but admitted she missed you so much. I was glad to see she loved you so. It was a professional portrait, and it was how I had imagined you aging with soft gray curls and a neatly trimmed beard. Your mismatched eyes were noticeable, one green, one hazel. They were thoughtful eyes, caring eyes. My sweet Bobby; you found someone who loved you the way I couldn’t. I thank God for her. I wanted to reach out to her and add my condolences as well, but I didn’t.
I still remember you on your birthday and say a prayer. I’m sorry I didn’t love you the way you wanted; the way your parents wanted. I’m glad we were best friends though. I remember the special moments we shared, the decision we made that summer to protect Bernise. I question myself about that choice from time to time, but I am always grateful that you walked beside me as we were growing up.
You are forever in my heart – love me.
Day Eight: Reinvent the Letter Format #everydayinspiration