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 a few years back when I found myself in a new city without friends. Where have all my young friends gone, long time passing?
How I had missed you! You drove west on a cross-country adventure right after college, looking for John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High. I went looking for myself on the little Caribbean Island where my family roots were waiting.
The last time you wrote to me, you told me that you finally understood when I wrote to you about my special love for Edward. You wrote that you had found someone extraordinary as well and felt like you were on cloud nine. “I’m walking on air! 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 and thought it strange. Did you get my letter? It was before Facebook and emails when letters often were lost and neither party knew it. I believe in my heart that if you would have gotten it, you would have reached out. You were always there for me.
Speaking of Facebook, let me tell you that there must be a gazillion Robert J. Smiths on Facebook! You had told me once. that Robert James Smith was a common family name from one of the islands in the Canadian Maritime provinces where your parents were born. I expected many Smiths but I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting so many with that name combination in our age group. I tried many variations to filter my search and convince the algorithms to give you up.
Finally there it was; a Robert J Smith from New York currently living in the Rocky Mountains! The profile picture was a portrait of a past president known as a great social reformer. I knew I had to be on to something, but 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 great story.
Although this Robert J was not the photojournalist you had dreamed of becoming, there were random sarcastic posts and funny tongue-in-cheek comments in reference to some joke among your friends. I remember that you were always amusing with a sharp wit. I kept scrolling on that page. 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 holding signs 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. All the while you documented it with exceptional photos for the school paper.
It seemed like this Robert J was also a patron of the arts and I remembered how we spent that one summer exploring all the little museums in the city because we had already exhausted the larger ones. The haunting photos you took at the Cloisters were amazing. It was exciting watching them develop in the makeshift darkroom in your parents’ apartment.
We enjoyed that summer even if it was just the two of us. All our friends were busy with their own projects or were just not interested in the same things. Bernice approached me once about her insecurities because we were spending so much time together. I remembered assuring her that you loved her and the only reason you kept inviting me was that you being ever the supportive friend, didn’t want me to be alone as I dealt with my recent breakup with Harry.
Suddenly as I scrolled through the photos on that Facebook page, I saw your smiling face; still looking like a cherub with curly gray hair. Even in the black and white photo, your eyes had a sparkle as you sipped from a champagne flute 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 there was just one status update post. You were glad it would be your last radiation treatment. You explained that you had just started chemotherapy on Brain Cancer Awareness Day. So many memories, and some regrets, all 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 the pit of my stomach. I saw the condolences on her page. So many people were acknowledging what a wonderful friend you were and how you touched their lives. They all loved you, as I did. I saw what she said was her favorite picture of you 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 apparent, 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, 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 would have wanted. I’m glad we were best friends though. I’ll always remember the special moments we shared, the decision we made that summer to protect Bernice. I question myself about that choice from time to time and naturally wonder what could have been,.
Of one thing I am certain, I am grateful that I had you to walk beside me as we were growing up and transitioning into adulthood.
Rest in peace my dear one.
You are forever in my heart – love me.
Day Eight: Reinvent the Letter Format #everydayinspiration