Following is my Week One entry to Real LJ Idol, on the topic "saying goodbye." When I find out details about how to vote, I'll share them.
More than a decade ago, I took a cross-country flight. Before I left, I couldn't shake a feeling of foreboding, so I wrote letters to those I cared about, placing them in my safe deposit box. The letters contained things they already knew: that I loved them and that, when I'm gone, they get my stuff.
Of course, as you might have already guessed, my premonition didn't come true, at least not the way I'd feared. Yes, something bad thing did happen. My return flight was delayed due to fog, and I missed my connection in Minneapolis. Being stuck overnight in the Twin Cities wasn't exactly fun, but it's better than death.
If I were going to write such letters today, here's what they might say.
To my husband, The Gryphon:
I love your pancakes. Or, to be more specific, I love the way you tie on the apron my Mom made you (with extra large pockets for grilling utensils), and labor in the kitchen, a look of intense concentration on your face, as if you were defusing a bomb. I love that earnestness you apply to every occupation, whether writing a computer program or playing with the cat.
On our first date, after asking my advice on what to do with your scraggly beard, you stood on my stoop, freshly shaven, holding a bouquet of flowers. I thought, "Wow, this guy's serious." A welcome change from those guys who did to my heart what Gallagher does to watermelons.
Your one fault: you're too hard on yourself. You don't need to be perfect to impress me. You don't have to be rich to rule my world. I love you for yourself: human and flawed, just like me.
You give great backrubs, too.
To my family:
First, let me say I love each and every one of you. Mom, you encouraged me to be independent, to get dirty and keep up with the boys. Dad, you taught me to be proud of my intelligence, to find the bright side of every situation. What on earth were you two thinking?
You destined me to a life of challenging ideas, standing up for my principles, caring about my fellow human. In short, you made me a bully magnet. Decades later, I thank you, because facing down those playground taunts made me who I am today. If I had the chance, I'm sure I'd warp my kids the same way.
Brother, from the days when I stood over your crib and held your hand, we've been close. In fact, you're why I have so many male friends. You taught me biology is not destiny. Guys can be sensitive and artistic as well as manly. Women can be strong and adventurous as well as feminine.
Now that you live in Vermont, though, so many hours away from me in Philly, I hope you don't mind if I've taught other people our in-jokes. For instance, when a limousine rolls by, I'll shout, "It's Rod Stewart!" Then I'll tell whoever's listening how you and I were hanging out in front of a Penn State coffee shop the night Rod Stewart was scheduled to perform on campus. His limousine kept circling the block, so we made signs that said, "We love you, Rod!" Of course, they were nigh illegible, written as they were in ball-point pen on napkins.
That's probably for the best. You see, Rod wouldn't have realized we were joking, and he might have whisked us away to join his cult of fans (the Roddites, if I'm not mistaken).
You and I share so many interests that on holidays, I just buy you things I'd want myself. After all these years, all these changes, we still share that special bond. My final piece of advice to you, brother and good friend: keep the faith and watch out for limos.
Sister, because of our seven-year difference in age, our relationship has changed over the years. In the early days, I was what Mom called "the auxiliary Mommy," watching out for you and (sometimes reluctantly) allowing you to tag along with me and my friends. Today, you give me no-nonsense advice, and I tag along with you and your friends.
We've shared so many great times together, such as the Halloween party where you were Martha Stewart and I was your parole officer. Or the fun we had voguing on the dance floor at my wedding. I still can't believe that, when you're not around me, you're shy.
You stood up against us older siblings when we teased you a little too much; you pushed our family to be honest when it was hardest. You've never hesitated to change course when something wasn't right for you, whether it was boyfriends or careers. If that's not bravery, I don't know what is.
Among my cherished momentos is a note you wrote me when you were a little girl. At the time, I was battling the shame fest that is junior high. You wrote, "Those people who don't like you don't know what fun, laughter, happiness they are missing. Love, your sister. P.S. We love you."
Best. Note. Ever. You're the best, too.
To my pets:
Una, you make a very good Nurse Dog, tending to me when I'm sick, licking my forehead. I really have appreciated your attention, despite the fact that I put my pillow over my face and groan, "Stop."
You have been my most loyal companion, willing to follow me anywhere (except the vet). When I've had bad days, just walking you has taught me to appreciate the simple pleasures: to stop and sniff every telephone pole. Keep being the good doggie you've always been, and stop scratching your butt.
Luke, our kitty, let me simply say, you are fierce. Due to your dilligence, our house is ninja-free. (Ninjas, after all, can disguise themselves as anything, even mice.) You have toned my forearms by draping yourself over my arms while I'm typing. You have scared off all the ninjas in squirrel disguises who have tried to sneak in the windows. I don't know what I would have done without you.
Please keep up the good work. And no, you still can't have a flamethrower.
To my friends:
Last but not least, to all my companions, past and present: Together, we have danced and sung (badly); written skits and performed improv; shared laughter, tears and pizza; run wildly through the rain and sloshed through blizzards; driven cross-country at a breakneck pace; watched and critiqued plays, movies and concerts; run radio shows, newsletters, and a literary magazine; marched in parades and climbed flat surfaces; and imagined ourselves as space adventurers, mad doctors and pirates in a gloriously unending second childhood. Thanks for sharing the best of yourselves in this lucid dream called life.
And if I'm wrong about this premonition, could one of you pick me up in Minneapolis?
Don't wait until it's too late to say what you feel.