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Margaret Churchill's letters to dead husband

I loved you with all my heart

James Churchill's headstone, Mount Hope Cemetery. I couldn’t face it—your dying. Later that day a nurse got in touch with me, and asked if you would like to sell any of your organs. I said no, I want you back whole.
  • James Churchill's headstone, Mount Hope Cemetery. I couldn’t face it—your dying. Later that day a nurse got in touch with me, and asked if you would like to sell any of your organs. I said no, I want you back whole.
  • Image by Dave Allen

DEAR JAMES,

This is the sixth letter I have started to you for I never finished or mailed the one I wrote in 1988. I was too sick to write the year before, and here it is 1993, but this one I will finish. I want to tell you and maybe you can tell your mother if you see her, how responsible I am, along with many others, in your “unwarranted death,” as a lawyer labeled it—I call it “premeditated murder.” Did I maybe help save your life in the beginning to only help take it in the end? Did you die due to my wrong decision, or is it a part of God’s plan, or simply fate? — I don’t know. I will never get over your unnecessary death, and have been sick for more than six years.

Margaret Churchill in her teens. Almost everyone we ever knew are dead now, and I have no one to talk to,

Margaret Churchill in her teens. Almost everyone we ever knew are dead now, and I have no one to talk to,

I met you October 9, 1956, exactly 30 years before you were taken to that horrible hospital. It was on a Tuesday evening at the Blue Note around the corner from my office. It was my first time there, and I had stopped in out of loneliness and because they had a “happy hour.” You, another man, and I were the only ones there.

James Churchill, age four. One of your teachers wanted to adopt you, but your mother said no, even though she had five other children. Did the teacher see in you what I saw?

James Churchill, age four. One of your teachers wanted to adopt you, but your mother said no, even though she had five other children. Did the teacher see in you what I saw?

I think you bought me a drink and asked me to play a game of pool. I said I didn’t know how so you taught me and let me win the game. You were so good you could have played “Minnesota Fats.” You asked me to meet you there the next evening and go to dinner. I had lived in San Diego for six months and you were the second man I had met — if you could call the other one a man. I said I would meet you there. I certainly didn’t go for you, you were so skinny, but there was something terribly nice about you — a nice single man.

Anthony's Seafood Restaurant. Sunday I went to Anthony’s alone. We went once a month for 30 years and you would get this satisfied look on your face eating your clam chowder.

Anthony's Seafood Restaurant. Sunday I went to Anthony’s alone. We went once a month for 30 years and you would get this satisfied look on your face eating your clam chowder.

The next day a friend came into town from Los Angeles, called me at the office and asked me to go to dinner. (Isn’t that always the way.) I am not one to stand anyone up, but I didn’t know how to call you — and you were so skinny. So I went to Lubach’s with him, never thinking I would ever see you again. As “fate would have it,” I ran into you again the next evening. I had walked out from town after work to visit a woman I had met who I heard was dying from cancer, and there you were in line at a movie theatre to buy a ticket. I walked up to you and said “I’m sorry about last night,” and you said in the sweetest voice I have ever heard, “Oh, that’s all right.” When I came down from the room — which was almost right away for the woman was so sick and didn’t want visitors — there you were sitting in the lobby waiting for me. It was so sweet of you, and we went for a drink around there and I guess we started dating from then on.

You were the dearest person I have ever met and my best friend for 30 years, besides being my boyfriend, girlfriend (I never had a best one, you know), my sweetheart, husband. My father, brother, son, and the person I have loved most in the world. At first there was my mother, father, and older sister (who treated me like her daughter) and then you in my heart. Now, dear, it is you above all others, for doesn’t the Bible say, “to forsake all others”?

When I first met you, you gave me a music box that played “Always,” and you signed birthday and Christmas cards to me, “Always” and under that your full signature, James O. Churchill. I never liked your two first names, James and Oscar — you were named for your father — but I do now. At first I called you “Jimmie” for you were so thin and seemed like a boy. Later you became “Jim” until I loved you with all my heart and I gave you an endearing name, “Jamie.” You said you were English, Scottish, and putting your finger alongside your handsome nose, you said, “and a little Jewish.” I don’t know what you meant by that, but you were a little French too. I know you as a very nice English gentleman. I read we probably all came from the Celts. Who knows?

My sister said to bring someone with me for Thanksgiving dinner. I told her I only knew two men, and would bring the best: you. You always smelled so good. A nice gentleman with perfect table manners. I loved having dinner with you. On my birthday you took me to the Cotton Patch, and being New Year’s Eve, the waitress looked aghast when you asked her if the piano player would play “Happy Birthday” for me. Of course he didn’t — you with your white face and me a nobody — a couple of nobodies, they thought. Somehow we made it through 1956.

You were 38 when I met you, and had dark reddish-brown hair and big, dark-brown, honest eyes that cried in your white face. You were so skinny that I finally decided you should see a doctor. So we went to one you had played cards with. He immediately had you admitted for you had an advanced stage of tuberculosis. After a week they moved you up to the Veterans Hospital where you spent the next ten months.

I didn’t get up to see you much — once in a while on a Sunday. But I did write you often during the week for I knew you were lonely as no one else ever came to see you. One day writing to you on my lunch hour with no one else around the office, I shouted out, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” And wrote it in the letter for I was thinking of you (and I sincerely hope you do). I have never been a Bible person, so I don’t know why this came out, but there was something so good about you, and I hoped you would. One time I came to see you, you told me you had slipped in the shower, and one time that a black man in that huge room had given you a bad time. I worried about you. The next time I came, you hopped around the bed in the cute little way you had for you had something to show me. You had knitted three shawls for therapy and they were pretty. A light blue one that I sent to your mother, and I kept the yellow one and wore it some, and the black one I had for years. You were always so happy to give.

On Thanksgiving 1957, I came up even though I had the flu and felt terrible. (I had the flu real bad a week before they murdered you.) When I got to the hospital you had already been served an early lunch. I had planned to eat with you but there was no food left for me. Nor could I find anything when I left the hospital for it was late. I stopped in a bar next to the bus station and had a beer, but they had nothing left to eat. I might have had a couple crackers. It was such a foggy night but everyone was having fun and made me laugh. I felt pretty lousy when I got home.

When I first met you we drove up the coast one evening, and coming home you drove out on one of the beaches and asked me to marry you. You started asking the second week I met you for about 20 years. We drove over to Yuma one day—I really wanted to see the prison, but we just stopped for a beer. You asked me to marry you there and said you thought that is why we came. I guess you had married your second wife there. I realize now that I must have been the only woman you had ever asked to marry you. Driving home late at night we had a flat tire on the desert, and I didn’t want you to fix it for you were just out of the hospital. Lucky you, a nice-looking young man coming from the other direction stopped and fixed it for you and wouldn’t take any money. Think how it would be nowadays, honey. One wouldn’t think of talking to a stranger for fear of being shot and robbed. But God seemed sometimes to take pretty good care of you.

I just didn’t want to get married, dear. I had made one silly mistake and the court gave me my name back so I didn’t want to change it again. And you had made two stupid mistakes, costing you dearly. You would say, “With your first name and my last name — it would be a pretty name.” Yes, dear, it is pretty and I love it. The first time we drove over to Las Vegas together we stayed next to the Chapel of the Bells, I think, and you asked me to marry again. I almost did that time, and I wish I had for it would have made you so happy. I wanted to but always told you I would marry during Leap Year.

We stopped at Jean, Nevada, on the way over as I just had to put some nickels in a slot machine. The bartender there at the little restaurant asked us to come see him ride in a rodeo that Sunday. We said we would and we did. Alone we might not have seemed to be anything but together we were a nice pair. You met a doctor-gambler friend at the Golden Nugget who told us his girlfriend had just recently been killed in an auto accident, and would we go with him to a show that night. We saw Billy Daniels and he sang “That Old Black Magic.” We had great seats and I loved it.

When we started home I had you stop at all the large casinos so I could walk through and not miss a thing. There were not all that many on the strip then, but I wanted to look at all the carpets and beautiful chandeliers. Now, after all these years, I realize they all look alike—almost. You were bored going but you could never say no to me — in fact, it was hard for you to say no to anyone. We usually went in October and when we got to Escondido the fog had come in and we could hardly see coming around that mountain. I thought surely we would run into it on my side, and I kept urging you to drive out more on the left. You wouldn’t and didn’t and of course you were right for we would have gone over the edge. In fact, dear, you were usually right about everything—if only I had just listened to you.

In the hospital the Veterans of Foreign Wars petitioned a small pension for you ($66.15) as you had been two years on a minesweeper during WWII. Of course, you had no way to make a living for ten months so it bought your incidentals, but you refused it when you left the hospital. (I would have too, although I said to you, “It would have bought your cigarettes.”) I wondered about the 15 cents.

It might have been better had you been killed serving the Navy than what you went through later on. The head of the Veterans told me that the work on a minesweeper was hard. I guess they saw you coming, and I wondered how you did it. You were not a large man and your feet didn’t match so I wondered how you had made it through boot training—by not complaining, I guess. Imagine laying mines to maim and kill men! I abhor war and would have had nothing to do with an ex-serviceman had you not been so sweet. You could not walk very fast, not like the man Jesus who walked those 12 men all over the desert. One book I read said it was stated that he glided. You must have hated that two years for you preferred being with a woman. Now Jesus, he seemed to prefer the company of men.

I don’t know where you picked up tuberculosis for sure, but you didn’t have it when they drafted you for the Navy, of this I am sure. They were hard up when they took a man with three small boys to provide for — were they all yours, honey? I know the middle one (Winston) was for he looked like you, but I only saw him the one time. John Wayne had four children and he didn’t have to go to war. Your lungs might have been weakened on that ship, but you probably got TB from your second wife for she had it, and she never worked a day in her life. I don’t know which of you wanted the divorce during the war—you or your first wife who married an older man who did raise the boys. I imagine the second wife lured you away from her here in San Diego, or she got you on the rebound. She carried a Bible like your mother so you thought she was nice. I know you are a “one-woman” man.

Before you left the hospital a commander’s wife, a volunteer, taught you to play golf and you weren’t bad. She liked you too, I am sure. Funny thing, they told you never to take an aspirin but never mentioned that you should stop smoking, although it never seemed to hurt you. You never had any colds or lung trouble, but I always thought you would die of lung cancer. I never thought you would be murdered in a lousy hospital. Three years after this, my sister Peg died of lung cancer and she didn’t smoke! She always had throat trouble after they took out her tonsils when she was around ten. She always had strep throat after that. You mentioned you liked her, dying that night.

When you came from the hospital you went to your cousin’s house who had two teenage daughters. She made us the best coconut cake one time as we both loved it, but she only lived here a short time as it was hard to find a steady job. She really didn’t have room for you, and besides you know how scared people from the South are about diseases. So, after a couple of nights you came to me at my little old duplex. You hated to come there, I know, and I was surprised and embarrassed for the owner lived right next door. I guess he thought I had planned it. I had never had a man about before (except that stupid five-month marriage of mine). I kept trying to hide you for a while, but Mr. Strong didn’t say anything. (Once I lived across from a girl in an apartment and she told me later her boyfriend lived with her for six months — I never ever saw him!) I guess you didn’t have any money for you hadn’t made any for ten months, but I didn’t think about that. I didn’t charge you rent for three months until you started making a little and then you paid me back. I am thinking now that you really shouldn’t have had to do anything for a while. Life has never been easy for you, has it, dear?

I worked always and you beat your brains out seven days and seven nights to make a living. Sometimes we were like ships passing in the night. I would be leaving for work and you would be coming in. We always got along well together (who couldn’t get along with you?) and the only friction was one night when I was doing the dishes you came in and said you were going up to Los Angeles to buy someone’s car. I said, “I don’t want you to have anyone’s secondhand car,” pushing you. And you pushed me back saying, “I’m going to buy the car,” and you did and it was a pretty nice car. But I had always wanted you to have a brand-new car all your own. You never did, dear. Once in a while when you knew you were right, you fought back. You had been pushed around all your life, and sort of expected it, but you knew who you were, and it hurt. No one really knew who you were until you met me. I saw it all, but I did nothing about it — too late.

All you ever wanted was a little house, a baby girl (ours) — you had three boys, I guess, and a dog. You didn’t say a big or a small dog, but I said if we ever had one it would be a French poodle. I’m sorry, honey, I wanted a big house, would probably have had boys, and I never really wanted a dog. Besides you can’t have a dog in an apartment.

I wanted you to have family since neither of us had any. Your sister had died young and they sent you a picture of her in her casket. Oh my God! I thought you would faint. It really upset you for you were so afraid of death — had you been there before, dear? It was years later, seeing the play The Wake of Jamie Foster I realized in the South they actually do take pictures of their dead in coffins.

Your niece came out here, a delicate-looking blonde, but strong like you, honey. She worked as a waitress and got in with the wrong crowd and had a baby. I never liked her, but she called you one day saying she was moving and “Would you take her baby for a few days?” We picked the baby up and she was just beginning to crawl. All babies are cute, but this doll was beautiful. Perfectly formed, with golden-blonde hair and huge robin-egg blue eyes. Her name was Robin. When we got her home I had to change her diaper — my first time ever, and she was so sick. I can’t think of anything that ever smelled worse, unless it is the breath of this TV man who stole my 25-inch Sylvania not too long after you were gone. I put Robin on a clean sheet in the living room and tried to fix a bite to eat, but she kept crawling out to the kitchen, looking up at me with those wonderful eyes.

I bought baby food and baby aspirin, and gave her one, when I probably should have taken her to a doctor, but we knew no doctors. Right or wrong, she perspired and her blonde hair became golden ringlets on her neck. I didn’t know where to put her that night for she might fall off the sofa, so I held her on my chest all night. She slept like a baby, but I don’t think I closed an eye. Once you woke up and looked back over your shoulder to see what was happening. That night I wished she had been yours. When I came home from the store the next morning you had her on your lap and were feeding her. You looked up at me with your angelic face as if asking me if it was okay. Yes, honey, it was, and all children liked you. You were constantly waving to and calling my attention to babies. All dogs loved you, too.

You told me your father died before you were born so you never got to know him. He had drunk some water on a job and got typhoid fever, so you said. I thought that was kind of dumb. His last request was for a sweet potato. You told me of an old superstition in Mississippi the women had told you when you were a child— that something bad would happen to anyone who never got to see his father. This seemed to worry you some, but I never thought it would really happen. I just passed it off as an old wives’ tale or a Southern superstition. You wanted me to know. You tried to tell me a little about yourself whenever I had time to listen. Somehow, I feel you had never been able to tell anyone else.

You told me you had to go in early to school every morning to fill the stove up with coal. I suppose you swept up, too, for your stepfather made a janitor out of you, made you believe you were a nothing, probably from the age of 2 to 16. You weren’t asking for sympathy by telling me, you just wanted someone you loved to know. One of your teachers wanted to adopt you, but your mother said no, even though she had five other children. Did the teacher see in you what I saw? She would have seen that you finished high school and maybe even college. You were intelligent and willing to learn, and could add two-and-two faster in your head than I could on paper, and I am an accountant. If you heard a new word you always asked me what it meant, and if I didn’t know we would look it up in the dictionary. You spoke so elegantly, and your spelling was so good — probably learned from your grandfather, who was a teacher. Oh well, you died bravely, education or not.

If you had died an ordinary death I could accept it, but you didn’t. If you had a heart attack like my brother-in-law did at age 52,1 could say, “C’est la vie. ” Had you died as a child they could have said, “He was too good for this world” (how true). Or if you had died of lung cancer, and I had to see you suffer and die (Oh, Lordy, did I ever see you suffer and die), but you didn’t get a chance to die naturally.

It had been ten years since you had seen your mother and you mentioned her so much. I knew you were lonely, so I suggested you go visit her and stop at Houston on the way home to see your half brother, not realizing you hadn’t seen him since you were 17 except during WWII when you had met out on the ocean. It would break up your trip and everyone needs family, I thought. We needed our own family.

Your brother was living with this girl who later became his second wife after they moved to Phoenix, I guess. They came over to see us once in a while for she loved San Diego, and we drove over to see them twice. She was a beautiful woman with black hair, and she told me her father was French and her mother Indian.

In their own way they are good people, I guess. He had a college education and his own business. It was okay when they came but we only had a one-bedroom duplex, and honestly, we could not afford the expensive drinks they ordered when we went out. We went to Tijuana one night so many years ago, and had our picture taken at a nightclub, those silly expensive things, and everyone looked pretty good. I took a pen later and scratched through my face for I thought, “What am I doing here?” A premonition — for it all seemed so wrong somehow.

Then his wife started bringing someone with her to show San Diego. A daughter, a son by her first marriage. But one weekend they brought this man friend with them who was something else. He was so crude and told us of an employee who had stolen from him. She said, “If anyone stole from me I would chop off his toes.” And I believe she meant it.

The second time you drove back to see your mother, she asked you to come and drive her to the next little town to see her “first beau” whose wife had died of cancer. (Honey, everyone used you.) They soon married and lived happily for ten years. He had a general store and a son she helped raise. You told me once how your stepfather always made your mother chop the wood. You must have been a little tyke at the time, and it must have hurt you terribly. You loved her so much and you have great respect for all women.

You stopped at Houston again and they took you to Galveston and Dallas (I was a little jealous). I did get to Dallas last year — poor Lee Harvey Oswald who got blamed for killing President Kennedy. You had a flat on the freeway again, just out of Barstow. You were the best driver I have ever known, but you knew so little about keeping a car healthy. How we both love this city — you have been in every nook of it and I have been in every cranny, and we ate in all the best places before there were so many new restaurants. You were a gourmet eater and would have it no other way. I tried to eat whatever I paid for. I used to say to you, “Eat, eat, eat,” like my dad always said to me for he thought that made for good health (you are what you eat)! He grew his own vegetables, and maybe it is important. You always knew when to stop eating, though, and ate very little — maybe that is why you were always slender with no stomach. You were beautiful and had pretty legs for a man.

You took your boot training here is how you got here, and lived here for more than 40 years before you were murdered, and I have lived here for more than 35 years — this is our home. It was a sleepy little “Navy town” when I came, with three tall buildings: Bank of America, Medico-Dental Building, and then the El Cortez. We saw it grow into a big city, but honey, you should see it now. In the last five years there is so much more going on. We are the sixth largest city now, and I wonder how it will be in the year 2000. I hope someday they will have cleaner streets (gosh, I don’t mind sweeping up) and gangs off the streets. Can you see it, honey? All the new buildings over where you wanted to teach me how to drive one night, and the police came up and said, “What is wrong?” and “Don’t teach her here.”

Remember where you used to stop and talk to the little dog in the yard by the alley? They finally moved that house and built a new apartment there. Remember when I drug you on my week’s vacation I earned at the police department? I told you if you took me by way of the Grand Canyon that I would give you money to play with at Las Vegas. You were never interested in seeing things as I guess you always had that worry of making a living. When we got there you said, “Well, there it is,” You must have been terribly tired from driving for when we started down that deserted, long road you said, “Here, you drive.” So I moved over and took the wheel for I could steer real good, but I had always been scared of stopping — afraid I would kill someone, ha! You said, “Slow down, honey,” for I was doing 80. When we got to Vegas I handed you $10 and you never said a word! I wasn’t trying to be cute or take you. I didn’t know any better for that is all I ever lost in the nickel slots at the Golden Nugget—then. It used to be so much fun winning a little and putting it back (once I won $50). Now I always lose $100 and don’t ever have any fun. When I returned to work the woman behind me said, “And did you take a burro ride down into the canyon?” I sheepishly said no. (In civil service they have these older workers watch the new employees — how do they get any work done, I wonder.)

You told me once that when you were just a boy a black man (we called them ni--ers then, now it is African-American, and that is okay for I always refer to myself as a French-American. I guess we can’t help being what we are, but we can help how we act), anyhow he offered you $5 to take down your pants (how it must have looked to a kid who had never been given anything). I didn’t ask you if it was front or back (you know how I am), but I assume the front, and he did this to you and then ran away without giving you the money. How you disliked blacks and homosexuals from then on. I would say to you, “Honey, they are people, too.” I had a homosexual boss once and he was a doll. Maybe they learned it from the apes in the beginning, I don’t know, but the monks and servicemen do it, or so I have read. It sure plays havoc with the lives of women. There are not enough good men to go around as it is, and only married men seem interesting. You are the only single man I have ever known who was extremely nice and had something on the ball. Even that gal I lived with for two months said, “Why don’t you marry Jim, he is a nice guy.” She is the type who would say guy, and she took me for almost a month’s rent with a bad check.

Right after I met you, you managed to be where I came out of work one afternoon and you asked me if I would go with you to buy a pair of shoes. You hated to try on shoes as much as I hated to shop for and try on dresses (I could never make a decision). I said, “Sure,” and I could swear that you had two chubby feet then that matched. But in the years to come when I always went with you to buy your shoes, you had one chubby foot and one long flat foot! Was that because they broke one when they nailed you to the cross?

You never complained when you couldn’t keep up with me walking, only saying, “Do you have to walk so fast?” I’m sorry, honey, I just wasn’t thinking. Maybe having TB slowed you down a bit, too. You rarely walked, and not ever far. Remember how they broke your shoulder in the Navy, wrestling? Those characters, trying to make everyone tough. These silly war games.

It has been a time of strife for me too. Seeing what they did to you in that hospital tore me up. The years you have been gone have been like a “famine” in the Bible. Seven years of bad luck and grief, not from bad crops, locusts, or the weather. Not from wars (I didn’t even worry about the last one we had). People caused us our troubles — what they did to you, to us. I love you, Jamie, always.

You were a replica of Red Skelton. Actually, you resembled a smaller John Wayne. I don’t know why but I think that all the redheads I have ever known think they have to entertain to be liked. I used to say to you, “Honey, you don’t have to be funny — just be yourself and people will love you as I do,” and the good people who knew you did. Redheads seem to think they are different, but what is the difference? Blonde, brunette, redhead, and freckles are cute, not that you had any. You had the rusty-colored hair of the Spenders, as Prince Charles said of his first son.

It is dark and looks like it might rain today, and I am glad I stayed home from my class. You are here with me and I can see your sweet face peeking around the corner of the kitchen. When you were gone, honey, I couldn’t believe it, and wouldn’t believe it — used in a hospital. You never came home again, and never blamed me for it. The winter of 1986-’87 was the coldest, dreariest, darkest weather we have ever had since I have lived out here. I was so sick that I thought I would die, especially on Sundays — the day we always had together. I missed you terribly, but the horrid part was what they had done to you. They abused you for 60 days and ruined every part of your body — you who had always been so healthy. I wished I could die, but instead I almost lost my mind.

Gee, honey, how we both hated sickness in any form. I think that was part of our attraction for each other. Of course, you had TB but that was not really your fault, that was not really you, and you never had a recurrence. When I first met you I saw you sick for a day — you didn’t say anything (I just bet when you were growing up that you were never allowed to be sick for a day, and that is why you could never complain when you got older). I saw you were sick so I fixed your breakfast and brought it to you, told you not to move from that bed all day as I had to go to work (I would never have thought of taking off a day). Your big brown eyes just looked at me. Hadn’t anyone ever cared, ever, dear? You probably had never been to a doctor outside of the Navy. I was so good to you, but I wish I had been better. I guess you loved me because I was good to you, and I loved you because you were good.

Neither of us ever complained about being sick or anything, really. I couldn’t get you to take half an aspirin the few times you told me you had “a little headache” because you weren’t supposed to. Now I think, “Why didn’t I think to buy you some other headache pill?” The paramedics were probably surprised when they checked the medicine cabinet and refrigerator for pills. All they found was a daily vitamin pill, Bayer aspirin, and an old bottle of Mercurochrome that I had for 25 years. On the bottle it said 25$ and we still used it for cuts. You always laughed about it — that we still used it.

When I cut up my pictures, especially the ones of me, I knew that small duplex was getting to me (I cannot be fenced in). I went to my brother’s home in Corpus Christi for a couple months, I think, and worked a few days in oil company offices and then got a nice job as a bookkeeper for the Boy Scouts. But my heart wasn’t in it, and you kept calling me and I knew you were so lonely, and I missed you. I thought, “All I want to do is go home and have Jim take me to a movie.” I think you only took me to two movies after that for you had grown up and I had not. My brother even drove me to dances three nights where you had to take your own bottle and buy setups. I even had three rides home, one good-looking and young, another a Navy officer and older, and just an ordinary man about my age. My brother (who had never liked me as a kid) was being awfully nice to me. When I made a date with this man he said, “He would be a nice man for you.” Ha! I knew better. I missed you and I missed San Diego so I came home. I thought you needed me, not knowing how much I needed you.

You told me once you used to hitch a ride to your grandparents’ house when you were a kid and your stepfather had been extremely mean to you, and you stayed because you just had to see your mother again. I heard every word you said, dear, but I never asked what this man did to you when you came home and probably hadn’t done your chores. I didn’t ask and I really don’t want to know. You told me the other time that your grandmother said, “She liked you best.” I’m sure she did, dear, and she was probably the only one who could show you any love at all at that time. I loved you big, better, best, honey. In fact, I love you very much.

You probably lived with your mother’s parents until maybe the age of two when she married her second husband. It’s so sad that a woman has to put up with meanness from a man or marry him for support. She had three little ones and I guess that is a challenge for a bachelor, but he must have been a very mean man for what he did to you, and he only apologized to you when you were in your early 20s and came home once to see your mother. It was too late then, wasn’t it, honey? You called him “Mr. Jordan” all your life. Did he have a first name?

This all happened in the long ago, but he did try to “make out” with your two older sisters so they probably married young to get out of there. I guess this happened a lot back then, and in fact, still does. Incest I guess you call it, and I just wondered if he tried it on his own daughter — probably not. All the beatings you took. I never knew meanness from my parents, only one time when I was 12, I guess, and having my “period,” and my mother must have been 54 and going through the “change,” and I was in the kitchen helping her with the meal. She told me to do something and I must have sassed her back. She hauled off and slapped me hard across the face and I nearly cried. It hurt, but mostly to think that I had hurt her. I never talked back to her again.

You are my life, of course — the important part of it, and I think I am yours. I found a sticker that said, “Happy Childhood, Happy Christmas.” Honey, was your childhood the best part of your life — being with your mother, riding a horse bareback, skinny-dippin’, going fishing? You always said to me, “Let’s go fishing,” so I got us fishing licenses, but we never had the time to use them. I know you wanted to enjoy life a little, relax a bit. Even with all the probable beatings, abuse and slights — a child can forget for a while, but the die was cast, and it hurts real bad to be abused when you are grown.

I was just talking to a “Humanist” (that’s what you had at your funeral to give the “eulogy,” but I am sure he didn’t give the one I wrote). You, a dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptist all those years, had this man to put you away. Actually, I guess I am a Humanist myself, if anything, for I believe in me, us, people. But two weeks later this man took me for $25 to listen to my story— he said it would be more if I wasn’t a senior citizen. I was so sick and knew not who to talk to, not being a Christian, you see. He said it was quite a story, if true. It is all true. I told him about your eyes when I walked in that morning and they had already been killing you behind my back.

Anyhow, this nice Humanist on the phone said his brother had also been given this operation they “performed” on you (he had diabetes and died, too). His wife sued the doctor to “get him off the streets.” We have to get rid of this guy who forced you into this operation, too. I know he forced you for you told me so, and I could see it in your eyes. Did he pound on your broken right ankle? Did they hold you down like they did a month later? I know you only fought when you were right and pushed too far. When another lady’s husband died of the same operation— this was on TV — she sued and got a million. They had gone ahead and done the operation even though a machine had broken down. So, she got money, but I want more than that.

Honey, my sister Ann died February 1, 1990 (gad, it takes me a long time to write you a letter). She died of a massive heart attack, at age 86 1/2. I might have killed her for I sent her a card I had, not thinking of a group of five people I loved who had died. Or it might have been her two ex-sisters-in-law who had bribed her into signing a will leaving everything to them. They bribed her with the threat of not bringing her milk, cereal, and orange juice for her breakfast. You would have liked her and she you. Everyone liked Ann, but you never got to meet her. Your mother died at age 89 and would have lived much longer had she not broken her hip. All your aunts and uncles are still alive and they are in their late 80s and early 90s. You would have lived a long while yet for it is in the genes. We had planned on ten more years. I don’t think you would have had a heart attack as they threatened you with to do the operation. Even if it had happened, it is the best way to go, I think.

Those phonies. When they had taken you back down to intensive care again and had you hooked up to some kind of a machine, and this internist came in (he and the surgeon were so mean to you) and excitedly said, “Oh, his heart is fine now,” this very experienced nurse whispered to me, “I never knew there was ever anything wrong with his heart.” All the staff at the hospital— everyone knew what was going on. What a gang of money-grabbing, lying doctors they were, working with this surgeon who had pulled this trick before with a different crew. I hope you never forgive them, dear—I won’t, ever. We can’t send them to hell for there is no such place, and they will never get to heaven either, for there is no such place.

This lovely, nice lady I met got me going to her Baptist church for two years. I went because of her and I liked this little French preacher they had, until he kept talking about the Catholics and homosexuals so much. Well, I don’t like them too much either, but I hardly thought the pulpit was the place to put them down. My friend kept trying to get me to go down that aisle and join the church. No way, there has always been too much of this church crap in the world. When that preacher left the church, I left.

Speaking of gays — we have a gay church here. Wouldn’t they get sick of looking at just men all the time? I would get sick of looking at just women.

Anyhow, my friend drove me home one Sunday morning and asked me if I believed in hell. I couldn’t believe it! I could tell she was really wondering — this intelligent, moneyed woman. Of course, the church had put that crap in her head. Just quickly going through the phone book I counted at least 50 different denominations or church sects. Isn’t that silly? If there were a god he would be one and the same for us all. The Jews have tried to make everyone believe ever since the written word was printed that they are God’s chosen people (ha!) and that Palestine-Israel is the holy land, set aside for them alone (ha!). I wish you could have seen that spot on the desert — what a farce. If God had wanted a holy land he probably would have chosen Hawaii?

You have to give the Jews credit for using their brain and doing some thinking (and others too). The people in that part of the world lived so close to the heavens and stars, shepherds “watching their flock by night,” looking up, wondering about it all. But it is sad when they tell stories and make up all this without knowing.

I resent the fact that I prayed faithfully to this “God” every night for ten years, not knowing who he was, only taking someone else’s word for it.

Honey, you always wanted to talk, and I am just full of it this morning. Sunday I went to Anthony’s alone (of course, you were with me). We went once a month for 30 years and you would get this satisfied look on your face looking at the ocean, eating your clam chowder (which I have never tasted), and I guess the fish felt good in your tummy. We always put the best food from our plates on each other’s plates.

Oh, I forgot to say “Happy Valentine’s Day,” and they are playing “Dear Heart” on the radio. I would never let you buy me any flowers — you would say, “They were selling them out there tonight” — I wish I had let you buy them for it would have given you so much pleasure. You always plucked me one when we passed a bush, and I would say, “Don’t do that” — but I loved it.

Your father must have left some kind of a farm, but you were a slave to your stepfather until you turned 17 and he put you out on your own. You said one time he suggested a race between you and your half brother to see who could chop down the most cornstalks in a row. I guess you got there first, being a little older, but the other kid, being anxious, reaching for the last stalk, cut your hand. Who but someone with a warped mind could have thought of that game? You didn’t get your inheritance either, did you, sweetie? Your uncles told me you should have been included in the estate, but they cut the pie in three slices only. They said something about a lot of land and you said something about there being a lot of valuable trees on it. You didn’t get a legacy like that preacher is leaving his son in Garden Grove, ha!

Remember when I took the day off from work when John Kennedy was assassinated? I was always such a fool, always going to work even if I was sick, but something told me to stay home that day. We had the TV on and saw the whole thing. My sister was there and she wondered why I was so upset. I cried over you once when you were murdered, too, honey. I never cry anymore — hardly even laugh.

Remember when I first came out here and we used to go for a steak now and then, and you took me to the Golden Lion when it was on El Cajon Boulevard. I had on my long mink coat I had brought with me for I had yet to get used to the climate. A man in one of the booths crawled over to us on his knees, stuck out his hand, asking for alms. The waitress said, “Oh, don’t you know who that is?” It turned out to be Frank Rhoades, a top reporter on the San Diego Union. He was making fun of me because I had on my fur coat out here.

Remember when two different times I took a girlfriend along to dinner with us because they were lonely? Later you said to file, “Could we just go alone, you and I?” They had talked your head off; I guess they thought you were kind of cute.

The only time I ever drug you out to the Mother Goose Parade, Frankie Laine was the grand marshal. He spied you and waved — I guess you had played cards up in Los Angeles with him. He now has a shoe drive at Christmas and after two years of just sitting here, I turned in your only good pair of shoes, “Pierre Cardin,” which you saved to wear on Sundays. Well, I finally grew up for I don’t go to parades anymore, although I did get to the Rose Parade one year, and it was beautiful. I wanted you to go but you said no, so I met a single woman on the bus so we sat together and had dinner.

You gave me a small key when I first met you and said, “This is the key to my heart.” It had a small picture of the world on it that I didn’t notice at first (you know how I am), but I kept it always on my key chain. Funny thing, after you didn’t come home, I kept finding keys broken in half — even in all that dirt in India, I spied one walking back to the hotel. One of the keys was way out in the middle of the street and I went out and got it. You have the key to my heart too, honey. You are with me daily and will be always.

In 1986 the apartment was burglarized and they took your change, over $1000 coin collection that you had been saving since 1957. It was a pleasure to see you wrapping the coins and it was one of your almost daily routines. It must have been heavy to carry for you had them in two shoeboxes, and it had to be two small boys or at least one small man with another, for they came in through the bathroom window by breaking a small hole in the screen. I had gone out to dinner at 8:00 p.m. and came home at 10:00 p.m. and found the front door standing wide open (I knew I had locked it when I left). I snapped on the light by the door, set my Chinese food down, and checked the kitchen. Somehow I was afraid to enter the bedrooms so I went to the first apartment where there was a light on. The young lady there called 911 and three cops came immediately. While one stood at the back gate the other two with drawn guns entered the bedrooms. They saw the cut screen and the coins thrown on the bed they hadn’t taken as they didn’t know what they were, or they would be too easily identified. You came home a little later and I said, “Don’t be upset because it’s only money.” You didn’t say a word but it hurt.

That too was partly my fault for I left the bathroom window open just a wee bit because of your cigarette smoke, but it was a high window and I never thought of a robbery, although I had always been home on Thursday night before to watch Simon and Simon. The lady living next door told me later they had tried to open her bedroom window but she heard them so turned up the TV. She heard them, she said, in the back (but thought it was the gas man, ha!), and then she heard noise when they came in the window (it was my bath brush dropping in the tub). But she still didn’t call the police — scared, I guess. She grows beautiful roses in her small yard, though. They took your money and $10 from my dresser drawer I had laying in plain sight as I owed it to you and meant to pay you. They were going through everything until they heard the young lady next door come home at 9:00 p.m. The police told me to go to stores in the neighborhood to see if a lot of coins were being spent. I went to 12 stores and met a nice Chinese man and an Italian man who had his coin collection worth around $4000 taken — he was mad. I realize the police has no time for checking these kind of things for they have to spend all their time arresting all these people who use drugs. This was about the time though that everything started going bad for us.

The birds are still singing around here, especially at 6:00 a.m. Remember I used to say, “Hear the birds, Jamie?” and you did. That one bird knows eight different songs and a man on a trip told me once it was a mockingbird. I was surprised as I thought they were only in the Deep South (I guess we are in the Deep South in a way). He sits on the telephone wires and sings right to me (I think) when I go out to do the laundry. I say, “I hear you, Jamie.” Remember that morning you were shaving and you started whistling, mocking birds? I guess you learned to do that when you were a boy on the farm.

Remember when we bought those shoes that Sunday afternoon, the ones you had on when you slipped, in the rain and broke your ankle? I took you to Streichers first, then we crossed the mall and found a pair $10 cheaper (me and my shopping for bargains). You went ga-ga over them for they were made in Italy and I guess you were thinking of a former girlfriend. They were good shoes though and you wore them a lot, and had them on the Sunday we went to the butcher shop for a steak. When we came out it had rained a little, and you know how the roads and streets get so slick here, and going down the ramp to your car you slipped, but being the gentleman that you are, you had hold of my arm helping me so you only went down to your knees. I said, “Don’t ever wear those shoes in the rain,” and I almost threw them away one day and I wish I had (wonder what gives us these little warnings?), for had I done so you would not have broken your ankle and you would have been up out of that hospital bed before they could say, “Jack Robinson,” for you would have fought them off. So many little things started happening to us — if only I had taken heed.

They put Sagon Penn back in jail again a few years ago for domestic disturbance that was probably rigged. Look what a bad thing happened to that young man’s life late one Sunday afternoon. He seems to be a gentle man, just like you. Being young, he might have had a temper. I went to his trial one day and sat on the “black” side for I felt his life had been so terribly ruined by a “misunderstanding” cop.

So many things have changed in such a short time. Still, so many things always stay the same. The owners put bars on the windows (after the burglary), double-lock screen doors (that don’t work), smoke detectors in, and honey, you should see the new linoleum in the kitchen and bath.

It is two months since Xmas and the year will go so fast, and soon, my dear, my life will end too. But could you come home for the next eight years so I could see you now?

I thought of going over to the hospital at 11:00 p.m., but I knew they would not let me in at that hour. However, I should have tried. When I got over the next morning fully expecting to see you with the respirator back on (for I knew it is illegal in California), I was going to call the V.A. to pick you up immediately. They sure owed you a lot, they owe you your life. You were lying slantwise on the bed, on your back, of course, and I saw you on a cross then, for your arms were both outstretched. The six of them were standing around your bed looking like vultures.

Passing the elevator I thought of the day when the “big six” had gone out to lunch, and when I passed the elevator the door opened and they were all laughing — having a good time — while you were so sick. They ate on your money, too.

I couldn’t face it—your dying. Later that day a nurse got in touch with me, and asked if you would like to sell any of your organs. I said no, I want you back whole. I had nothing to do with your funeral for they had planned it all that week before you died. They were going to bury you, dead or alive. I almost didn’t go to the funeral parlor and when I did I saw you alive in your casket. You had fought death all the way. I started coughing and left the room as I could not face it.

The Monday after they buried you, it rained all day and I took an umbrella and walked all over town. I have always hated to get wet because of my throat, but I was so miserable and felt so guilty over your murder. I saw a young man, probably on his lunch hour, slip on the wet street and he stepped in a doorway to look down at his heels. They were the hard leather kind like you had on when you slipped and broke your ankle. This was a deciding point in your death.

My girlfriend called and said that Melvin Belli was in town to sign books at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich bookstore (she saw it on TV that morning). She thought I should get him as a lawyer. (She wanted the best for you, too.) I rushed down and was the second one in line (the first lady bought two books). But I told him I just wanted to talk to him a minute when he had a break. I also had written a letter to him explaining about your murder. He took the letter and told me to call him at his office the next morning in San Francisco, which I did. It was nice of him to read the letter, but of course he wasn’t interested in taking the case, and now I realize why.

These are our “golden years,” dear, and when I first met you I worried you might end up in the Golden West Hotel. I never dreamed it could be something worse: a hospital. Since my oldest sister died I am all alone, and I thought you and I would have the rest of our lives together. Well, maybe we will. Who wants to be rich now anyhow?

I wish you could see our new “Boulevard” sign. It is nice, and our councilperson put it up. There has been so much building going on and they are going to tear down a whole block in Hillcrest. Remember when we used to go to Pernicano’s (at least 25 years ago)? And once we ate in that expensive place near there. Come on home, honey, so we can go to the Black Angus or Red Fox for a steak again. There are so many new restaurants now, but I guess the old ones are just as good.

Did you know that Tijuana is next to Los Angeles in size, and larger than we are? Our beloved city is not the same to me now. It lost two of its most ardent fans and two of the nicest people in the world when they killed us. This was our world, right here on earth, and no one enjoyed our “Garden of Eden” more than we did. I love you.

Did you ever see that blind girl that lives in our neighborhood? She must be 40 or 50 years old now, and she wore out two big black dogs. She got a little white dog who must be a female. The first time she saw me I had on a red coat so I thought that was why she kept looking at me, wagging her tail. But every time she saw me she turned and looked and got so excited. Then one day that white dog brought this blind woman into my dentist’s office, and seeing me there, she tried to come right to me. I said, “Hi, sweetheart.” You would love her.

And this beautiful cat that came to the apartment right after you had gone. I didn’t see her for two days, never being home, but the other women in the building were feeding her. The man next door named her Bandit because of the mask around her eyes and because she had stolen all our hearts. One night I let her in for she escorted me to the door when I came from work, no matter what time it was. She drank milk and stretched out her long shape. Then she got up and walked across the long coffee table and sat beside me on some papers. Soon she crawled up on my lap and watched TV, and my lap hardly held her. Everyone loved her and she had the sweetest “meow.” I am sure God sent her for she was sweet and gentle like you — she walked towards me like you did. We couldn’t keep her around here, of course, so I called my “cat lady” girlfriend to take her, who said, “No more cats,” having two already. Then she said, “Did you say she had blue eyes?” She renamed her “Precious” first and then “Most Precious,” and that is how I feel about you — you grew more precious all the time.

If you ever need help, go to a bar, which I did all of 1987. I don’t know what I would have done without those people I never saw before in my life. They were very supportive and went along with my being half out of my mind. You see, Jamie, I truthfully did not sleep at all for ten months.

All those hills of white markers at Fort Rosecrans are boring, our boys killed in a useless war. I’m glad you are at Mount Hope for I find peace there with you. It was cruel for Jesus to be killed on a cross, but they go on killing men like you.

I got “86’d” out of McDonald’s across the street one cold February day when I came from school and knew I had nothing to eat at home. I ordered a hamburger, french-fries (only because I had a coupon for free ones), and my coffee. The oriental girl could not understand that my coffee was free, too, being a senior, so her manager came up, a very good-looking black girl. She didn’t understand it either and got nasty. Just then the manager came in, a very handsome white man, and she sidled up to him and whispered something in his ear. He pointed his arm straight out like talking to a dog, and said to me, “Now you get out of here.” It was so funny I had to laugh. I went home and do believe I found a can of soup. I haven’t been back since (well, I did stop in one night around midnight when they were about to close and no one was there). Remember when they first opened and I took you over for breakfast as you love sausage and biscuit. You wondered if I cared if you went back for another biscuit. Oh my God! Remember when I tried to make you biscuits at home and they were so hard? You said, “Oh, that’s all right,” and dunked them in your coffee. I love you, Jamie.

Tomorrow is my birthday again and I will miss you as we always went to dinner and split a bottle of Blue Nun.

Dear Heart, it is chilly tonight and I am glad I don’t go out much anymore at night. I wish you were here with me. We could watch a couple programs on my 13-inch TV someone bought me after that TV repairman stole my 25-inch TV. I may not get out to see you tomorrow, but will try to come New Year’s Day. I will sprinkle more rose petals over your grave in memory of your spilled innocent blood. American Cancer had a saying out, “First the pain spreads through your chest, then it spreads through your family.” Your chest pain was carried through your whole body, and it went through my heart.

My phone rarely rings, of course, but several months ago it did and I was asleep. Some man’s voice said, “Oh, my dick is so hard.” Angry I said, “Who is this?” He said, “Steve, but you don’t know me.” I said, “Do you know what time it is? It’s 12:20” (knowing I would not get back to sleep). He said, “I’m sorry.” Then, a couple nights ago after finishing The Silence of the Lambs—and I did not need such a call, and I was asleep — the gruff voice on the other end of the phone said, “Hello, sweetheart.” (It was 2:00 a.m., oh my God!) To think there are creeps like this around and they used you to practice on and kill.

You were harassed by the cops for many years for playing cards, yet they had at one time over 100 card rooms in this city. The night you didn’t come home and they had arrested you for suspicion of selling dope, and you had to strip naked and be searched. I wrote to Chief Bill Kolender, and you were never bothered again. I waited too long.

I spent my birthday completely alone yesterday — first time ever, I think, but outside of missing you it was not so bad. I wanted to come out to see you but it was quite chilly. I will be out soon. As they say, “You die alone,” and my God, I let you die alone. My mother too, when I knew she would die that night. I let them take me out of the rest home. But my father did not die alone for I was with him at the hospital until he died at 4:15 a.m. Thank God, I loved him so much, and my mother too, and most of all — you.

Honey, it has rained for about two weeks now— every day. That is why I haven’t been out to see you — the ground is so wet. It has mostly been a gentle rain, and I haven’t minded it as it fits in with my mood, but one time I was out and it rained almost as hard, but not as hard as the night they took you to that hospital.

I fell on the sidewalk ’cause I looked up for just a minute, and my toe hit an uplifted sidewalk. Immediately I was on my face hitting the cement with my right eye. I heard a crack and did hit my cheekbone. I sat there for a minute as it hurt, then got my compact from my purse. I had a small cut above my eye that was pouring out a large amount of blood. It was in my eye and running down the right side of my face (my blood is so thick, I guess, because I eat so much). I thought, “Where did I see that bloody face before?” Then realized it was the bloody face of Jesus when they stuck the crown of thorns on his head. So I guess, honey, we are Mr. and Mrs. James Christ for surely you have been shouldering the cross for 65 years, and I have felt the thorns.

January 20, 1993, .a memorable day — the inauguration of our 42nd president, William Jefferson Clinton. I hope he will be a good one — I think he will try, but there is not too much to be done for the world in the way of jobs, unless the world changes drastically. Well, I wish him luck, and will remember him by 42nd Street.

Oh Jamie, I finally did dream about you last night, and woke up and cried a little. Someone told me you had married Bernice and were going to live on Union Street. I couldn’t believe it for I knew you could only marry me. I was so hurt. I was taking down Christmas cards from the tree like I used to make, and this seemed so silly for I never celebrate Christmas anymore. Well, at least you were there.

I went to a big wedding a couple of weeks ago and the church was packed. The bridesmaid dresses were so pretty—a Kelly green with black velvet top and all the young girls had long hair. The bridal gown was lovely. I don’t know why they had two ministers (maybe one for each, huh?), but they were boring because they were probably hired for an hour and they tried to fill it in. I hope these two young people stay together for at least two years. I thought about you, dear, how excitedly sweet you would be at our big wedding. Do you remember when you asked me in Las Vegas and I wish I had said yes.

Did I tell you, honey, they sold the hotel across the street they had named the Clarion, and now it is the “Lafayette” again. They even might have dancing again, but I don’t think so ’cause senior citizens don’t spend enough to keep it going. It is a nice name, though. (I can see the only time we danced down there and how you ended.) Now it is a Travelodge — the economy, you know.

I am back again, Jamie. It is Sunday again and I am so lonely for you. I laid back down and took a nap this morning, which I rarely do, and the minute I woke up it was with me. I thought, “Oh my God, had I taken Jamie to the right hospital on the way home instead of bringing you home and trying to get you in the V. A. hospital — you would be alive today.” When it hits me (twice now) that I am the cause because I did not think right, I can hardly stand it.

The birds have been singing this past week, Jamie, and it will soon be spring. It is so warm and lovely today, sort of a Santa Ana, I guess. Guess I will go to the park as I need to be with people, but alone. I found this in a good book I am reading, and I think it is okay to use it.

This year is going so fast already. Here it is the second day of February, groundhog day I think, and he saw his shadow so there will be six more weeks of winter. We used to worry about that back home but it really doesn’t matter out here in what once was our San Diego.

Good morning, Jamie. I am still hanging out here until I can be with you — I do hope when I take your hand it will be as warm and as strong as ever. I talked to your friend yesterday, the one you wanted to see when we thought you were dying that night. He was coming down the street and I told him about you being murdered, and he said, “They didn’t do it on purpose, did they?” And I said, “They sure did,” but I don’t think he believed me. He asked if you had ever been in a coma, and I said, “No, never.” Anyhow, he recalled all the old places I used to go with you in La Mesa and El Cajon. He said, “James had a big heart” (as if I didn’t know), but I think he meant you were probably giving out money to so many. I guess you were lonely when you had him as a friend because when we shook hands, his hand was clammy, soft, and weak. Oh, I guess he has had a couple of light strokes.

Monday, I took Mary to the open house of the new Mormon Temple in La Jolla. (Remember her — the woman we took to the ball game with us?) She brought that up saying, “Did he like baseball?” and I said no, that I had just drug you there to take us. The temple (imagine anyone using that word this day and age) was just beautiful — like a fairy tale castle in the air. It is all cleanly white, with ten spires reaching up to heaven, I guess.

Oh, I put an ad in the paper this Valentine’s Day saying, “Dear Jamie, not too late to celebrate Valentine’s Day. This is to say, I love you, always.” But it is too late, Jamie. And I know now why that roommate of mine kept playing over and over “My Funny Valentine.”

April 1, 1993. Today,

Jamie, I have lived in this beautiful city for 37 years, and I guess you lived here 8 to 10 years before that. Don’t you kind of feel like we own it? At least we loved it so much — our Garden of Eden.

Almost everyone we ever knew are dead now, and I have no one to talk to, and hardly anyone to use as defense in our behalf, but I did run into a couple of women who were friends of yours. I know you remember the Jewish girl who used to ask you to dance (I think she had a crush on you). She brought her older sister out here to live with her, from Chicago or New York, and I ran into them a lot. I always wanted my older sister to come out here, but she would not even come for a visit, and I know she would have loved it here, but she was always a little stubborn. Well, I saw this girl one time in McDonald’s when I was so sick, and she said, “Better not lose any more weight.” Then she said, “You and Jim were always together.” Yes, darling, we were, when I was not on a vacation.

This other woman owns an apartment building and always sat down with you in Denny’s when you were there as she knew you would pick up her check. Well, I saw her several times in Vons grocery store after you were gone. She would speak or wave, but this last time several weeks ago, she came over to me and rubbing the area of her stomach was asking about the operation. I told her you had been murdered in a hospital with a wrong operation. She said a nice thing, she said, “When I see you I see him, for you were always together.” It made me feel real good, honey, that others had noticed.

I found a tape you had as you sometimes left your machine on when you were lonely. Your “son” evidently came in — not aware the tape recorder was on — and he ran me down and said, “I would get rid of her.” Was he dumb or just jealous? I tossed it out but should have kept it. Only you and I know how deep it really was, our everlasting love.

Dear Heart, you are there and I am here. It doesn’t seem right, does it? I wouldn’t have hurt you for the world, you know that, and yet I did. That horrible day that sealed your fate. If only I had been on the ball. If only you were not so good and sweet and had hollered out the night before. All you needed was a good doctor, a decent hospital, someone who cared about you, an honest surgeon — are there any left?

Well, sweetie, I guess I would go on forever talking to you, but you must be getting tired. Do you sleep at all now? I know you couldn’t at the hospital, you who needed so much sleep. I remember you getting up in the morning and sometimes saying, “I sleep too much,” but I felt that your body needed it. I sleep so little but I need so little sleep. I do want to get this letter in the mail.

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