The Embroidered Letter
With every letter he wrote, he would make a practice attempt on a notepad, but he’d never done anything like this. Concentrating, his tongue lolled out of his mouth as he attempted to thread the floss through the eye. He’d never believed he was any good with his hands; the unfinished, wooden desk for his kids remained in separate parts. But he’d trained and got his apprenticeship certificate. He hadn’t needed to practice for this, his final letter.
Stretching the canvas over the ring, he ensured his floss was directly in the centre of the eye of the needle. He’d seen it done before; not that his mother demonstrated a fine example of embroidery – she’d given up after a couple of tries, but he realised that this was important – not the fact that he was sending a letter, but because it would take so much time and energy. She would appreciate that. The floss was safely in the eye, and so he started his letter.
He’d given no indication that he was ready to leave. He hadn’t planned for this moment. He’d taken care of everything; he held all the money, he’d taken Grace to her doctor’s appointments and such. But he couldn’t take care of this. Once he was gone, he knew his children would take over the mantle.
“I’m sorry for leaving.”
Was that the right opening sentence? It’s not like he could just cross it out and start again. He’d always been so nervous when writing letters. Even to family. He’d practise on one of those cheap, metal-ringed notebooks that he got from the post office. That’s where he could make spelling mistakes. He’d ask her if the sentences sounded right, and if they didn’t, he’d go back to composing. But for this, he didn’t need the notepad. He didn’t need it at all.
“I didn’t want to go just now.”
It all happened so quickly, this life-changing moment. Who would have thought that such a minuscule amount of time would irrevocably alter the course of a 45-year marriage. At this, he looked back at his work. He’d started too large. Carefully unscrewing the two hoops from one another, he lifts the finished first part of his letter and gets another piece of fabric to lay over the hoops. Remnants of torn fabric, screwed-up efforts, hole-punched and scarred cloth litter the ground under his chair, but he faithfully picks up a new piece and affixes it to the contraption to start the next line.
“Remember to carry your purse and keys.”
Grace never carried a handbag or a purse – there was no need. He carried his wallet, along with a tiny, crumpled piece of paper containing lines of important names and numbers. He didn’t have much more to say – his children will take over. So he finished with how he finished every Valentine’s card;
“All my love, Albert.”