“Goodnight Abuela,” I called to my grandmother at the end of the night. My mom was taking her to bed. “Feliz Navidad!”

My grandmother leaned over to give my grandfather a kiss and said, “Hurry up. Don’t take too long.”

“Just finishing my drink,” my grandpa assured her. A few minutes ago she’d been asking when they were going home. She’d forgotten they’d moved in with my parents over a year ago.

My grandpa sat at the head of the table, whiskey glass in hand. He swirled the liquid, his eyes clouded over. The aftermath of a few too many glasses of wine during dinner. A few too many glasses of champagne at midnight when Santa dropped off our gifts. My grandmother had been confused about what day it was. Gotten defensive when we smiled in good humour and reminded her. 

Those days were the toughest. She was aware enough to know she was losing her mind. She knew it would get worse. She clung to my grandpa in fear, even more so than before. Now he drank this post-celebration Jack Daniels to wash it all away. 

“You know, I just remembered,” he began, and I instantly knew a story was coming. Every time I see my grandfather, he’s got a brand new memory I’ve never heard before. Most of them are tales from Uruguay before emigrating to Canada, which is impressive considering he only lived there for 35 years or so.

“When I first came to Canada, I came with a group of men. We wanted to get settled before the women and children came over. Make sure it would be a good place to live. Make some money to send back to them to come over.”

I nodded, unwrapping a gold chocolate from my grandma’s crystal bowl in the middle of the table. I rolled one over to him too. It was just the two of us left in the kitchen now.

“It was the longest we were ever apart.” He heaved a heavy sigh and a took a tired swig. He lowered his voice lost in memories of 1970s Canada. I leaned in closer to hear him. “Calling home was expensive. So I wrote letters. Some of the guys would see me writing and ask me, ‘Ernest, could you write a letter for my wife too, and I’ll sign my name?’”

His voice cracked as he said it. Something was hurting him inside.

“I was gone for three months. And can you believe it? All the other wives got their letters but your grandmother never did!” He slammed his fist to the table in anger.

I jumped. Oh no. “Your letters never arrived?”

He shrugged defeated, shaking his head, a tear running down his cheek. His eyes met mine, and he spoke the question that haunted his soul for nearly 50 years. 

“How could my letters never have arrived?! How did all the wives get their letters from husbands who didn’t even write them?! I wrote them! But my own letters never arrived! How can that be!?”

“I’m sorry, Abuelo,” I told him, walking over to him and leaning down to give him a long hug. Still, he sobbed. 

“It’s okay,” I whispered. “Was Abuela mad?”

“She was furious. Hurt.” My grandfather remembered. “She was alone for so long without hearing from me. She thought I didn’t care. But I did care. I do care.”

“I know you do,” I assured him. “And she does too.”

It’s an understatement. The truth of the matter is that there’s no greater husband than my grandfather. He’s calm and level headed and supportive and patient. He never minded that my grandmother, and my mother and my uncle all have strong domineering personalities. He took it all in stride. He held up his end and loved his family the most, never faltering, not even once. 

“I wouldn’t do that to her,” my grandpa continued shaking his head, trying to understand. “How did the letters not arrive?”

“But it all worked out in the end. They heard from you eventually. We’re all here in Canada now. You did good,” I told him. 

“You know what she says to me now? She says, ‘don’t let them put me in an old-folks home. Don’t let them send me to one of those places alone.’” My grandfather revealed, wiping his whole face with the palm of his hand. “I tell her I won’t let them. I tell her if she has to go live somewhere like that, then I’ll go with her. We’ll go together. She’ll never be alone.”

My own tears ran onto grandfather’s shoulder where my head landed when I hugged him a second time. He squeezed me back for a long time. I was too choked up to reply. 

Finally he murmured, “I just wish I knew what happened to those letters.”

Those letters existed somewhere, in some time and place. Maybe they were delivered to the wrong address. Or dropped in the middle of the ocean. Maybe nobody ever read them. Or maybe somebody still has them to this day.

It’s a mystery that will forever plague those deep recesses of his mind. Like the mystery of why some people develop dementia and others don’t. Some mysteries we have to accept that we’ll  never have an answer for. 

The love between my grandparents was stronger than lost letters, and it is stronger than dementia. That’s no mystery. 



9 thoughts on “The Letters

  1. reading this, I am struck with the thought that there is more to the story than either of you possibly know! Did your Grandpa drop the letters off at the Post Office himself, or did he give them to someone to mail? If he dropped them off himself, that is a Post Office mystery, but if he gave them to someone else to mail, perhaps that man was hoping to break up the couple so he could have a chance with your Grandma? Or maybe there’s another reason entirely!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A moving story…it’s so hard to see someone you love go through dementia, as it eats away at memories little by little each day. Your grandfather has lots of regrets surrounding the letters, but it really goes to show the deep love he has for your grandmother, after all of these years. I greatly enjoyed reading this piece; it was very poignant and touching!

    Liked by 1 person

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