After three days I make myself open the too-light box.
The sender’s name, marked clearly, meant I was forewarned
It carried a relic of a life.
A stained bear, complete with knitted jumper.
I half want to inhale and hope for smells long since leeched out by time
The disgust stops me as much as the knowledge it would be a disappointment.
The note with careless ease within:
“I rescued N’s teddy bear from being thrown out, we thought you might like it.”
Like? I don’t even remember this bear.
Where did all the others go?
There were rooms full of teddies, too many for a childless middle-aged couple.
You saw no shame in playfulness.
I’m still angry that the house was sold.
That all has changed in those rooms that brimmed with books
At the address I wrote all those letters to.
They must be gone as well.
Too many forgotten memories.
The odd snapshots stick, like the time you went to make me an omelette but scrambled by mistake.
There’s a photo in the box as well.
An old black and white one of you graduating.
All that youth and promise used up long ago.
“…we hope for rain” written as if I might care how the weather is for them
Or perhaps just for something to write and fill the space in the card.
More good intentions from those from your generation who got to spend more time with you.
I envy them that time but there’s also relief that they were the ones who did the dirty work at the end.
It was an end that took an age to come.
I wish I could believe that you are now with the other half of your heart once more.
It must be nearly 20 years you’ve been waiting to die.
You once said you envied my faith.
Perhaps it’s best you never learned there’s nothing left here to envy.
We talked often in my head, particularly on the darker days.
I liked to think we shared an understanding.
Too many ‘shoulds’ trip over each other.
The bottom line is I didn’t like what you became, that’s why I didn’t make the effort.
That empty hulking shell of human flesh waiting patiently to rot.
The piss smell that even the most expensive residential home in the wealthiest of countries still couldn’t quite mask.
The lights went out long ago, when she went before you.
I remember the light in your eyes in the old days.
How many still remember those days? The handful left ebb away a little each year.
You didn’t just love me, you delighted in me.
It made all the difference.
As I clack away here decades later I still take hope from your encouragements
You always praised my writing so perhaps it’s not all so bad as it seems upon rereading
These disjointed thoughts in prose with pretensions of being poetry.
You would have delighted in my girls too, particularly in the cheek.
I must try to do this more.
A dirty teddy, an old photo and an inane card.
That’s all that’s left.
Now I must return the hollow niceties with a thank you note.
Like a bug in amber I preserve my memories.
You two were the only consistently happy memories from my childhood.
So many books shared, the ways we played with words.
You still stay with me when I read.
I’m probably the youngest one left who loved you well
I expect I shall also be the last.
What is the proper place for a dead man’s teddy bear?
I carefully pack the bear back in his cardboard coffin
And put it with the other things precious enough to keep out of reach and out of mind.