Note: Rikke Wettendorff transcribed this letter for this page. The editors of this website are deeply grateful for her invaluable assistance.
The text for this letter may also be found on pages 58-60 in Dear People, edited by Denice Stephenson (Berkeley, Calif.: Heyday Books, 2005).
June 8, 1970
As the time approaches for our 21st wedding anniversary, it seems appropriate to take inventory of our lives together. In one more year, I will have spent half my life with you. It is the only part of my life that counts. In that time I’ve known great joy and great sorrow. It has been my love for you that has tempered all things and made the good and the bad melt to compose a beautiful harmony.
This time of the year I remember, especially, the time of Stephan’s birth. It followed so appropriately the death of a child. I experienced the extremes of emotion at that time – Extreme sorrow and extreme happiness. Most important – you were there. At that time, I had some of the idealistic anticipation that is characteristic of the young. I’m different now. Now – as I live one 12 hours at a time – I take time and am able to enjoy the small things. While I count on nothing for the future, I am able to enjoy the present more and, I think, put things more in this proper perspective. If I have no future with you, I’m grateful for today. But more about the things I remember. I remember our days together before we married. The hours you sat by my bed when I had infectious mononucleosis. I remember our wedding night and the days that followed with Humphrey Houdini. Our lunches and the maple-centered peanut clusters. I remember the foreign films we saw in Bloomington, the hours we spent at the golf course studying with Shirle and how she used to warn us of any approaching snakes. And there were our visits to the church where you so courageously told them of hypocrisy. Years have gone by and I remember the hundreds of things that occurred in our struggle to help make this a better world. How much fun we’ve had. In the beginning, in your drive to make it, you drove hard. I understand. I remember clearly when you began to relax and live and be tender with me. My love for you deepened. We had trips to Chicago. It seemed then that you even enjoyed the trips. I remember eating in a certain cafeteria and how we enjoyed watching and discussing the people. How we dreamed and planned. Many of the dreams have come true. Our beautiful children were conceived in those dreams. I’ll never forget the day we landed in Mexico City and our experience there, staying in the Metropol Hotel. There we lost Stephan and it was there that baby Jim was such a hit. Then there was the day we landed in Sao Paolo, Brazil. How dejected I felt. Remember, as we were leaving the airport, we looked at each other and simultaneously started to sing the song that we heard at our wedding, “I’ll be loving you always.”
There was one milestone in our relationship that I’ve never shared with you. It happened in Rio de Janeiro – the evening I set out to meet you and got lost. I was hours late. When I arrived, you were visible shaken. Would you believe that until that moment it had never occurred to me that losing me would bother you much. You had always been so strong, self-reliant and surrounded by people willing and able to meet your needs that I never really felt that I was important. As a matter of fact, your tendency to pull or almost force others into your life indicated to me that had in some way disappointed you and had not met your need. This incident in Brazil gave me an inkling that maybe I was a little special. However, later I rationalized and decided that you were shaken then because I happened to be the only one there. I know now that you did care.
I could remember and remember. There is no end. In all my remembering, I must give most thanks to what I have learned in the past year. At times I don’t know what is best for you. But – I do know you care. Regardless of who else you might care for, I thank you for including me. I’m sorry for the times I made you feel unloved. In my frustration as I tried to measure up but never quite doing it, I thought, I struck back in unkind ways. I’m grateful for the chance to prove my love to you. Thank you for your kindness and understanding. I don’t know about tomorrow but today I give thanks for each moment I share with you.