Today is your birthday, June 6. I cannot wish you Happy Birthday because you fell into a coma a year and 1/2 ago and died several months later. Our daughter came over and over to see you, unconscious, eyes staring into empty space. She drove the five hours back and forth repeatedly. Sometimes I came with her.
What happened to you? Your mahogany hands and arms looked as they did when I first met you decades ago. I looked at the signs of aging on my own; yours seemed so young, ageless. But not your face. I wonder if I would have recognized you on the street. I remember the first time I saw you, sitting on a sofa–fancy, engraved silver tipped cowboy boots, shirt open half way down your chest, and your smile radiating across the room. I knew immediately I had to have you.
What happened to you? How could I have guessed I could be so wrong, decades of believing you just left, no explanation, nothing. Then after you are comatose and I cannot talk to you, I learn a far different truth, a truth that never leaves me, a truth from which I will never totally recover.
What happened to you? Charming, laughing, the man so many loved. That you. Did the other you finally dominate–the sad, disappointed, angry you? The you few knew, the hidden you, the one I often held, tried to protect. Now I talk to your cousin, the one you forbade to tell me the truth I never knew, the friend I thought I had lost forever. Yesterday we talked. Today she left me a message. She and I will never be the same, she filled with irreparable loss, your company, your mutual love, and I with a hole in my heart that can never be filled because I cannot talk to you.
What happened to you? A decade ago when you came to see our daughter, it was like I had seen you only yesterday, in so many ways as if we had never been apart. It haunted me. You could have told me then, the truth. But no, I had to learn it by accident from our daughter. She thought I knew, that you had told me.
What happened to you? I look at photos of us, young, filled with hope and love and promise, smiling brightly toward a camera. I wonder how different my life might have been. I will never know.