Saturday, August 04, 2012

Letter to My Future Self

Dearest Future Katherine,

Maybe I should turn this into a poem, but right now, I'm too tired after a lovely bike ride through one of the few woods left in the area.  It's a nice kind of tired, though, the kind that says "relax," not "fall down from exhaustion."  Since you are probably in your early 90's by now, I doubt  you are riding bikes anymore, but I hope you remember what it feels like.  If you don't, look at one of the scrapbooks you made (and still make), or simply watch children on training wheels or adults on mountain bikes and remember the cool wind in your hair, making it possible to ride even in August.

I want to congratulate you on living a full, useful life.  You've done much good in the world.  The thirty+ years you spent working with the incarcerated, the immigrants, the poor, the sad and the needy have not gone unnoticed.  You have ranted about corrupt government, written letters and poetry about environmental issues and caused a certain amount of trouble that many would agree is necessary.  You have inspired people, even though you couldn't "save" them the way you wish you could.  But then, you always said you were not God and that the serenity prayer guided you by necessity.

I am sure you are pleased you never became a hero or a rock star (though you always said you would have liked to be able to speak like Dr. Martin Luther King).  You should know and be proud, though, that with your friends and advocates, you helped change the way government works.  There is less discrimination and unethical business in the world because of what you did.  Your advocacy for human rights meant something.  You got a lot of people the assistance they needed.  You helped bring down some powerful, hateful people, and for that, I know you are grateful and humbled.   

I hope you still write poetry.  I bet you do.  And I bet you write short fiction.  Longer pieces never were your forte, but since you got more patient as you got older, you might have something in the works that I don't know about.  I know you never got rich from writing, but then, that wasn't the point, was it?  But I hear you donated a lot of proceeds over the years, which has helped organizations do quite a bit for the disadvantaged and for the arts.  You knew a lot about being disadvantaged, didn't you?  It's good to know you turned that into something positive.

How is your memory?  I know mine isn't so great, even now, mostly because I process so much information and have such a busy brain.  If you've gone completely batty, don't feel bad.  Enjoy it.  Laugh a lot, and if you get depressed like you used to, make sure you get lots of help and the right meds.  There's no reason you should be miserable, no matter how old you are.  Your old friend Jorge is nearby, just as he promised, so keep making stupid limericks with him and giggle at nothing.  You can get away with it more now because you're older.  Oh and keep painting your toenails, wearing sandals and sporting Korean headbands.  Your hair looks good long and curly.  Be a rebel and a dreamer.  You've always been good at that.

Just curious, do you still believe you used to be a gay black man in the Victorian age?  Do you still want your ashes to be buried under a purple lilac bush?  Do you still want to become a Canada goose after you live your next life as a lilac?  I posted the self portrait you painted when you were thirty-eight.  I know--it's interpretative, right?  You always said your painting was interpretive.  I'd love to see some of the other paintings you've done recently.   

I have to admit, I am more than a little concerned about your finances.  Do you have enough money to stay in that group home?  It's really a lovely place--woods, fields and flowers you can get to even in your wheelchair, wildlife all around, dogs, cats and even that floppy eared goat you always wanted.  The house is beautiful with all that Victorian appeal you love, plenty of books, a fireplace, comfortable furniture, company when you want it, a quiet, neat living space, people checking up on you and emails from readers who still love that one novel you wrote back in 2011.  You were so surprised it started selling.  For awhile, you thought you would never sell anything but that damn poetry book, which was nice, but the novel cost you a bundle of time and anxiety.

You should know your publisher ended up quite pleased with you.  You always said someday you would make him proud.  He himself became quite wealthy and famous, as you might have heard, though since he wasn't fond of people, he and his wife retired to an island where he could write and ignore the ringing telephone.  He lived a very happy life and felt good about launching your career.

You've often told me about your angels, the hundreds, maybe thousands of people who made sure you were safe after they heard about your trauma.  Surely you remember well the times you wanted to kill yourself, the horror of PTSD, the hiding in the house to escape the triggers.  You understood soldiers well because of that.  It's good you remembered all that clearly for at least a few decades because that meant you also could appreciate the beauty of life. You were always grateful for what you had and for the help you received.  I know if you had a list of everyone who helped you along the way, you would spend a lot of time making those handmade cards you still craft. 

Your great-great grandchildren are just lovely little things.  They got all your beauty (because you are beautiful, you know, by every standard, even though you never believed it until you reached about seventy years old) and are doing spectacular things because their parents and grandparents taught them the importance of hard work and making this world a better place.  Sometimes when they feel like giving up, they read your writing and remember there is hope, which helps them carry on with their mission.

I know you miss your husband and children terribly, but your tremendous faith and spirit keep you close to them.  You talk to them every day, don't you?  It's hard to lose people you love, but you never really lose them.  At least that is what you taught me, and I believe it.  So thank you for that.

Since I forget a lot of what I write, I assume you also forget, so I hope someone has shown you this letter a few times over the years, just to remind you of where you have been and where you are going.  And I hope you write back soon.  I appreciate your wisdom, something you always fretted you would never have enough of.  I love you and look forward to hearing from you.

Katherine


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