Letter to a friend who’s gone for good

Belated Happy Birthday!

Of course this greeting is late. But. Being such an efficient and highly organized person, I know you’ll understand the perfectionism that drives me to edit and re-edit my prose. All day long yesterday, I thought for the longest time whether to open Facebook or not just to greet you (I haven’t opened FB for – well, I forgot to count how many weeks!) but decided against it ultimately because FB depresses me in a way that I’ve yet to grasp. Maybe the selfies of smiling faces there remind me that there’s more to life besides frowning and writing? I sure don’t know.

What I do know, though, is that I miss you. Terribly. So here’s a list of ten things that I miss about you. Btw, you have my permission to share this on FB – just in case you want to remind Ben what a wonderful individual he’s married to, what a smart decision he made in getting married to you, blah, blah, blah …

1   Your snorts through the nose (are my pronouncements like the one-liners from a stand-up comedian?)
2   Your snide remarks about my age and growing old (nobody tells me the truth anymore)
3   Your cinnamon buns (the ones I buy from Cinnabon or Tim Horton’s don’t hold a candle to yours)
4   Your thought-provoking questions (nobody challenges me intellectually anymore)
5   The way you start every explanation with “Where I come from …”
6   Our discussions on what being a Christian and a Catholic means in different cultures
7   The honesty that permeated every dialogue I had with you
8   How you taught me to make tortillas (it’s a testament to my age that I’ve forgotten the recipe)
9   How you bring baked goodies right after I’ve had a cry inside the loo (how do you always know when I’ve had a breakdown?)
10  Your sociable youngest son (are you sure you’re his mother?) … your artistic daughter and your poker-faced middle son

So, here’s to life! And a prayer that your journey will be full of surprises that bring a smile to your (always serious) visage, that your days will have momhood moments that make all your sacrifices worthwhile, that your travels will bring you to places and people where you’ll be a blessing (the same way you were in mine), and that your marriage will grow old like wine (remember, it gets better with age!)

Perhaps someday we’ll have that conversation we never got to have – the one on how Christianity and being a feminist can exist side by side without one bashing the other. Who knows, I might even travel to Mexico and eat tapas, burritos, tortillas, etc,  by the seaside while we watch the dolphins. Till then, I hope you’ll like this poem by a Greek poet:

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.                                                                                                 Constantine Cavafy

PS. No offense meant, but just in case you’re having a hard time deciphering the poem, here’s help.


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