He raised the tainted paper to eye level and looked at it closely, misshaped and deformed, manipulated by his hands. He ran his hands over the sheet. His hands, like the paper, were misshaped and deformed, manipulated by old age. This would be his last letter, he knew it. His time had come.
He met Lina more than sixty years ago at his cousin, Bob's BBQ. If he had known that his entire life would change over burgers and beer, he would have shown much more excitement when Bob invited him. He tried several excuses, but his stubborn cousin wouldn't hear any of them. How thankful he'd be later.
She caught his eye immediately. She wore a white dress with delicate flowers printed on it. The dress was exquisite and beautiful like the features of the person who wore the dress so perfectly. She was breathtaking. She had a radiance to her that he'd never seen in another human being. He smiled at her and waved, and a wave of embarrassment came over him when she didn't respond. He put his hand down and looked down at his beer. She was clearly out of his league. He still watched her from afar, mesmerized by this gorgeous woman.
Later in the day he heard that she was blind. He was saddened by the news but also relieved. She hadn't simply ignored him when he waved at her, she never saw it. He had never met a blind person before but always thought that they must be awkward as they pass through life, unknowing of what was happening around them. Lina, however, had no awkwardness about her.
He started conversations eagerly and self-consciously and when she laughed at his silly jokes, he knew his heart was forever changed. They talked for hours long until after the sun had set and Bob had wanted to go to bed. He offered to walk her home and his heart leapt when she agreed. They walked comfortably like two people who had known each other for years. She had taken his arm and they walked in unison.
She had allowed him to take her out the following night and twice after that in the week that followed. On their third date, he hopefully leaned in for a kiss and she responded with want. She had consumed his thoughts daily and he knew that for the first time in his life, he was in love. It was something that scared and excited him. No matter the feelings it evoked, it couldn't be ignored.
He begged a teacher at the School for the Blind in the next town over to teach him Braille over the next few Saturdays. It wasn't easy, but the teacher was patient. She was delighted that he wanted to learn this skill and she encouraged him to keep trying. He would master the skill of Braille if his heart was in it, she would tell him. That was all the motivation he needed, for his heart was in it, more than anything. His hands felt clumsy and he worked too rough with the sheets. He spent hours and hours practicing this wonderful way of communicating with the woman he loved until he was happy that he had produced a letter worthy of her attention.
He wanted to write her a letter, and express his feelings for this incredible woman. He didn't trust the words coming from his lips with such an important task, but paper carried them with dignity.
Whenever he thought back to those days, the early days, his eyes teared up. He longed to reverse time and to return to the day he first saw her, to share the rest of her life with her again.
It has been nearly a year since she closed her eyes one last time, and he has written her a letter every day since then. He always loved writing her letters. There seemed something romantic about writing a letter that only she would be able to read. She'd run her fingers over the letters he had carved into the sheets and smile. These letters were hers, she would say. They were for her eyes only.
He knew his children and grandchildren didn't understand. How could they possibly? They had no idea that these little letters that meant nothing to them, meant everything to him. He could see the pity in their eyes when they saw him working on his letters. They probably wondered about his sanity. It was, in fact, the letters that made it possible for him to keep his sanity after she left. The letters made it possible for him to keep going.
His old hands ached as his fingers ended the letter. He had said what he wanted, his final words perfectly crafted onto the sheet that seemed blank and expressionless. He folded the sheet of paper carefully and put his jacket on. He looked around the familiar room. It remained unchanged after Lina's death and it would remain the same after his. There was a comfort in knowing this. Their children and grandchildren would continue with their lives as before, he knew. There would be mourning, of course, but they will be alright in the end.
The air was cold as he left the house, the house that they had shared, the house that they had built a life in. He walked as fast as his old legs could manage, feeling his muscles protest with each step. Her grave was clean and well-maintained. It was a promise he had made to her on the day she went into the ground. He would bring her letters and keep her resting place in good order. He smiled as he looked over her grave, her name proudly placed on the headstone. A name could never give enough meaning to someone like her. The description underneath read: Wife, Mother, Daughter, Friend. She was so much more than that. She was everything. Leaning down slowly, he placed the letter on the grave carefully and curled up on the grass next to her resting place. He was at peace. He was with her, whole and complete once again.