The wind still plays that same old note as it travels down from the mountains and sweeps over the hills. It rushes into the glen where I can hear it whistle in our roof. The walls creak from the strain of its force and the glass rattles in the window frame. One night I thought the wind would crack the glass, it bashed against the house with such anguish, playing its song louder than ever before.
To me it sounds as though it’s calling for someone, searching far and wide. It must be living in sorrow to go on wandering for all these years. Always seeking. Never finding.
Summer has come to a close. Every day more flowers fall and scatter at the lightest touch. The old oak tree is shedding its leaves and the morning fog has come back to cloak the valley in a shroud. In the mornings, the air is as sharp as ice in my lungs.
I finally made firewood of that tree which came down in the big storm last spring. I also finished smoking the fish for the winter. A fox came and killed some of the chooks, but Buck came to their rescue and saved the rest of the brood. The old fellow can still chase a fox with the bounce of a year-old pup.
I won’t lie to you, boy. The work has gotten harder than in previous years. My back is stiff in the mornings and my hands can’t grasp the shovel when it’s cold. I could use an extra set of hands as strong and capable as yours.
When I was a boy, I had to leave all that I knew to find work closer to the city. There was no paid labour to be had near our village, because our friends and neighbours bartered for what they needed. Otherwise, I would have stayed. But I was a young man with strength in my arms and a good head on my shoulders, and I wanted enough coin to learn a trade, and provide for a family.
I’ve told you before of those days. But I never mentioned how much I missed all the little things that reminded me of home. The sound of the cows in the back paddock, ready to be milked. A creaking floorboard near the front door. The smell of the violets that grew behind the barn, their clump growing larger each year. The scrubbed wooden table Pa had built for us, and the way Ma braided her hair each night before bed.
All’s gone now, but that’s what I miss most. And that’s probably what you miss as well. Home. And all its simple joys. That’s why I’m taking such pains to bring it back to you, so that it doesn’t hurt so badly.
If I wasn’t such a useless old man, I would have gone in your place, son. I would have taken that gun out of your hands and lifted the pack from your shoulders. I would have fought in a dozen wars if it meant you didn’t have to leave home to fight in this one.
But our country would not take an old man into its ranks. They sought only young blood. And that’s what they got. Without you here I’m living but half a life, in shadow even when the sunshine floods the glen, cold even during the golden days of summer. The war’s over, but I’ll never again know peace.
It should be me in your place, with you kneeling at my gravestone, speaking softly as the first snow dusts the grass. Your gentle steps above would bring me comfort, and fill my grave with warmth. You would tell me how you loved your old man, and I would breathe a sigh of relief knowing I had not outlived my son.
Instead I leave this letter at your stone, and just these words.
Oh, my boy. I love you so. I love you so.
This story was inspired by this beautiful, heart-rending song.
If you have the time, please hit the link below and have a listen.