Love is Stupid by Ian Zerafa
I’m running away.
I know that’s not the sort of thing a dad should ever say to his kids, much less write it. Especially at 11:34 on a Wednesday, when I know we’re going out to dinner on Friday. But I’m going. This letter’s the only reason I’m not in a taxi yet. I’ll explain.
First off, I do not expect you to understand. Not yet anyway. But maybe in a few hundred thousand white hairs’ time you’ll be stupid enough to get it. And that’s kind of my point. I’m a stupid man. I’m proud to proclaim myself a much stupider man than either of you. Not because I’m senile. Just because I’m old. And, being old, I’ve had the opportunity to love so much more than you two have had. So, let me tell you, kids, there’s nothing on God’s green earth stupider and more wonderful than love.
I’ve loved a fair few people in my life, and none of them compared to your mother. I loved her from the moment she first broke my nose, and I haven’t stopped doing stupid things for the sake of loving her since. It obviously wasn’t the drunk girl tripping over a barstool and crunching her head into my nose that got the heart racing. But when I opened my eyes to blink the tears out of them, there she was. Her beautiful face contrasting so heavily with the stream of profanity coming out of her mouth that I knew I’d never get her image out of my head. That was the first time she’d ever made me laugh – and I must’ve snorted half a pint of blood out of my nose.
The first stupid thing I did to be with her was right after that. Instead of letting your Uncle Al drive me to the emergency room, I took her up on her offer to walk me there. Trudging through a foot of snow while dressed for clubbing and a quart low on blood was probably the most stupid and lovely thing I’ve ever done, until recently. I was unconscious less than two miles later, and she rode in the ambulance with me.
And you were right kids. Her death did hit me harder than I let on. That’s the stupidest thing I ever did for the sake of loving you. I tried to keep all the pain to myself, instead of letting you be there for me. Instead of being there for you. And I am so, so, sorry. We should’ve faced her death as a family, and I forced us all to face it alone. I convinced myself that the pain of my loss was so much worse than yours that I had to shield you from it.
But that’s not why I’m leaving. Before I explain that, let me just say that you are both shit detectives. Yes, her death hit me harder than I let on. Yes, when you were over and I was sad, I used to go upstairs for a few minutes and come down happier. No, I was not doing drugs. If you gleaming little shits thought for a second that you got away with all those whispered conversations and loud attempts at drawing me into conversation while the other slipped upstairs to rifle through my drawers, let me assure you that you were wrong.
I guess that’s something stupid you two did because you love me. I’m not mad, it’s what made me realise I was being selfish in my grief. But I did have something hidden up there. Remember when I said that walking through snow was the stupidest thing I had ever done for love until recently? Hold that thought.
I’m dying. The cancer’s is back, and it’s not responding to treatment. It’s not bad yet, but it will be. And sooner, rather than later. Your mother was so brave. She fought her illness until the end, and always stayed strong for us. I love you two, and I love your kids, and I want to do the same. But like I said, no one I’ve ever loved has compared to your mother. And I know that writing that I still love your mother more than I love all of you combined probably makes me the shittiest person ever to be called Grandad, but it’s true. I don’t want to face cancer again. I can’t fight like she did when I know I’m so close to seeing her again. I’m going somewhere sunny, and I’m leaving my heart pills behind. Two weeks, maybe three, and I’ll be with her again.
So, about that stupidest thing, and what I used to do upstairs? Well… it’s your mother’s fault really. When we got married, we wrote our own vows of course, and the last thing she said to me before that wrinkled vulture of a priest let me kiss her was that her heart would never belong to anyone else. I couldn’t hear anything the priest said after that, and I just stared into her eyes until they invited me forward.
So, considering the ardent obsession with which I’ve held onto those words for the entirety of our lives together, you can understand if I was slightly miffed when I found an organ donor card in her purse. That heart, she’d said, would never belong to anyone else. So a couple of days after she died, I sauntered into the hospital, borrowed a gown, and stole the damn thing. It’s been in the upstairs freezer ever since. I just used to go up there to talk to her for a bit and tell her everything you’d told me. What used to break my heart was remembering that she couldn’t be there to see what amazing people you two have been becoming all this time.
I have no interest in slowly declining until I’m too weak to walk over to her. I have no interest in spending my last months in a hospital bed, knowing she’s alone at home, and that I’ll never speak to her again. And I certainly have no interest in you two finding a heart in my freezer one day with no explanation and thinking the worst of me.
So I’m running away. I’m putting her in an ice chest, and I’m taking her with me. And somewhere, on some beach, hopefully at sunrise after we’ve spent a whole night chatting, my heart will give out with hers in my arms, and we’ll be together again.
Lead your lives stupidly kids,