This morning I found an extraordinary thing. It was a letter from Adam to a woman named Jessica--a love letter, pure and simple--and though it has no date I am sure it was written not long ago. It had to be written by someone over the age of twenty; and twenty-five, the age he amazingly is now, would be a lot more believable. I picture him sitting in this cabin not so long ago, this place where we used to come, his mother and I, eons ago, before. Where he came when he was a little boy, and she was still alive, and I had no idea that the happiness of those years was still the exception and not, as I imagined, the new rule of my life.
Finding the letter has given me a reckless idea – to write to Adam everything I never told him, everything he needs to know, and leave it here, for him to discover when he and his Jessica return. A dangerous impulse, to say the unsaid, to blurt it all now as I have never dared do, for fear of losing the people I cared about most. It’s his being in love that makes me want to; I know where he stands now, about to start playing his life for keeps. And don’t I owe it to him – this gift that parents are afraid to give? Doesn’t he need all the truth he can get?
I should write what I can, and leave it in something tightly sealed, so mice won’t chew it for nests when no one is here, so rain won’t drip on it even if the roof should leak, and put it where he can’t miss seeing it. And then at the end I’ll ask him to call me, and I’ll wait. Nervously, no doubt.
Except I can’t very well tell him to call me if I don’t know where I’m going after I leave.
I could stay here; it’s still my cabin, even if I haven’t been here in years. I’m glad Adam has decided to use it; that seems to justify my paying the taxes on it all this time, when I never expected to set foot in the place again. Just because I couldn’t let anyone else own it. It wouldn’t sell for much anyway, though I’d get more for it than I paid Arne Lerstein thirty years ago. It was cheap then, and it would still be cheap now. There are plenty of cabins on plenty of lakes in Wisconsin; it isn’t like this is the only one, and it’s remote, the lake is small and the mosquitoes are extra large.
I didn’t expect I’d be able to drive in here; the road was never much more than two tracks worn by the wheels of cars in the spruce-needled floor of the woods, even when we came here regularly. It took me a while to find the road at all; branches scratched their nails on the sides of the car, and bushes scraped the bottom of it, but someone – it must have been Adam – had cut away enough brush and saplings so that I was able to drive all the way in to the cabin. Just like in the old days, I was worried that if I got there and then it started to rain I’d be stuck in here until the ground dried out. I used to get Phil Hokkanen to come with his bush hog and clear the road and put a load of gravel on it, but to tell the truth I don’t even know if Phil is alive anymore.
Staying here isn’t a real possibility anyway. I’d never make it through the winter. If I were going to try, I should have already started patching the cracks, figuring ways to insulate, cutting firewood; and if I were a farmer like Arne, I’d have a vegetable garden and a root cellar.
But it’s too late for all that, and there are other things I must do before I leave.