All The Cabbie Had Was A Letter…

Last week, one of my elder cousins passed away when he was just 59. In the past several weeks, my relatives and I took turns to see him when he struggling in the hospital with countless tubes in and out of his weak body. Accutally, the frequency for me to visit him when he had been fine was far lower than the one I went to visit him when he was totally beaten by liver cancer. In the days before he was gone, he could hardly say a word. We could only read his idea via his eyes. I could tell how he deeply love the world he’s living and the people around him. He didn’t want to leave so soon. However, time was up.
I didn’t see his last minute by my own eyes for I was working that afternoon. Before that day, as I learned from the doctor that he came back and retored some energy. At that noon I even planed to see him after work for making up the absence in the past 5 days. It seemed I could never make it.
The following story was taken from "College English – Integrated Course 1", a piece of texts which I taught my partner’s wife as her tutor. A sigh will be followed when every time I teach the text for others. This tale is dedicated to the time we shouldn’t waste and the very relationship we should cherish.
Foster Furcolo
He must have been completely lost in something he was reading because I had to tap on the windshield to get his attention.
"Is your cab available?" I asked when he finally looked up at me. He nodded, then said apologetically as I settled into the back seat, "I’m sorry, but I was reading a letter." He sounded as if he had a cold or something.
"I’m in no hurry," I told him. "Go ahead and finish your letter."
He shook his head. "I’ve read it several times already. I guess I almost know it by heart."
"Letters from home always mean a lot," I said. "At least they do with me because I’m on the road so much." Then, estimating that he was 60 or 70 years old, I guessed: "From a child or maybe a grandchild?"
"This isn’t family," he replied. "Although," he went on, "come to think of it", it might just as well have been family. Old Ed was my oldest friend. In fact, we used to call each other ‘Old Friend’ — when we’d meet, that is. I’m not much of a hand at writing."
"I don’t think any of us keep up our correspondence too well," I said. "I know I don’t. But I take it he’s someone you’ve known quite a while?"
"All my life, practically. We were kids together, so we go way back."
"Went to school together?"
"All the way through high school. We were in the same class, in fact, through both grade and high school."
"There are not too many people who’ve had such a long friendship," I said.
"Actually," the driver went on, "I hadn’t seen him more than once or twice a year over the past 25 or 30 years because I moved away from the old neighborhood and you kind of lose touch even though you never forget. He was a great guy."
"You said ‘was’. Does that mean —?"
He nodded. "Died a couple of weeks ago."
"I’m sorry," I said. "It’s no fun to lose any friend — and losing a real old one is even tougher."
He didn’t reply to that, and we rode on in silence for a few minutes. But I realized that Old Ed was still on his mind when he spoke again, almost more to himself than to me: "I should have kept in touch. Yes," he repeated, "I should have kept in touch."
"Well," I agreed, "we should all keep in touch with old friends more than we do. But things come up and we just don’t seem to find the time."
He shrugged. "We used to find the time," he said. "That’s even mentioned in the letter." He handed it over to me. "Take a look."
"Thanks," I said, "but I don’t want to read your mail. That’s pretty personal."
The driver shrugged. "Old Ed’s dead. There’s nothing personal now. Go ahead," he urged me.
The letter was written in pencil. It began with the greeting "Old Friend," and the first sentence reminded me of myself. I’ve been meaning to write for some time, but I’ve always postponed it. It then went on to say that he often thought about the good times they had had together when they both lived in the same neighborhood. It had references to things that probably meant something to the driver, such as the time Tim Shea broke the window, the Halloween that we tied Old Mr. Parker’s gate, and when Mrs. Culver used to keep us after school.
"You must have spent a lot of time together," I said to him.
"Like it says there," he answered, "about all we had to spend in those days was time." He shook his head: "Time."
I thought the next paragraph of the letter was a little sad: I began the letter with "Old Friend" because that’s what we’ve become over the years — old friends. And there aren’t many of us left.
"You know," I said to him, "when it says here that there aren’t many of us left, that’s absolutely right. Every time I go to a class reunion, for example, there are fewer and fewer still around."
"Time goes by," the driver said.
"Did you two work at the same place?" I asked him.
"No, but we hung out on the same corner when we were single. And then, when we were married, we used to go to each other’s house every now and then. But for the last 20 or 30 years it’s been mostly just Christmas cards. Of course there’d be always a note we’d each add to the cards — usually some news about our families, you know, what the kids were doing, who moved where, a new grandchild, things like that — but never a real letter or anything like that."
"This is a good part here," I said. "Where it says Your friendship over the years has meant an awful lot to me, more than I can say because I’m not good at saying things like that. " I found myself nodding in agreement. "That must have made you feel good, didn’t it?"
The driver said something that I couldn’t understand because he seemed to be all choked up, so I continued: "I know I’d like to receive a letter like that from my oldest friend."
We were getting close to our destination so I skipped to the last paragraph. So I thought you’d like to know that I was thinking of you. And it was signed,Your Old Friend, Tom.
I handed back the letter as we stopped at my hotel. "Enjoyed talking with you," I said as I took my suitcase out of the cab. Tom? The letter was signed Tom?
"I thought your friend’s name was Ed," I said. "Why did he sign it Tom?"
"The letter was not from Ed to me," he explained. "I’m Tom. It’s a letter I wrote to him before I knew he’d died. So I never mailed it."
He looked sort of sorrowful, or as if he were trying to see something in the distance. "I guess I should have written it sooner."
When I got to my hotel room I didn’t unpack right away. First I had to write a letter — and mail it.

About thomaszhu

"In the designs of Providence. There are no mere coincidences."


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