Short story

Last Letter Written (fiction)

It wasn’t until late December that I found the envelope. It was addressed to no one. It bore the seal of ‘Vrindavan Home for the Aged’. That is how I realised it (perhaps) belonged to my father.

Before you stand on high moral ground and fire me for having sent away my old (and ailing!) Dad to the Home, do try to understand, and if possible, even believe that I truly did not want to send him there. At sixty, he was fit as a fiddle. We used to fight over the TV every evening, and would both finally lose to my son, who decided that Ben Ten was the right programme for us. So we, the boys of the house, would sprawl on the sofas and watched the inane aliens fight gory wars.

I digress. Like I said, the envelope, slightly yellowed and crushed, was addressed to no one in particular. It just bore my address. I assume my Dad had written it for me! Which made me curious, as he was not the sort of person who would write letters! If my memory serves me right, he was particularly not fond of reading or writing. So this was special. I didn’t quite want to open it. The last two months had been rather painful. First, the agony of losing him. Second, the fact that I had left him to die alone. I can never get over it. Ever. And third (perhaps, the most important reason) – I was afraid… of what the letter might contain!!

It was my birthday. In no mood to celebrate, I decided I would open the letter after all…

My dearest,

You know how much I hate to write!

Bang on! This was definitely from Dad!! My lips curved into a smile.

I want to let you know something… its been on my mind ever since you left me.

I stiffened. It was not like I left him! It was HE who decided to leave us. Vidya and I pleaded. So did little Prithvi. But he had made up his mind.

Home away from Home

I like this place they call ‘Home’. Its spacious, airy, the nurses take care of me. I have no complaints.

I visited him almost every Saturday. I would take his favourite food. Sometimes, Vidya and Prithvi came along, at other times, they didn’t. Dad would always recognize Prithvi, no matter what! The moment he saw his chubby little grandson, his wizened face would break into a smile. I felt relived that he liked the Home.

But you know… I want to write this before I can forget everything.. before my traitor of memory fails me. Sometimes I cannot even remember your face. At other times, I feel like you are standing right next to me. I know you are there. Its just, I don’t remember who exactly you are ..  or at times, who I myself am!! I have to confess that part is a little scary.

Lost (image courtesy healingwithnutrition dot com)

So that was why he wrote the letter!! When he was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it had come as a brutal shock to all of us.

On most days, he was very normal. The same old Dad who steadily picked his nose as he sat in his oversized armchair, watching children play cricket on the street! On other days, he would turn into a complete stranger. He would just stare at the ceiling. At times, he would simply grab the nearest object and smash it into the wall. He would walk down the street, to buy a packet of chicory, and wouldn’t return home until dark, when one of us would go in search of him, only to find him sitting on a broken bench, looking dazed and confused.

Finally it was he who suggested being moved to the Home. We wanted him around. He, however, was adamant. He left a day after Prithvi’s fifth birthday. We had a great party. He joined in the fun. I almost called the Home to cancel the move. But the next morning, he woke very early, bathed, and packed a little holdall with a couple of shirts and bare necessities. He did not give us any opportunity to try and persuade him against going. Before he left that morning, he blessed us with wishes for a ‘long and happy married life’, and said, very simply, and as a matter-of-fact, ‘Tell Prithvi I love him the most!’

When Prithvi returned from school that afternoon, he searched for Dad in every room of the house! And when he didn’t find him there, he cried himself to sleep.

There’s one little person I always seem to remember. A lovely cherubic little boy. Let me try to recall.. Preetham.. or was it Prithvi? Yes, I think it is Prithvi. My darling little angel. He visits me often. I can’t often remember his name, but I know that he is part of my soul.

I fought hard to blink back the tears. Dad wouldn’t be kind to anybody who cried at the drop of a hat!!

So, my dearest, I had better finish this letter quickly, as I might just not remember about it in some time.

Very often, nurses wipe tears rolling off my cheeks. Sometimes, they say ‘tut..tut..’ and walk away, cursing (in a rather filmy style!) my ‘supposedly wicked’ son who they think has left me here.

Little do they know, that these, in fact, are tears of joy.

Joy at a life well lived. This is the happiness of a husband, who found a good and loving wife. The pride of a father, who raised a strong and caring son. And also, the yearning of a grandfather. Whose only (albeit greedy) wish was that he had a few more years to spend with his grandson, frolicking in the park, or sneaking away from the watchful and loving eyes of his Mummy, to lick an ice-cream cone. But then, I’m just being ungrateful.

I could have lived with our children. But you know, much as I hate to boast, I think our son adores me! So does Prithvi. I want them to remember me as their Hero. Not as a senile patient who couldn’t recognize them! No. That wouldn’t work for me.

So, this is my big secret. I want you to know, my dearest, that every time I remember us, and cry, it is only to say that I have lived a very happy life.

I think I will see you soon.

Dad’s last letter. It had not been written for me. Or for Prithvi. But for Mum. I was stunned, at how Dad never let us see how much he missed her. I hoped they were together again.

To me, the letter had a cathartic effect. I don’t know if I can ever stop feeling guilty, but this day, I felt a little better. He knew what he was doing. And he did it not just for me, but also for himself.

I guess he was right afterall. When I think of Dad, I only recall a tall, strong man, who would throw Prithvi up into mid-air and catch him as he fell squealing with delight. I remember him as a level-headed counsellor, who simply declared that every workplace had its share of politics, and it was upto me to handle it or steer clear! Vidya remembers him as a loving father, who would make her a cup of ‘straang filter kaapi’ when she returned home from work every evening.

And Prithvi.. well, he does not remember much of him. When we happen to mention Dad, he perks up, curious to know more about his childhood friend. We cite him examples of how Dad used to pretend to be his Horse and ‘giddy up’ as Prithvi ordered him to! Prithvi chuckles shyly when we mention such incidents.

Often, he walks into Dad’s old room (that has now been converted into a Study) as if looking for something.

Sometimes, I follow him, and find him gazing at a picture of Dad’s. At other times, I find him dozing in the big arm-chair.

Well, whatever it is he is doing (or not doing!), I get the feeling this room is his favourite haunt. He seems happy here.

As for the letter, I placed it back in its envelope, labelled it as ‘First Letter Written’ and tucked it far, far away inside my wardrobe. I could perhaps give it to Prithvi when he is grown up enough to be deceived by ‘Success’ manifesting itself in the form of money or fame?! Will it make any sense to him, I wonder…

Or perhaps, I will simply start writing a letter of my own…. hoping that I too, can be a Hero to my son, as Dad is to me.


To read my other pieces of fiction, please click here. Thank you!

53 replies on “Last Letter Written (fiction)”

Again a wonderful piece of fiction.. err.. is it real Pals??? I loved this 🙂 So poignant…
Thanks so much Kanagu… this is fiction, but then, all fiction is based on someone’s reality!!! Have I left you confused enough 🙂 ?

LOVED it… very touching !!! You excel at these emotional tales Pal !!
Thx sooo much Urmi. Looks like I am good at sob stories.. LOL!!!

I will never be able to forget about that story you wrote for the Bloggers contest… about the tale of the prostitute’s daughter…
Wow! You actually remember that Urmi? Thank u so much!! That really made my day 🙂

Just as that, I rank this too as one of your very best! 🙂
Thank u thank u thank u 🙂 Urmi!

Oh pals, know what for the last 10 min I’ve been trying to leave a comment here, but every time I jot something down, I end up erasing them all. My words are failing me, they just cant seem to do enough justice to this brilliant story Pals. That’s the impact your story has had on me. Immensely moved! Superlative!

One of the best from your collection!

Deeps you humble me with your word…. I am glad the story moved you, though, simply because we may all have to go through this some day… I hope we don’t but if we do, then I also hope we are strong enough to go gracefully 🙂 Thank you Deeps!!!

Pals, why are you still here? Every time I read your stories, all I can wonder is – why are you not a published writer?
LOL, Smithu, I have miles AND MILES to go before that… but with encouragement from all of you, I hope to get there some day.. perhaps.. hmmm…

That was so moving, Pals. I can’t get over the story. So beautifully narrated! Whatever I say will not be enough for your stories!
Thank you SOOOOOOOO much, Smitha!

Monu, thank u SO very much. First though, I believe I have miles and miles to go to reach that milestone 🙂 Secondly *blushes* I don’t have a clue as to how to go about it!!!!! Any tips please???

Beautiful story Pal ! These kinda stories always depress me ! You rock !
LOL, did you just say I am good at making people feel depressed? That is some compliment. Thanks Vimmu!! 😉

I really have no words. Nothing I say will succeed in conveying how I feel. This was so beautiful!
Awwwwwwww…. you girls are all so kind and so sweet… thank you Pepper!!

Amazing Pals! 🙂
I love your stories.. they are so real and true and you know just how to pull the right strings in one’s heart! 🙂
Awwww thank you Pix 🙂 I’m so glad you read it though you’re on a blog-sabbatical (well, almost!)

As usual, an amazing story. You bring the characters to life so beautifully and effortlessly. Absolutely beautiful!

Thanks so much A-kay!! That was very kind of you 🙂

This truly moved me. Yes, the biggest fear I have is that my children won’t remember me as a strong woman who loved life but as a frail old senile person I may become in my dotage. I think its a universal fear
I understand Ritu… we especially do not want our dearest people to see the worst possible side of us… atleast I don’t! Call it ego 🙂 if you like. Thank u Ritu for reading and sharing what you feel about this topic, as its very close to my heart!

The story made me choke with emotions, I had tears rolling down! Beautifully narrated

Oh thank u soooooo much Pallavee. Really looks like I am good at making people cry 🙂 I better come up with a happy post next!!! Thanks once again 🙂

Pal, this is such a wonderful, touching piece. Hugs to you, especially for this one. 🙂
Thanks Uma… I just realised this must mean a lot to you…best wishes to your Dad for a quick recovery 🙂

I like the way you’ve made the father a Hero, by choosing to stay in a home, than portraying a son, who pushes his father into a home. Its all the abt positive thinking, even when the father is diagnosed with Alzheimers and how he is so happy abt a life well lived. Gives one hope to think that lives can be well lived too…its all in one’s making.
It certainly is about attitude… we either live a life of regrets, or look at all those countless blessings and be grateful for them 🙂

Wonderful da…just loved it. 🙂

Thk u so much 🙂

beautiful, I dont have words to tell how much..
DAD’s Well They are the MAN…

sorry i really dont know what is it that i cud write here to make up for such a beautiful story
THANKS is wht i would say
Awww Bikki, you’re embarassing me now… but thank you so much, so much… your feedback means a lot… I feel like this is finally a post worth writing 🙂 Thank you!!

and subscribed to your blog. Wouldn’t want to miss the future posts of such a writer 🙂

OMG, I’m getting quite nervous now… I have to write a decent post everytime ?!!! 😉 😈 Thank you so much, Prateek for your very encouragement 🙂

The pain of losing a parent … I do not think anyone is really ready for it. When it happens suddenly, you have guilt over the unsaid things and if you know it is coming you have the helplessness… Nice story…
Oh absolutely… no matter how old we are, as long as we have our parents around, we know there is someone who will always be with us 🙂 Thank you for reading and commenting, Suchi!

Oh Pal! That was so, so terribly moving! A real masterpiece if I may say so.
Dreamer, coming from you, I am flattered now 🙂 Your work is far better than most writers I know, so thank u so much!!!

I love that you did not stop at the end of the letter but moved on beyond that. I also think that most of us have that fear at the back of our minds…of becoming a burden on our children in our old age. My dad keeps saying that the only thing he wants out of life is to not ever be a burden on my brother or me. So reading this really made the tears well up.
Simply superb!!!
True, Dreamer, I think we all realise this as we grow older in life… When we are young, we don’t think so much 🙂

u know Pal I came here yesterday, read the story had tears rolling down I was so chocked with emotions that I didnt know what to write. I left the tab open and decided to comment later

I come back again today and cry yet again.
OMG, Mon, this has got to be one of the nicest things anybody has ever said to me 🙂 Thank u, thank u so much, and equally Sorry to have made you cry!!!!
Its one of the best fiction pieces I have read on a blog in a long long time… it really moved and it also reminded me of my grandma who was so particular that we remember as this strong lady that till the last minute refused to show any pain even when she was suffering
Your Grandma must have been a really wonderful lady!! These are our real heros, aren’t they???
Pal… take a bow this was a story worth publishing, go find that publisher… go now
Thanku, thanku, Mon… quite speechless after your really generous compliments 🙂

My great grandma had Alzheimer’s. I remember the onset very well. After that she was never the same……I was 13 when she passed away. Your post has depicted the thoughts of an Alzheimer’s patient very well. Loved the post.
Sorry to hear about that, Cat. She is lucky though, to have a granddaughter who still remembers her with so much love 🙂 Thank you for reading this post and giving your feedback 🙂

Amazing, beautiful, lovely
One of the best piece of writing I have seen Pal
And I second what others have already said, please go and get it published
Just loved it.

Thank you ever so much, Parul, for your very generous compliment 🙂

Lovely da…
you should actually submit these to some fiction site or maybe to chicken soup… :))

Thanks Aaroo, so the threat over dinner worked, u actually left a comment 😉 😉 Hee haw 🙂 No, but seriously, thank u for the encouragement!!!

Read this one just today…and lovely pallu…very special and amazing flow…you are getting better n better with each post…and you did make me cry….sooooooooo touching and very real in its approach…Keep writing…

Wow, Pallavi. Quite liked.

This sentence – I could perhaps give it to Prithvi when he is grown up enough to be deceived by ‘Success’ manifesting itself in the form of money or fame?!… where’s your (writer’s ) counter to it? I mean if not money and fame…then what? (like what do you hope your son learns after reading the letter?) Getting me?

I am happy I came to visit you after long. Worth all the links I clicked.

LOL!!! Didn’t you read the message I posted on the sidebar???? I’m on vacation in Chennai, and fighting for a share of computer time (They never should allow old retired folks use a computer!). I did read your comment, btw, and I thought it was very valid.. just that I haven’t had the time to edit the post yet 🙂

Okay…so let’s be honest. My eyes are all welled up and being in office, I’m not supposed to be crying!

I guess that says it all. A very well-written piece with a very beautiful message.

I guess I’m reading this long after it was written – but I must say that you had a great flow in your writing. The ending was really well-worded!

Hope to see some more great stuff from you!

Thank you so much Kartikay!! I’ve sadly been neglecting my blog for quite some time now, your comment made me feel guilty 😉

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