Dear Florence

Dear Florence,

It would be very difficult to begin my correspondence with pleasantries as you did. I would like very much to congratulate you on your new porch. I would like to discuss how very good it is that your town has improved the sewer system. I would especially like to extend my concerns for your ailing son. But I am afraid, dear friend, that your last letter left me with very few warm feelings towards you, and I have no energy or desire for prattling. In this at least I can be honest.

I very much wish you had not relayed so many details of the funeral. I don’t care to know that Terrence’s mother fell down or that it was windy. I especially did not need you to recount the sermon; of course I expected it to be perfectly nice. This is not, however, for the reasons you believe. I care nothing at all for the accusations that I am hiding here. In fact if you had ever cared to visit your brother here when he was alive (since you seem to think traveling so easy), you would have found that once you cross the mountains, it is most difficult to leave. In fact, I feel fairly certain that the journey out of the valley to go and visit you is really what finished Terrence off. Excuse my crudeness; I am merely being honest. 

I recall that you told me that Terrence was never in good health, not even as a boy. What you may not know is how much worse it became after he moved here. The people who inhabit these mountains are, by necessity, of hardy stock. The winters are unforgiving, and the summers are plagued by humidity and insects. He was often indisposed, and you can imagine (or perhaps not) how burdensome it was to tend to him during harvest days. I do not doubt that it would have been most difficult for you to expect a pleasant family reunion, and instead to watch your brother slip into oblivion. But please excuse my failure to understand your father’s decision to send his invalid son hundreds of miles away to an arduous homestead life to marry a woman he had never met, all due to a business connection of the most remote nature. 

I will come to my point: I resent the accusation (though you tried to put it nicer than that, I acknowledge) that I did not attend my fianceé’s funeral out of some sick sort of protest. You will recall that Terrence took the carriage and the horses when he went to pay you a visit, leaving me here with my mother. How exactly was I to find someone to carry me across the Appalachians all the way to Chicago on short notice? How indeed would I have left my mother here by herself (for her health is much too frail to have come with me) and left the homestead alone for the several weeks it would have taken? My absence at the ceremony would surely have been conspicuous, but I assure you it was purely pragmatic, and not emotional. 

Now, dear sister-in-law (for so we should have been), I beg of you to speak no more to me of my family duties and how I have failed them, in this very trying time. 

Forgive me if I cannot close this letter with sentiments of love or well-wishing. If we speak again, let it be under better circumstances.

Ida

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