Letter to Timothy

A Flash Fiction Story

by James Merkin



Dear Dr. Crowe,

I am David Stone, Jonathan Stone's son. I was sorting through Dad's things, getting the house ready to sell, and I came across a box filled with letters and photographs and his university stuff. Most of it was about you, so I thought I'd better write and ask you whether you would want any of it. Dad passed away a few weeks ago; he had been ill off and on this past year -- his heart -- and we all knew the end was coming. I'm his only child, and we (my partner Curt and I) were with him at the end. My mother Mary died last year after a long time as an invalid with MS, so he was alone and we were with him a lot.

I'm writing because I've figured some things out and I thought you'd like to know about us. I recognized your face in those photos in the box, because when I was a kid I went through his wallet once and saw a picture of the two of you there. He told me you were "Timothy, his old lab partner at the university" and, being a kid, I didn't think much about it at the time or wonder why he would carry a picture like that all those years. Now that I've gone through the box I think I know.

I knew my dad met Mother when they were both at uni and once when I was in high school I asked my parents why their wedding date was only six months before my birthday. I found out in a hurry that was the sort of question a teenager shouldn't ask his parents, and I never mentioned it again. I do know that they loved each other and that my dad never hesitated to give my mother all the time and support she needed, especially after she became ill and more or less began to live upstairs. My dad and I were pretty close, I guess, and I figured that out by comparing our relationship to my friends and their dads. He listened to me and talked to me like I was his equal and he was my best friend while I was growing up.

He was a quiet man and lived very much inside his own head, but he was always there for me and I never felt shut out. Later when I left for the university I began to live my own life and then I met Curt, so when I went home I recognized his loneliness even while my mother was still alive. This is hard for me to say, but now that I think I know what you meant to him I also think I can begin to understand his situation. It helps that I have Curt. I can't imagine what you and he must have gone through, in that dark age before Stonewall. I think he was a little bit surprised on the day I told him I was going back to uni to be with my boyfriend, but now that I look back I think he knew all along that I might be gay. He loved Curt like another son, and he managed somehow to win my mother over to love Curt too.

I hope I am not intruding on you and whatever you have had to do to get on with your life. I just wanted to tell you about Dad, and offer to send you the contents of his box of memories if these few things would be of any value to you.


David Stone

P.S. I am enclosing a photo of Dad with me and Curt. I'm the bigger one he's hugging, just as you were in the picture of the two of you. It was still in his wallet when he died.