December 19, 2010
(Inspired by India’s post about David Hoyt and the letter and the bloodstained map.)
Years ago, in connection with a historical exhibition I curated, I organized a body of the Chicago Public Library’s archives that contained library correspondence and other papers of a man named Carl Roden, who from 1918 to 1950 served as chief of the city’s library system and died in 1956.
Now you do this sort of work and have any sensitivity, you often find yourself growing fond of the dead whose dead letters you sort, and I formed an attachment to Mr. Roden. Such were the times that a number of people apparently regarded the Chief Librarian of a large metropolitan library system as a wise man. You would be astounded at the queries that came his way — many of which he answered directly in a distinctive voice and with a droll wit. I came to regard him as a favorite great-uncle.
One day as my work on Roden’s papers was drawing to a close, I discovered one of those personal items that we all have lurking somewhere in our work correspondence. It was a typed draft of a statement he evidently intended for his family, and it was by way of an apology for bungling financial affairs. He wrote of various bad investments he had made and so on. It was painful to read.
Scrawled in pencil in the margin of the typewritten draft were the words:
But know that I loved you very much.
I rested my head in my hands and sobbed.