Dear Johnny,

I’m wondering if you enjoyed your birthday breakfast: eggs sunny side up, homemade hash browns, bacon and sausage, fresh fruit, plenty of coffee, zucchini muffins. I would not eat the eggs for you, but they were there shining in the pan. Other people ate them.

Thank you for being with me in this beautiful place. You always talked about coming to New Mexico, eating green chile cheeseburgers in San Antonio and seeing the license plate-covered guitar. You loved that story: I told you about that guitar on a little stage with a piano, the kind of joint you could play, but I never showed you the picture because no one sent it to me before you died. I hope you can look at it through my eyes when I get it.

I don’t know how you would have felt about the snow. You would have wanted to crank up the heat, maybe sit by the fire where I’m sitting now. You would have looked dramatic in the snow with your black clothes and your silver hair, but you did not have clothes warm enough for snow when I knew you. You toured in Montana once, but it must have been in the summer.

I always want to share Mabel Dodge Luhan House with people who are special to me. Mom never came. You never came here — always too busy or else incapacitated. Suzanne came here and she doesn’t talk to me anymore. You know that.

Dorotea is here, the one who called you Johnny Love and wanted to sing back-up on my records. Natalie is here — you met her a long time ago. She asked me to sing a song you liked during slow walking and I sang “The Cuckoo” because it worked with the pace. I didn’t say, “I can’t” or “Johnny’s songs were made to dance to, they all have rhythm and a strong groove.”

I wanted to sing “They All Ax’ed for You.” I’ve always loved your version of that. I’ve taken up singing it and made up a new verse for you. Your verse goes

I went on over to the other side and they all axed for you:

The heavenly host was out of hand and they needed somebody to lead the band.

I went on over to the other side and they all axed for you:

The devils axed and the angels axed and Saint Peter axed me, too.

Baby, they all axed for you…

They all ax for you, Johnny. We all miss you. Gavin is collecting the scraps you left behind — the tapes, the charts the CD roughs, the video. Jerry is taking things off your computer. People are posting videos with the names of the songs wrong and no attribution. You would have hated that.

Me? I’m learning some of your songs and planning to learn more. Lucy came up and cleaned your house and started going through your things. I’m hoping you find a way to intercede and give me the Martin and I think Jerry should have the red Telecaster if James Clifford doesn’t want it.

I don’t know if you were mad at me when you died, or merely heartbroken or resigned. I wish I had talked to you one more time and said something kind. I wish I had been with you when you breathed your last breath to soothe your brow and give your forehead a kiss. I know you wanted me there again: you told me so. But it was not to be — I couldn’t leave my 92-year-old mother. I never stopped loving you or wanting things to be better, wanting you to achieve your full potential.

All my love,