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For Auntiemeesh, (who wanted Frodo and Merry):
NEITHER HAVE I WINGS TO FLY
I let go of my cousin with reluctance. He has other farewells to make now. I cannot help but think of another autumn day, many years before.
We walk hand-in-hand, kicking aside the golden leaves that crackle underfoot, as we meander the way lads often do. The air is crisp and clear, a beautiful autumn afternoon, but I do not properly appreciate it.
“Frodo, do you *have* to go back?” I cry desperately.
He stops and kneels down next to me, to look my seven year old self in the eye. There is so much love in his blue eyes that I think I can touch it.
“You know that I do, sprout. I am Uncle Bilbo’s lad now, just as you are your mum’s and da’s.” He gives me a fierce hug, and stands back up, and we start to walk once more. I am not much comforted for his leaving, but I know not to say anything more.
Suddenly, our path brings us in sight of the Brandywine. Frodo makes a little gasp, and falls to his knees, stricken. I glance at his face, and it is a mask of pain. I am frightened; for though I have often known the unexpected sight of the River to distress him, this is the worst I have ever seen. It was not until some years later that I discovered we had stumbled upon the exact spot where he had watched them raise his parents’ bodies from the water. He looks as though all the world has turned to ashes in his mouth.
I know only one thing to do, for this dear cousin, who is my brother in all but name. It is what I have done to cheer him, ever since I learned to speak. With both my small hands, I turn his face to me, and I lean to whisper to him: “I love you, Frodo.”
He takes me in a hug, and I can feel his pain draining away, and he puts his brow against mine. “I love you, too, my Merry.” And the love is back in his eyes, and I see his gentle smile. He gets up, and without saying it, we know the walk is over, and head back to the Hall.
But I have finally come to realize why he can no longer bear to live in Buckland, and there will be no more pleas from me for him to stay longer when he visits. I do not like seeing that look on his face.
I was to see echoes of it in later years, when Bilbo left, and when he turned Bag End over to the Sackville-Bagginses. Somehow, even though he was grown, my words still brought the light back to his eyes.
But then came the Quest; no words of mine could override the whisper of the Ring, and after its destruction, more and more, I saw that look on his face. And though the love was in his eyes still, the pain never left them either. It was not only the Brandywine that distressed him, but all the Shire, a memory of what he could no longer appreciate.
I hear his words to us, to Sam, only dimly, like an echo. And now he walks up the quay and onto the grey ship at Gandalf’s side.
But as it casts off he turns to look back at us, and I see, finally a smile with no pain. And I am hopeful for him. Perhaps in the West, he *will* find healing.
We stand there, we three, bereft, and watch, even though there soon is nothing more to see. The great gulf of water is coming between us and the one we love. I can feel the cords of my heartstrings stretching and breaking with every moment.
When we finally turn away, I know that for me, the sight of the sea will always do to me what the sight of the Brandywine did to him.
Finally, I understand.
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