In September 1985, Readers Digest ran a story titled “Letter in the Wallet,” written by Arnold Fine. Fine tells how one bitterly cold day he stumbled upon a wallet on the street. It had just three dollars in it and a crumpled-up letter that obviously had been carried around for many years. The letter was dated sixty years earlier and began, “Dear Michael.” The beautifully written, sadly worded letter ended a romance because of a parent’s demands. The last line promised, “I will always love you, Michael,” and was signed, “Yours, Hannah.”
Fine decided to try to track down the owner of the wallet. Using Hannah’s address, still legible on the letter, he finally retrieved a telephone number. But when he called it, he was disappointed (though not surprised) to learn that Hannah and her family had long ago moved out of the house. The person on the other end of the line, however, knew the name of the nursing home to which Hannah’s mother had gone. So Fine called the nursing home and learned that Hannah’s mother was no longer living. When he told them what he was trying to do, however, they gave him the address and telephone number they had on file for Hannah. He called the number and found out that Hannah herself now lived in a nursing home. Fine asked for the name of the home and found the phone number. Soon he was able to confirm that, yes, Hannah was a resident there. As soon as he could, Fine decided to visit the nursing home and try to talk with Hannah.
The director met him at the door and told him that Hannah was watching television on the third floor. An escort quickly took Fine there and then left. Fine introduced himself to Hannah and explained how he had found a letter in a wallet. He showed her the letter and asked if she was the one who had written it. “Yes,” Hannah replied, “I sent this letter to Michael because I was only sixteen and my mother wouldn’t let us see each other anymore. He was very handsome, you know, like Sean Connery.” Fine could see both the twinkle in her eye and the joy on her face that spoke of her love for Michael. “Yes, Michael Goldstein was his name. If you find him, tell him that I think of him often and never did marry anyone. No one ever matched up to him,” she declared, discreetly brushing tears from her eyes. Fine thanked her for her time and left.
As Mr. Fine was leaving the home, the security guard at the door asked him about his visit. He told the story and said, “At least I was able to get the last name from her. His name is Michael Goldstein.”
“Goldstein?” repeated the guard. “There’s a Mike Goldstein who lives here on the eighth floor.” Fine turned around and went back inside, this time to the eighth floor, where he asked for Michael Goldstein. When directed to an elderly gentleman, he asked the man, “Have you lost your wallet?”
“Oh, yes, I lost it when I was out for a walk the other day,” Michael answered.
Fine handed him the wallet and asked if it was his. Michael was delighted to see it again and, full of gratitude to the finder, proceeded to thank him for returning it when Fine interrupted him.
“I have something to tell you,” Fine admitted. “I read the letter in your wallet.”
Caught off guard, Michael paused for a moment and then asked, “You read the letter?”
“Yes, sir, and I have further news for you,” Fine continued. “I think I know where Hannah is.”
Michael grew pale. “You know where she is? How is she?”
“She’s fine, and just as pretty as when you knew her.”
“Could you tell me where she is? I’d love to call her. You know, when that letter came to me, my life ended. I’ve never gotten married. I never stopped loving her.”
“Come with me,” said Fine. He took Michael by the elbow and led him to the elevator and down to the third floor. By this time, the director of the building had rejoined them. They came to Hannah’s room.
“Hannah,” the director whispered, gesturing toward Michael, “Do you know this man?”
She adjusted her glasses and looked at the man as she searched her memory bank. Then with a choked voice, Michael spoke up. “Hannah, it’s Michael.” She stood, as he walked over to her. They embraced and held on to each other for as long as they could stay steady on their feet. They sat down, holding hands, and between their tears they filled in the story of the long years that had passed. Feeling as though they had intruded on a sacred moment, Mr. Fine and the director slowly slipped away to leave the two alone to enjoy their reunion.
Three weeks later, Arnold Fine received an invitation to attend the wedding of Hannah, seventy-six years of age, and Michael, seventy-eight. Fine closes his story by saying, “How good the work of the Lord is.”
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