I just came across this letter to my father. I think I wrote it last year, but I can’t really put a date on it. When I wrote it it seemed like a bunch of mixed up thoughts, not clear. Now I am not sure about the writing but it makes more sense to me. I hope my father read it with an open mind. We don’t talk much. Well we talk sometimes, but unfortunately listening is not one of my birth family’s values. I never got a response to this specifically which is probably why I forgot about it. I think it explains our relationship pretty well at least my half of it.
He really was a good Dad. He took us camping and played games with us. He rescued me several times from problems of my own design. There were so many times when we laughed so hard at things that happened. My friends from high school think of him as a great guy. But something happened in the last twenty years, since I became a parent, he drifted into his own world with the support of my mom, and it is hard to find a way in. I went out to visit my parents this last winter, but we did not have the courage to honestly discuss our relationship. My children have not seen the dad I knew. They only see the temperamental man who talks loudly and bullies people with his oppinions and cannot stop talking to hear their voices. I suspect he is afraid of aging and losing his strength. He was always very competitive, intellectually and physically. He always wanted to be the best at what he did. He couldn’t live up to his own standards,no one could.
It is hard to know how to say things honestly without hurting feelings with a point of view. I am trying not to see the current situation between us in terms of good or bad, but just how it needs to be for a while. I think feelings have been hurt and time and perspective will hopefully restore some balance. I can only judge from my point of view. I did not make the arrangements. And, so many little things led to this point, but we can’t really resolve those. They are done. Suffice to say we are in a pickle, and I don’t know how to get out of it.
It seems it all comes down to our tenuous relationships. We don’t know each other well. I thought since I grew up with you that I would have more insight into your motivations, but I realize I really don’t know much about who you are. So much of who I am is based on who I was when I was a child or an adolescent and the continuous stream of selves that grew out of that child. I don’t know much about you as a child or how you grew to be a man before our life together nor do I know much about Mom. I know your father did not express love in tender ways or generously. I know that Mom had to do a lot of caring for her little brother. I remember a little about all of my grandparents and little snips of stories that happened when you were growing up, but not how your life was day to day and the things that you carried on into the adult world, your dreams and fears, fantasies and visions, the things that keep sprouting up when all else changes. And, even though I lived with you for all my early life, I don’t know a lot about the real struggles and pain, joy and passions that pushed you and molded your and Mom’s relationship. How can I presume to judge with such a paucity of real information.
I know that raising children for me has been a dizzying journey into a strange land, and I have so much more information at hand than you did when you started. I am not sure how much my children understand who I am. It seems in order to really communicate, we need to understand a little better who we are. We need to know why we are driven to do the things we do.
I don’t think you realize how deeply your actions hurt people, or maybe you can’t stop yourself. That only you know. And, know that I love you beyond your actions, but I can’t expose my family to those actions. I don’t know how long it will be or if you can fix it in your current state. Maybe, it’s just done. I don’t know. For me, my skin is tough. Like everyone in this family I just put it down to high spirits and misunderstandings as did Elizabeth. I think somehow our relationships have made us see the world more selfishly, always defending our positions to the death and never admitting mistakes. Maybe we need to figure this out. Maybe we don’t have to be right all the time. Maybe there’s a way to be right without someone else being wrong. I know that I can defend my mistakes into the ground. The solution, I think, has to do with being aware of others feelings as if they were an extension of your own even if you don’t completely understand or agree. Having strong feelings and opinions, but holding other people’s opinions and feelings as a sacred trust. It’s so hard to put words around it. The ideas are slippery and squirt free like a wet grape. Oh well, I’m done for now. Thanks for the note. Write more soon. I will continue pondering and trying to build word houses to hold some of this loose stuff scattered about in my head. It really is a dreadful mess up there.
Your Loving Son,