Friday, May 21, 2010

A Letter To My Father, Whom I Never Really Knew

Dear Edward,
I am writing this letter with the understanding that you will most likely never see it. It's been over 25 years since the last time I saw you and it wasn't, if memory serves, under the best of circumstances. You were chastising me, if I remember correctly(I am at an age where my memories aren't as clear as i would like them to be), for ditching school. It might just as well have been for something else--our relationship, such as it was, was such that the only times I ever saw you fell into two categories:(1)when I needed money(for movies, ball games, etc.), and (2)when Mama was either too tired or beside herself to punish me and felt that you needed to be involved. Which brings us to the irony involved in said relationship--that other than being able to provide money when I needed it, the fact that you felt needed or responsible enough(or whatever) to be involved with my disciplining, but yet, didn't have the same urgency or leanings to be involved with me at any other phase of my growing up or my development into manhood.

You probably never knew this, and I've since only ever expressed it to a select few people, but because of the infrequency of our times together, I thought you were my uncle. I think I was around 10 or so, when during one of my frequent visits to the clinic, Mama had written your name on the line marked "Father" on my medical history form. I wish I could say I was shocked, surprised, dumbfounded or at the very least, curious enough about this bombshell of information to broach this subject with Mama. But I wasn't--I don't know why--and I didn't--again, I don't know why. Needless to say, I wish I had been and I wish I had. But more to the point, and central to the reason that I'm writing a letter that will probably never be seen by its intended audience, I wish with every fiber of my being, from the vantage point of a man still struggling to find himself all the while trying to be a father himself, that you had been man enough, gave a damn enough, to reveal yourself to be the father that I needed, at the time that I needed one.

Looking back, I wonder what could have possibly gone through your mind all those years, through your heart, developed in the very pit of your soul, that led you to not being there for me. Never teaching me about sports or playing catch with me; never being present during any of my school functions--the times I won certificates or awards; being there when I started being interested in girls, to tell me how to treat them and how to be confident around them; to be there for many of the crucial decisions I would have to make in my life, including where I went to school and what I wanted to be.

Actually, I do remember a rare outing with you and your family, but again, my memory gets cloudy when it comes to filling in the details and, truth be told, it obviously didn't leave a lasting impression on me--the way the aforementioned key points and your presence therein would have.

You know, for the life of me, I don't even know what you did as a job or for a career. What your interests were, your likes and dislikes, what your growing up was like, how you met my mother. You see, I mention these things because they're some of the things my stepdaughter knows about me--she knows me so well that she can draw me from memory and place me in any context to where it is unmistakable. Because I made it a point from the first day that I started dating her mother to get to know her, from our first game of Clue to watching cartoons, to going to most of her school functions, and getting to know her friends. I know I haven't been perfect and probably made many mistakes, but you know what. The fact that she was able to stand in front of over 125 people at our family commencement ceremony three years ago and express how I stood out over the men her mother has dated(which to this day is remembered as a highlight of the event)and how she sees me as a father, over the one, like you, helped to bring her into this world, leaves little doubt in my mind that I must have done something right, in spite of my lack of knowledge and experience.

Maybe you and Mama didn't get along; maybe you weren't meant to be together; maybe...maybe...there's a lot of possible maybes. The maybe that stands out in my mind is that maybe, in spite of any ill or hurt feelings, of pride, of whatever the hell it was, that maybe you could have been the man I needed and the father I wanted and not the man I'm trying so desperately not to become and the father I never really knew.

I can't honestly say if, after all these years, I want to see you. I don't even know if you're still alive(which, if you're not, some would say would render this letter a moot point--I'm inclined to think otherwise, because, if nothing else, I needed to write this letter, for catharsis as well as giving me something to write. Not to mention the lost art of writing letters, but that's neither here nor there). I almost wish a letter was unnecessary, if it could be replaced with the memories of a father who was there. But if I've learned anything in this life is that wishes are for fairy tales. There is more I could write here, but it wouldn't scratch the surface of what I feel any more than what I've already written here. So I will close this letter, with neither forgiveness(don't know if it's warranted or if I have it in me) or forgetting(which I know I can't). This will just have to be. 'Nuff said!


1 comment:

Poetic Shutterbug said...

Well Joseph, I first am heartsick that you have had to experience what you did with your Father. As children, when our parents treat us in the manner your so eloquently expressed in this letter, we feel they do not love us or care about us. As adults we can see that it also may have to do with their upbringing or lack of even knowing how to care.

I so related to this post with my own father. I can give you hundreds of stories but won't bore you. I'll give you one. I was about 20 or so when I had my first poem published in an anthology. It was my first publication and as you know that can seem like winning an Oscar. My Mom was always supportive and always encouraged me. Long story short, when my Dad came home from work, I showed him my poem in the book and after reading probably two or three lines, he put it down, looked at me and said "why do you waster your time with this shit, you'll never make any money doing this." I stopped writing for a long time after that, despite my Mom's continued encouragement.

As I said, this was just one of many stories but I realized know matter what I did, I could become President and it would just mean nothing to him.

You know Joseph, I think one of these days I need to write a similar letter to my Father. He's gone now, passed away in 2004 and to be completely honest, it didn't effect me in the least. I may have shed a couple of tears, period.

I think this letter you wrote was a positive thing for two reasons. You were able to express your feelings and truly see them.

As a result of his actions, you are a better man and better Father. His negativity and uncaring heart allowed you to defend yourself against that behavior and become and loving man, husband and father.

Thanks Joseph, I'll see you on Facebook. Remember, we're going to Oprah with our books :D