by Cindy Newcomer
Here is a brief intro for the following letters. My dad died quickly and unexpectedly from cerebral hemorrhage in 1967 at the age of 42. I was two years old at the time and have no conscious memory of him. Very little was ever mentioned about him in our home. To say that my mom was not the nurturing, motherly type is an understatement. Discussing feelings, grief and loss about his death were not a part of life. I was basically left to try to understand the loss and deal with it on my own. Needless to say, I have spent a lifetime with some complicated grief issues. Fast forward to 2015. Russ, my husband of 15 years, my soul mate and my best friend, died suddenly from a massive heart attack. Although I have dealt with many losses in my life, this one hit me hard. Since how we deal with present circumstances is influenced by our past experiences, grief issues with my dad’s death resurfaced. I was challenged to write a letter to my dad and then to write a letter from my dad to me. I have written several letters over the years to my dad but always from a child’s point of view. I decided I wanted to do this from today, as a 52-year-old woman. I must have started the letter over a half a dozen times. I just couldn’t do it. Then one day I was finally able to.
I have spent a lifetime thinking about you. Wondering what you would have been like, what our relationship would have been like, what my life would have been like. I would usually imagine what I guess would be almost a parallel universe in which you didn’t die when I was 2. That this is how I have thought of you and us, just dawned on me today. My life is very different because of everything that happened. I really have no idea who I would be or what I would be like had you lived. My life has been an amazing adventure. Some good, some bad – all of it combined to make me, well, me.
I have always been kind of mad because you left and you didn’t take me with you. After a mere 50 years, I think I have gotten over that one. I guess I want to say thank you for creating me. Even though you weren’t around, you did really shape and influence my life. The things I know about you are what I learned from mom, Grammy, some other family members and some of your friends and our neighbors. What I always heard from mom is that you were a hard worker, a hard drinker and went to church every Sunday. Those things became my goals when I was younger. I developed a strong work ethic, I drank like a damn fish and I went to church every Sunday. Even though at this point in my life, I disagree with much of the Catholic doctrine, the influence of the church might be what kept me alive and on this side of prison bars. With you not being around and well, mom being mom, I learned how to be self-reliant, independent, learned how to improvise and problem solve. I learned very early that life isn’t fair. It amazes me that I meet so many people who are adults who still think life should be fair. What the hell is fair??? That may be a lesson that is better learned at a young age. I think it is harder for people to accept when they get older.
During my teen years I really tried to emulate you. I can look back now and see how messed up some of the stuff I did really was. Even when I was in high school, I worked and drank almost every day. I would always make it to church either Saturday night or Sunday morning. Granted, sometimes I was still drunk from the night before. After I graduated I frequently worked two to three jobs. From 18 to 20, it wasn’t unusual for me to work 60 to 70 hours in a week. Damn, would love to have that money again. I would pay mom rent money, then the rest usually got spent on alcohol, drugs, music and cigarettes. Somehow, I think you would have put a boot to my ass for that.
I was told by Grammy and Uncle Lynn that you were the type of man that would help anyone if you could. I have tried to be that way. It has gotten me into some trouble on a few occasions, but I still think it is a good way to live. Grammy also told me that you were direct. When you had something to say, you said it. That one has really bit me in the ass a few times. Discretion is not always my strong suit.
Back to when I was a teen. I knew you had been in the military so I joined the Army Reserves on my 18th birthday. A big part of my motivation to do that was to follow in your footsteps. It wasn’t until many, many years later that Aunt Mary told me that you didn’t really like women being in the military. Oops, sorry. I was just winging it. I didn’t have you to bounce this shit off of.
I can’t imagine how different things would have been and who I would be today without the life I have lived. It isn’t like I can take the parallel universes in which you live and the real world, have them side by side and only pick the good from each one. It would be a cool trick and an awesome science fiction movie, but it isn’t reality. I have two amazing kids. Not sure how you would feel about either of them though. You are from a generation that espoused some old school ideas and values. Their lives fit into more modern-day times of acceptance. They are amazing human beings though and I am so proud of both. They have been through some serious adversity in their lives and they continue to have good hearts and are amazing people. They are both smart, resilient, hardworking, caring, kind and just good people. You have a great granddaughter. She is so adorable. Your great grandson is on the way and is due on July 4th. (Yeah, I know, that is your and mom’s wedding anniversary.)
It is weird. All my life, I have believed that when I die, you and I will be together and I will get to see you. Regardless of all the manifestations of my beliefs in religion and spirituality, and no matter how I define a Higher Power, this has always remained a constant. I don’t even really know what I believe as far as an afterlife. The whole heaven and hell things just confuse me. I don’t know. Even though I don’t know, I still have the childlike vision of you and me hanging out in heaven that kind of looks like a cartoon or a sappy greeting card. I remember when I was younger and a relative said that playing cards was the work of the devil and we were all going to hell. Even then I envisioned us just sitting around a table playing cards in hell. Apparently, the cards we were using were fire-proof. It is weird to think of some of these things as an adult and see them for what they are. Childhood thoughts and fantasies. Even today, I still have a belief that we will be together. I have that wish to be with Russ again, but I don’t have that belief with the same conviction that I do with you. Plus, even though I have lost so many people in my life, you and Russ are the only two that I think that way about.
This is such a new and strange way of thinking. I guess it is more from an adult perspective rather than being stuck with a childlike perspective. Hey, that reminds me, I wrote you a letter one time when I was around 6 or 7. I even put it in an envelope, addressed it to Heaven and rode my bike to the Post Office to mail it. I wonder what I wrote in that.
I love you dad. I love the image of you, the thought of you. I love the thought that you loved me and you wanted me. I have tried to live my life in a way that would make you proud of me. I am sure I let you down a few times. Hopefully though overall, I am a person that you would like, love and be proud to call your daughter.
I love you,
Within a few days of writing this letter, I went to a Reiki circle. Now I must clarify that Reiki is such a mystery to me. I have gone probably about a dozen or more times. I still want to be skeptical of it but I have fallen in love with it. The benefits I have received from it have been mind-blowing. Anyhow, I was driving home after the Reiki circle and the letter from my dad to me just started to formulate in my head. When I got back to where I was staying, I put on some music, closed my eyes and just started typing. When I got out of my own way, I was able to receive this letter from my dad.
I never left you. I have been in your heart the whole time. I know that sometimes you are able to feel me there. Other times, you ignore that I am there. My love for my baby girl has never gone away. I didn’t want to leave you, but I didn’t have a choice in the matter. It was just my time. I couldn’t take you with me nor would I have wanted to;, you were a baby. Think about it, would you have been willing to take one of your kids along at that young age or even now? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Stop worrying about whether or not I am proud of you. YES, I am proud of you. Do I completely understand you, oh hell no. But then we are from two very different generations. The whole therapy, support group, reiki, meditation, essential oils, I won’t even pretend to understand that shit. I can say that as far as the therapy and support group goes, I guess it isn’t much different than me sitting with my buddies at the bar and talking to the bartender. Just you do it without the beer. Concept is pretty much the same though. Back to me being proud of you. You need to let that shit go. You are a smart, caring, kind person. You help others and keep your door open to anyone who needs a place, a hug or just a place to hang out. Your Grammy was that way too.
You take pride in the fact that so many people have told you that you are a lot like me. I want you to think about that for a minute. The people that you know that are like one of their parents, haven’t they spent a good deal of time butting heads with that parent because they are so much alike? I am sure we would have had our share of that. You can be too bull-headed, stubborn and independent for your own damn good. I am sure I would have booted you in the ass a few times.
It is time you move forward. I know you have missed me and that is ok. But it is time to stop using it as a crutch or an excuse to stay stuck. You are a grown-ass woman at this point. You can’t go back and change the past. Hold onto the stories and the love that I gave you while I was there. You still have it in there; just allow yourself to acknowledge it and feel it. I am a part of you and always will be, just like you are a part of your children. Again, would you want them to suffer and stay stuck about something the way you have over my death? No, I know you wouldn’t. You are a good parent and you love your kids, just like I loved you.
I know that somehow you have rationalized that staying stuck and not letting go is a way for you to remain loyal to me. It isn’t what I want. I want you to heal. Yeah life sucks sometimes, I mean hell, look at what all your Grammy went through. You still whining all these years later about the fact that I died when you were a baby doesn’t do anyone any good. It isn’t showing any sort of loyalty to me. That is your twisted thinking. It is time you let me go. I don’t mean forget about me. Let go of the wish that I was still alive or that I had lived longer. Accept my death for what it is. I loved you with my heart and soul while I was there. Just like you want your kids to carry your love for them in their hearts and souls long after you are gone, the same goes for me.
I will agree with you, it sucks that we didn’t get to spend more time together. But yet again, all the holding on, dreaming, wishing, hoping isn’t going to change the reality of what happened.
Let me go, and move forward with your life. Know that I love you, always have and always will. I am proud of you. You have gone through some shit and yet you still have compassion for others. You are a Bechdel through and through. We are a hearty bunch, strong and resilient. Don’t ever forget that. It is ok to let go. There is no shame in that. I know you aren’t letting go of me and even if you were, I am still not letting go of you. I am still a part of you.
I love you,