Dear Dad

Nothing like a health crisis to require one to write some letters. Perhaps this will make it to my father. If not, perhaps you, dear reader, might relate, benefit, or simply be glad it’s not you on either side of this equation.


Dear David,

or, just David,

Or, how should I address you…

I’m in a health crisis; not my first. My childhood of trauma set me up for what are politely called “challenges” to be paid later in life.

You are older, I am 45. I am the age you were when I last saw you as your son. At the donut shop in Coolidge Corner; you told me not to patronize you. A funny thing to say to your son.

I don’t really know or understand how you’ve lived your life; how you’ve reconciled your – shall we be polite and say “choices?” – to be … well…. such a disappointment to me. Probably to some part of yourself.

It seems that it would not have been so hard to write yearly. To be steadfast. To tell your wife to shut up when she was belittling me, and throwing me out. A hard working, earnest, creative, broken-hearted teenager – I was her biggest threat in the world? No, we both know – her mind was. Her brokenness.

The politics of it are all clear. You couldn’t fight because you’re not a fighter. You couldn’t go through another divorce. Or, you just – hate people. Hated me? Hard to say. You never expressed that. You seemed to like me, to enjoy my company; more in a way like brothers on our walks than father and son (because you didn’t have the wisdom or teachable life experience of a father – you were, like me, an adolescent, still wondering about the world) – but I cherished those brief moments. Those walks.

My life has been many walks..

I’m sorry you didn’t get to go on more of them with me.

It hurts me that you don’t reach out with apologies; that this wound that you created so long ago has been allowed to fester, as though it were an emblem of some great civil war, some just battle in which you slew the dragon of my mother for your black eyed princess from the coal mines of Pennsylvania.

You’re very perverse… you’ve received so many thanks for being a good doctor to children (but don’t you just inject them with industrial poison?) and you were violent at home with your children and wife (but that was a long time ago)…and you forgot that you had a first son. A very bright boy, I’ve been told.

You might have been kinder, more generous, less paranoid about – what was that old whipping horse of yours? People “trying to take advantage of you?” If anyone ever required you to pay money for something you had done – by gum, you would put up a fight then. Especially if it was a woman you married, and made a child with. (The temerity of some people!)

You might have been kinder.

You might have been more generous.

You might still find that you can be both. If you simply allow yourself to do so.


Your son, in exile


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  1. So many of these words, these sentiments, I could have said to MY father, as well…

  2. Liam Sheff, you are at the exact age for shedding your past. It can either live with you, festering and holding you in strangled imobility or you can release it…. all those hurts, injustices, unfairnesses, which, by the sounds of it you have in spades, or you can say ‘I am the person I am BECAUSE of all the above and I wouldn’t have it any other way’. All life’s experiences lead you to the present moment and this moment is where you push off from. Your wisdom and passion for justice have arisen because of the person you have evolved into. Your life’s experiences are manifesting and 45 is about the right age for deciding whether to be a victim or a survivor. I feel that you are a survivor and that this health crisis that you mention is your unconscious ‘make or break’ moment. My very best wiahes to you from………… a 70 year old survivor!!

  3. What Sally said….you were shaped into this person who is bringing so much wisdom and passion for justice. I for one am appreciative of that. Any amount of victim mentality only gives that much power away. I believe this health crisis is taking you to the next level, whatever that may be. You are ready for the challenge. You have so much support and I hope you will call on it often. Peace, peace.

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