April 10, 2011

A Letter to Dad

Dear Dad,

How are you?  I hope things are going well.  It’s been a while since I’ve written you, I know. Sorry if the delay had you worried. Work has kept me so busy lately that more important things have been neglected.  Between teaching classes at the university, trying to raise three teenagers, and taking care of Mom in her old age... well, you know how it is.  Kelly tells me I’m lucky we didn’t have a fourth child, or else I’d turn into a Santa Clause dad: only around for the holidays, and then just for the cookies and milk!  Did you ever find being a father this difficult?
Anyway, I’m not writing this letter to tell you about my life.  I wanted to update you on the family situation.  I hate to say it, but things aren’t the way they used to be. Maybe you don’t remember (it’s been so many years since you left), but we all used to get along pretty well with each other.  No arguments, no picking sides, no petty feuds. Just your kids, gathering for family reunions.  You might not even recognize us now, if you could come back.  
Oh, we still meet up with one another like we did when you were around.  Once a week, at your old place down on Fern Road.  I know you wanted it that way.  It makes me smile when I recall what you always said, “I don’t want this family breaking apart when I leave.  Love’s the glue that’ll hold you together, but you’ve got to stick to it!” Those times used to be so fulfilling.  Sure we had our squabbles as siblings do, but things were different.  Back then when we got together we actually honored your memory.  We’d sit around for hours telling stories about you, and how you were the best dad any of us could have asked for.  How we all hoped to be like you someday.  My eyes sting just thinking about it.   
These days we hardly mention you at all.  We can talk for hours and nobody notices that we’ve let you fade away.  I wonder Dad, does it hurt you?  Does it hurt to see the family you worked so hard to unify splinter apart?  Does it hurt to be forgotten by your children?   
I’m beginning to suspect the others don’t even want to come to these gatherings anymore.  Jeff quit on us last week, saying he had better things to do than reminisce about a man who disappeared years ago.  Others decided to start meeting elsewhere, complaining that your place was getting too old.  It’s like we aren’t even family.  And Kelly... she hates it when I go.  She never knew you, but for a while she enjoyed getting to meet my brothers and sisters.  After hearing us talk, she began to respect you, in her own way.  Now Kelly says that any family as dysfunctional as mine must have had a drunken idiot for a father.  I’m so sorry.  My wife doesn’t know what she’s saying.   
You see, lately all the family ever does is argue.  The meetings might start off with a sort of terse politeness, but it never lasts.  Inevitably someone will bring up an old wound or pointless argument.  Then all hell erupts right under your roof.  It seems that a whole lot has to do with the will you left behind.  Nobody can agree exactly about what it means.  It’d break your heart to see brothers and sisters at each other’s throats trying to decide who gets what and how to divide up your estate. You always loved riddles and hidden insights, but couldn’t you have made the will a bit easier to understand? I admit, I used to fight about that stuff too.  I had to make sure I was getting my fair share of your riches, as if there weren’t plenty to go around.  
Honestly though, that stuff doesn’t matter as much to me anymore.  I just wish things could go back to the way they were, when we acted like a family.  I miss those days.  I miss you.  I know you taught us better than this, and I know we let you down.  But please, Dad, can you forgive us?  Can you give your children another chance?  Things can change.  Maybe one day we’ll rediscover how important your lessons were.  Maybe we’ll start talking about you again and remember what you taught us about love. Maybe one day you’ll come back, and we can be a family.
Like we used to be.

Your son,


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