My mother passed away six months ago and in the process of cleaning out her residence I found an old letter I had written her during our long estrangement. I then found another one, and a couple more after that.
We had a very difficult relationship filled with pain, resentment and so much regret, but the letters I wrote expressed the love I always felt for her regardless of our unfortunate circumstances caused by her mental illness.
They also expressed the unfulfilled hope that we’d one day reconnect. After reading the letters I cried for days, but I was so glad I’d sent them. I don’t know if they brought her any peace or if they effectively conveyed how much she meant to me – I certainly hope they did.
I thought about those letters again on June 6 because it was her birthday and I was yearning to call her and hear her voice.
I also started wondering why I’d never written a letter like that to my father. Was it because he already knew how I felt and didn’t need me to put it in writing? Probably.
My dad and I always had an easier go of things. He was a loving, positive man, and although he was extremely quiet when I was young, and left me curious about what he was thinking, I always felt safe around him.
When I was about five or six he took me sailing and our boat capsized in the middle of the lake. I remember how shocked I felt hitting the cold water, terrified I’d drown or get eaten by a shark. He reached me quickly and instantly made me feel like everything was going to be okay. He’s never stopped making me feel like that.
He’s excellent at making me smile as well. With a goofy sense of humour he still laughs like a little kid and wants everyone to be happy. If they’re not, he doesn’t stress out about it though. He’s become good at deflecting negative, toxic energy so it doesn’t eat him alive. That’s something I’d like to get better at.
I often think of how young my parents were when my mom became pregnant with me. She was 17 and he was 18 and they were just graduating from high school. So young, and not nearly ready to start a family, they did it anyway, and they gave it everything they had.
A letter to my dad might not feel necessary since he presumably knows how grateful I am to him and our mom for all that they did for my brother and me growing up, but I’m going to write one anyway.
Among other things, I’ll thank him for giving me life, teaching me the benefits of positive thinking and showing me the joy in simple pleasures – like eating a couple of Oreo cookies with a glass of cold milk.
I’ll thank him as well for always believing in me, long before I believed in myself, and encouraging me to be fearless.
“You only live once,” he’s said to me often. “You might as well follow your dreams and have some fun as you do it.”
I didn’t heed his advice until I was in my 40s and finally realized what my dreams were, but better late than never I figure.
More important than all that was his counsel to live in the moment, enjoy every day and tell the people that I love how I feel about them.
Good idea. Time to get going on that “Dear Dad” letter. After I grab a couple of Oreo cookies and a glass of cold milk, of course.
Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at www.LoriWelbourne.com.