Remembering Letters from My Father this Father's Day

This Father’s Day I’m choosing to focus on the letters my father wrote to me in his later years.  Those are the thoughts and feelings I want to remember as his true ones–the ones he submerged for most of my childhood.  For some reason, it was only in written form that my dad could tell me how he felt about me.  I’m grateful he found a way, otherwise I would have always felt that his distant attitude toward me was the only truth of our relationship.

If you’ve read Replacement Child, you’ll recognize parts of the following from Chapter Fifty-Six in the book:

I’m reading through letters from my father. He had such a beautiful handwriting, and–surprisingly–was the better of my parents at expressing his emotions on paper.  Whenever I find one of letters to me, buried in a sock drawer or folded in among my jewelry, I wind up blubbering at his words. I never heard these kinds of thoughts from his own lips, and never knew them as a child.  Almost all of his letters to me were written after I was an adult, and most after he was 70.

As I look back now, many of his letters still defined me in terms of my sister:

Even when we felt you were being neglected you showed strength and understanding to love Linda as much as we did, and to show that love to her.

Or, I was their hope, their healer, that he finally learned to love:

One of the greatest gifts given to us at an essential time of our lives was when the gods delivered you into our hearts and lives.  Your birth helped sustain us with some faith and hope.  It’s taken me a lifetime–but you’ve taught me to say it and feel it–I love you and it’s forever.

I know Dad, I finally know.

Happy Birthday Sis

I’ve been trying to think of anything but this to write about on my blog, but with my sister Linda’s birthday coming tomorrow, my mind and heart are full of her. She would have been 61 this June 15th, 2010 and I would never have imagined her not making it to this day. If you’ve read any of my work, and especially Replacement Child, you know what a special woman she was.  But, I can’t help feeling that whatever I’ve written about her, I haven’t done justice to her bravery, her humor, her loving spirit.

She was always my big sister–looking out for me in her own way.  Worried how I would take things, react to things, understand her. To her, I was always the fragile one who internalized everything a bit too much for everyone’s liking. She screened her illnesses and chronic pain from me, I know, so that I only probably saw the tip of the iceberg of her fight. Protecting me as always, even as I was under the illusion that I protected her.

Linda was the constant in my life, the touchstone for family memories, the one I would call when I wanted to confirm “did this really happen?” The only one who could say for sure.  We were far apart in miles, but always close. Hers was the first phone call I would make with good family news–or when something went wrong.  We relied on each other for our honest viewpoint that only had each others’ best interest at heart. No agendas, no manipulation, just love.

We made each other laugh. Every phone call we ever had included at least one good belly laugh. Lately we would laugh together at some shared idea of what our parents would have done or said in a certain situation.  She would only have to say my father’s name with a certain inflection–“A-L-B-E-R-T….” the way my mother would have said it in exasperation–and she would set me off.  Or I’d remind her about the time she brought me to pick out a parakeet at a store and I pointed at it and it spiraled off the perch to it’s death. That one never ceased to produce hysterics in us both.

My sister was destined, for whatever reason, to have a hard life.  Starting with a plane crash that burned and injured her at two, the ramifications followed her all of her life.  But, she didn’t see it that way. And, she would have bristled at being called disabled or special needs or challenged.  In truth, her injuries and scars gave her a unique understanding of the human spirit.  She saw beneath the surface of many people to the good that is often be overlooked.  I know she had an understanding that I never will. One of my regrets is that I never let her teach me more about her vision of the world.  Another is that we didn’t spend more time together.

Here’s what I do know. Linda–and my parents too–would want me to celebrate life, not dwell on death. So on your birthday, sis, I will celebrate the life you had and that I was lucky enough to share. And, the love I could always feel from you.

Kelly Preston: New Baby, New Beginnings? – momlogic – Open Salon

Kelly Preston: New Baby, New Beginnings? – momlogic – Open Salon.

Quoted again in this article–although it seems my quote grows by itself at times:)

New Radio Interview for Replacement Child

New #radio interview for Replacement Child. Listen to Meet the Author interview of Judy Mandel.