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.